Your RF Cafe
June 1962 Popular Electronics[Table of Contents]
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged. See all articles from Popular Electronics.
Carl and Jerry in handcuffs? Say it ain't so! Has the pair of good-natured, upstanding high-tech sleuths gone to the Dark Side (George Lucas 18 years old in 1962 when this was written)? Read the tale to see how they figure into a plot to kill a local judge, and why they decide to cannibalize a service station television set for parts. What has come over Carl and Jerry?
Carl and Jerry were driving home from an electronic buying expedition to Center City on a beautiful warm June afternoon.
"Sure feels good to be driving again," Carl remarked, caressing the steering wheel. "I think I missed our car more than anything else down at school."
"Being cut off from Mom's cooking gave me that empty feeling," Jerry countered; "but if you want to keep on driving you'd better get some gas. That gauge has been bumping the pin for the last ten miles."
A couple of minutes later Carl pulled into a wayside filling station and stopped at the pumps. Two men in ordinary sports clothes were working on a car in the wash-and-lube area. Finally one of them, wearing an ill-fitting attendant's cap, came out to the car.
"Dollar's worth of gas, and you better check the oil and water," Carl said as he stepped out to stretch his legs. The man put the nozzle into the gas tank and started the pump.
"Hey, we only wanted a dollar's worth!" Jerry exclaimed as he saw the little register wheels on the pump race past two dollars.
"Don't worry, Buster, you won't have to pay for it," the attendant said as he pulled a large-caliber snub-nosed revolver from his pocket and trained it on Carl. At the same time, what felt like the muzzle of a similar weapon was pressed against the back of Jerry's neck by the other man who had approached unnoticed.
"Get into the station and see that you make it snappy," the man wearing the cap ordered.
The boys were marched through the display room of the station into a small customers' lounge. Lying on the floor with his bare head resting in a small pool of blood from a cut over one eye was a bound, middle-aged man wearing an attendant's uniform. His eyes were closed, and he was not moving.
While the bareheaded man kept a gun trained on the boys, the one wearing the attendant's cap tied their hands behind them, pushed them roughly down on a sofa, and started tying their legs securely. Things had happened so fast that neither Carl nor Jerry had uttered a word since they first stared into the yawning mouth of that short-barreled revolver.
"You boys just stopped at the wrong time - for you," the man with the cap said as he jerked at the ropes to see if they were tight. "We may need to get out of here fast, and if we can't get our car ready in time we may have to use that Beetle of yours. Keep quiet and you won't get hurt. Bill, turn on the radio for our guests. Turn it up loud. That way no one will hear them if they're stupid enough to yell and make me come in here and silence them permanently."
The bareheaded man turned on a radio resting on a table beside a portable TV set. The other man, who was apparently the leader, grabbed up a telephone and jerked the cord loose from the wall button. "Just in case," he said mockingly, brandishing the telephone, as he and his partner left the room. He slammed the door behind them, and locked it.
At the sound of the banging door, the man lying on the floor groaned and opened his eyes.
"Boy! Am I glad to see you move!"
Carl exclaimed soulfully. "I thought you were dead. What's going on around here ?"
"Men escaped convicts ... Going to kill Judge Granger, who sentenced them, when he comes at four o'clock for regular weekly service check ... Had their car on lift when they told me ... Managed to let it down with front tires on couple of big spikes ... Hit me on head with pistol barrel ... Have to change tires before. ..." His voice died away as he lapsed into unconsciousness again.
"We're in a spot," Jerry offered. "I can't imagine their leaving any witnesses after they kill the judge."
"So let's do something about it," Carl suggested as he strained against the confining ropes. "I bunched my muscles while he was tying me, and that leaves a little slack. Scoot over here so our backs are together and help me try to work my hands loose."
This sounded easier than it actually was; but, spurred on by the dark prospect Jerry had mentioned, the two boys finally managed to untie Carl's hands. In a few seconds he had freed his legs and had untied Jerry.
"Shall we untie him?" Jerry asked, pointing down at the unconscious man.
"Not yet. Being tied makes no difference to him, and he can't help. If we hear them coming back, we may be able to pretend we're still tied up and surprise them; but it won't work if they see him untied."
"Surprise won't help much against two men and two guns," Jerry pointed out. "That window is barred like a jail cell. The bars are intended to keep burglars out, but they do a fine job of keeping us in. Sure wish he hadn't thought to take that 'phone."
"Hey, maybe if we short-circuit the telephone wires, the operator will notice something's wrong and send someone to investigate. "
"No good," Jerry objected. "She'd just think something was shorting the line and would cut it loose from the switchboard. Late in the day as it is, a repairman wouldn't be sent out until tomorrow. Even if one did come, he would only be tied up, slugged, or killed. If only we had some way of talking over that line-" his voice trailed off and his eyes took on the glassy look of concentration. "Keep an ear to the door," he told Carl as he slipped a penknife out of his pocket and began hurriedly removing screws from the back of the portable TV receiver.
"We're in luck!" he said a few minutes later. "The output transformer is mounted on the speaker, and the leads are easy to reach."
A couple of slashes of the penknife severed the two leads going to the primary of the transformer, and Jerry quickly stripped the insulation from the ends of the wires. Next he jerked a floor lamp plug from the wall socket and cut off the wire at the base of the lamp. The length of lamp cord thus obtained had all four wire-ends stripped of insulation, and the wires at one end were twisted around the bared transformer leads. A handkerchief was placed between the wire splices to keep them from shorting together.
Then Jerry removed the cap from the telephone junction button on the baseboard and connected one of the lamp cord wires to one of the screw terminals. When the other wire was touched to the other terminal, the hum of the dial tone came clearly from the speaker of the TV set.
"What are you doing?" Carl demanded. "We're going to try to use the speaker of the TV set for both the microphone and earphone of a telephone," his friend replied. "You hear it working as the earphone now. When sound waves in the room here vibrate the speaker cone, the voice coil moves back and forth through the strong field of the speaker's permanent magnet. This generates alternating currents in the voice coil that flow through what is normally the secondary of the output transformer and induce corresponding currents in the primary. Since the transformer has a turns ratio of 30 or 40 to 1, the feeble voltages across the voice coil are amplified 30 or 40 times in the primary. The output voltage across the primary will still be considerably less than the output of a carbon - button - microphone - and - transformer combination, but I'm praying it will be enough for the job."
"That was a dial-phone. How are you going to dial?" Carl asked.
Jerry shut his eyes to concentrate and bumped his forehead with the heel of his hand to jog his memory. "I've got to remember how that telephone works," he muttered. "When the handset is on the cradle, the line is open-circuited to the 50 volts or so of d.c. present. A large capacitor and the ringer coils are in series across the line so the bell will respond to an a.c. ringer voltage. When the handset is picked up, the earphone, carbon-button mike, and the primary of the induction coil are connected in series across the line, and this drops the d.c. voltage to less than ten volts.
"When you put your finger in a dial opening," Jerry continued, "and pull it down against the stop, the line is short-circuited. As you release the dial, the spinning mechanism first disconnects the receiver-mike combination so you don't hear the clicks of the dial operation; and the line is open-circuited momentarily once for every unit in the number dialed. When the dial stops, the earphone-transmitter combination is reconnected and the short circuit is removed from the line."
"You'll never be able to do all that by just touching a pair of wires together," Carl said in a discouraged voice.
"I don't think I have to. I believe it's the amplitude and timing of the open-circuit pulses that work the automatic relays. I'm hoping I can dial by simply breaking the connection once momentarily for every unit dialed. Move that radio away from the TV set and be ready to explain the situation if I get someone on the line. Talk as loudly as you dare and right into the speaker. The book says 'Information' is 13; so I'll try for her. Ready?"
At a nod from Carl, Jerry lifted one of the leads off the connecting screw and replaced it instantly. There was a click in the speaker, and the dial tone disappeared. A gleam of hope shone in Jerry's eyes at this, and he jerked the wire back and forth rhythmically three more times. There was a clicking sound in the speaker; and then, after an agonizing pause, a woman's voice said faintly but clearly, "Information."
"Hello. Can you hear me?" Carl asked. "Please speak louder," the woman's voice directed.
"Listen carefully. This is an emergency," Carl said, raising his voice as much as he dared. In a few sentences he explained the situation, told where they were, and asked the girl to contact the state police at once. The alert operator repeated all the information as a double-check, and Carl okayed it.
Jerry quickly unfastened the wires from the wall button, stuffed the line cord into the back of the TV receiver, and propped the back cover in place. Then he and Carl sat down on the sofa and looped the rope back and forth across their legs with the ends of the loops tucked between their limbs, so that to a casual glance they looked as though they were still tied. The clock on the wall said four o'clock.
A few minutes later the key turned in the lock, and the boys barely had time to thrust their hands behind them before the man with the cap came into the room. "Still here, huh ?" he said. "I just wanted to be sure. We won't need your car after all. We have a couple of new tires mounted, courtesy of our friend there on the floor. Now, as soon as we take care of a little business, we shall be on our way, if you don't mind - and we'll make sure you don't mind! Guess I better check those ropes."
Jerry could feel Carl's body tensing beside him as the man took the revolver from his pocket and moved toward them, but at that instant the other man's voice called from outside: "Get out here, Carney ! The judge is coming down the road!"
Carney's face twisted in a cold smile of anticipation as he turned on his heel and strode from the room. He closed the door but did not stop to lock it.
"We were too late with our call," Carl groaned, throwing off the ropes and turning down the radio so they could hear. Jerry already had the door open a crack and was looking through it at the driveway of the filling station. A gray-haired man in an old but well-cared-for businessman's coupe had stopped in front of the open door of the lubrication stall.
"Frank, the regular man, took sick suddenly," Carney was explaining glibly. "We're filling in for him. He told us to take good care of you, and we certainly intend to. Just drive in there on the lift, and we'll get started."
"Well, all right," the elderly man said after a little hesitation. "Frank always has me back onto the lift because it's easier to check the transmission that way. You two stand at either side and kind of guide me."
"They'll kill him as soon as they get him inside," Carl whispered. "We can't just stand here and let it happen. When I give the word, let's rush them. Grab one of those tire tools lying on the floor as you go through the door. It's not much to go against a gun, but it's all we've got. Ready?"
Before Jerry could answer, an astonishing thing happened. The big trunk lid of the judge's car flew up to reveal two state troopers crouched inside holding sawed-off shotguns trained on the astonished convicts. The hands of the latter shot above their heads as though jerked by puppet strings.
A state patrol car roared around the curve and screeched to a halt on the driveway. It was closely followed by an ambulance, and in a matter of minutes the two handcuffed convicts were on their way back to prison and the injured station attendant was on his way to the hospital.
Later, taking advantage of the relative quiet that followed the crisis, the troopers explained to the boys how a cruiser just down the highway had received the information about the events at the gas station by radio, and how they had intercepted the judge and explained the situation to him. The old man had bravely insisted on the plan used in order to save lives. Carl and Jerry, in turn, tried to explain how they had used a TV set to talk on the telephone; but the state troopers were still scratching their heads in puzzlement as the boys drove away.
"I'm puzzled by one thing myself," Carl admitted as he pulled the car onto the highway. "How come you know so much about how a telephone works?"
"That's an unexpected dividend on pure research," Jerry answered with a grin. "One day three or four years ago, when my folks were conveniently away, I did some voltage and resistance measuring on our telephone and traced out the circuit printed inside the case. I had no notion whatever of using the information. I was just curious."
"Well, your curiosity possibly saved four lives - including two pretty important to us," Carl remarked. "In the future, when one of my Profs urges me to study something just for the sake of knowing it, I'm going to remember this day."
Carl & Jerry: Their Complete Adventures is now available. "From 1954 through 1964, Popular Electronics published 119 adventures of Carl and Jerry, two teen boys with a passion for electronics and a knack for getting into and out of trouble with haywire lashups built in Jerry's basement. Better still, the boys explained how it all worked, and in doing so, launched countless young people into careers in science and technology. Now, for the first time ever, the full run of Carl and Jerry yarns by John T. Frye are available again, in five authorized anthologies that include the full text and all illustrations."
Carl & Jerry Episodes on RF Cafe
- Geniuses at Work, June 1956
- Eeeeelectricity!, November 1956
- Anchors Aweigh, July 1956
- Bosco Has His Day, August 1956
- The Hand of Selene, November 1960
- Feedback, May 1956
- Abetting or Not?, October 1956
- Electronic Beach Buggy, September 1956
- Extra Sensory Perception, December 1956
- Trapped in a Chimney, January 1956
- Command Performance, November 1958
- Extracurricular Education, July 1963
- Treachery of Judas, July 1961
- The Sucker, May 1963
- Stereotaped New Year, January 1963
- The Snow Machine, December 1960
- Extracurricular Education, July 1963
- Slow Motion for Quick Action, April 1963
- Sonar Sleuthing, August 1963
- TV Antennas, August 1955
- Succoring a Soroban, March 1963
- "All's Fair --", September 1963
- Operation Worm Warming, May 1961
- The Sparkling Light, May 1962
- Pure Research Rewarded, June 1962
- The Hot Dog Case, December 1954
- A New Company is Launched, October 1956
- Under the Mistletoe, December 1958
- Electronic Eraser, August 1962
- Blubber Banisher, July 1959
- "BBI", May 1959
- Ultrasonic Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River Sniffer, July 1962
- Ham Radio, April 1955
- El Torero Electronico, April 1960
- Wired Wireless, January 1962
- Electronic Shadow, September 1957
- Elementary Induction, June 1963
- He Went That-a-Way, March1959
- Electronic Detective, February 1958
- Aiding an Instinct, December 1962
- Two Detectors, February 1955
- Tussle with a Tachometer, July 1960
- Therry and the Pirates, April 1961
- The Crazy Clock Caper, October 1960
Posted April 10, 2014