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
(if any) are hereby acknowledged.
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?
See all articles from
Carl & Jerry: Pure Research Rewarded
By John T. Frye W9EGV
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
"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
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
"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
"Shall we untie him?" Jerry asked, pointing down at the unconscious
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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."
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
|- Trapped in a Chimney - January
- Command Performance - November
- Extracurricular Education,
- Treachery of Judas,
- The Sucker, May 1963
Stereotaped New Year, January 1963
- The Snow
Extracurricular Education, July 1963
He Went That-a-Way,
Electronic Detective, February 1958
- Aiding an
Instinct, December 1962
- Succoring a
Soroban, March 1963
- Slow Motion
for Quick Action, April 1963
Sonar Sleuthing, August
- TV Antennas,
- The Hot Dog
Case, December 1954
A New Company is Launched,
the Mistletoe, December 1958
|- "All's Fair --", September 1963
- Operation Worm Warming, May
- The Crazy Clock Caper, October
- Two Detectors,
Tussle with a Tachometer, July 1960
- Therry and the
Pirates, April 1961
- The Sparkling
Research Rewarded, June 1962
Hot Idea, March 1960
Eraser, August 1962
- "BBI", May 1959
Ultrasonic Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River Sniffer,
- Ham Radio, April
- El Torero Electronico,
- Wired Wireless,
Shadow, September 1957
Posted April 10, 2014