August 1963 Popular Electronics
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nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October
1954 through April 1985. Allcopyrights (if any) are hereby
In this August 1963 adventure, teenage techno-investigators Carl and Jerry use their home-brew
sonar device to help the local sheriff nab a couple bank robbers. The 'Hydro Probe' mentioned
in the article was a real product manufactured by the Raymond Development Company of
Watertown, Massachusetts (no longer in business). Enjoy.
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Carl & Jerry: Sonar Sleuthing
By John T. Frye W9EGV
Jerry inched forward slowly, keeping his depth ... suddenly the end of the sonar unit bumped
into a large object in the water.
Up periscope!" Jerry called to Carl, and the latter released the large cylindrical object he
had been holding on the bottom of Jerry's full bathtub and watched it slowly rise to the surface.
The youths were checking out their latest "invention," a hand-held portable sonar unit for
use in scuba diving. Actually it was just a crude copy of the Hydro Probe manufactured and sold
by the Raymond Development Company of Watertown, Massachusetts. While the unit the boys had made
was much larger and clumsier than the commercial version, it operated on the same general principle.
They had simply installed inside a large paint bucket a flashing-light type transistorized
depth-finder. The depth-finder was the same kind they had used at Parvoo University to locate
a metal plaque at the bottom of the river. A five-inch diameter circle had been cut from the center
of the airtight lid, and a heavy sheet of Plexiglas had been cemented over this opening so that
the depth-finder dial mounted just behind it could be seen. The transducer had been fastened to
the outside bottom of the can, and the cable from it led inside through a waterproof seal.
Finally, the on-off/sensitivity control was connected through a speed-reducing gear train to
a tiny permanent magnet reversible electric motor. The motor, in turn, was controlled by a spring-loaded,
normally-off, double-pole, double-throw toggle switch mounted on the side of the paint bucket.
An unpierced nursing bottle nipple, with its rim cemented to the bucket, slipped over the bat
handle of this switch, and permitted control of the sonar device inside its waterproof seal.
"That does it," Carl said, lifting the dripping unit from the bathtub and holding it in front
of his face by means of the two strong handles soldered to the sides of the can. "It barely floats,
so it should be easy to maneuver under water, and it doesn't leak a drop. Let's take it to the
old quarry and try it out."
"O. K.," Jerry agreed. "You load the scuba gear in the car while I dry this thing off. Mom'll
kill us if we drip water on her floors."
A half hour later the boys left the highway and traveled a short distance along a side road
until they reached the abandoned quarry. They were just getting out of their car when they were
surprised by the voice of the county sheriff.
"Over here, fellows," he called, emerging from the undergrowth. They could see the sheriff's
car parked behind some bushes growing between the road and the edge of the steep-sided quarry.
He was an old friend, and Carl did not hesitate to ask, "Hey, what are you hiding from?"
"Remember that branch-bank holdup at the shopping center a little over a year ago?" he asked.
"The two men we think did the job ran through a roadblock and came out on the highway with the
state troopers on their tail. They took off on this road and lost the state police for a few minutes
- about fifteen. The police closed in from both ends of this short road and took them not a quarter
of a mile from here, but none of the bank loot was on them."
"We searched every inch of the road and a hundred yards either side," the sheriff continued.
"The prosecutor didn't have enough on them to try them for the bank job, but they both did a year
in the pen for possession of a stolen car. Their sentences were up last week, and I'm staked out
here on a hunch those two birds stashed the dough away, and will try to come back for it."
"Maybe they threw the money in the quarry," Carl suggested.
"We thought of that, and state police divers spent two whole days exploring the bottom, yard
by yard. They had to do most of their searching by touch because working of the sand pits along
the little creek feeding into the quarry keeps the water riled up so you can't see more than a
foot or so in front of you. The divers found old tires, empty beer cans, rolls of rusty fence
wire, baby buggies - everything but money. But what devilment are you two ..."
Before he could finish his question, an emergency call tripped the squelch of the radio installed
in his car. The city police had just received a telephoned tip that a supermarket on the other
side of town was to be held up, and the dispatcher relayed the information along with the message
that all mobile units in the county were ordered to converge on the spot.
"Stick around, I'll be back," the sheriff said as he headed for the highway.
Carl and Jerry walked down a slope to the edge of the quarry. Across and to the right, the
sheer walls of the large pit went almost straight down to the surface of the muddy water some
thirty feet below. Where they were standing, a thick curtain of vines grew over the edge and cascaded
down until the vine ends trailed in the water. Over to the left, however, a steep path zigzagged
down to a narrow ledge running around the quarry a foot or so above the water.
They lugged their gear down this path, and Carl helped Jerry put on the scuba outfit. In practically
every other physical endeavor, Carl was easily Jerry's superior; but in swimming, the chubby youth
was as much at home in the water as an otter. "Blubber floats better than muscle." was Carl's
succinct and disparaging explanation.
With the diving equipment in place and checked out, Jerry picked up the portable sonar and
slid beneath the murky water. Going down a few feet, he worked the rubber-covered switch handle
to turn the unit on and adjust the sensitivity.
The two glowing spots of neon light on the dial of the depth-sounder were easily seen when
the Plexiglas disk was held close to his eyes, and he was delighted to find the crude affair
working exactly as anticipated. Not only did it indicate how far the bottom was beneath him, but
the stone walls of the quarry also returned sharp echoes to indicate their distance from his location.
Moreover, when he turned on his back and pointed the instrument straight up, an echo was returned
from the air-water interface that indicated how deep he was swimming.
He played with the instrument for several minutes, trying it out at different depths and "swimming
blind" with only the sonar ranging indication of the instrument to tell him how deep he was swimming
and to warn him when he approached the bottom or sides of the quarry. While he was swimming some
fifteen feet below the surface toward the vine-covered wall of the pit, the distance-indicating
spot of light suddenly jumped counterclockwise from the ten-foot to the five-foot position. Swinging
the instrument slightly to either side or up or down returned the spot of light to the more distant
Keeping his depth, Jerry inched slowly forward until the front end of his paint bucket bumped
into something suspended in the water. Inspection with his hands revealed it was a large metal
container of the kind pressure-gun grease is kept in at a filling station. A thin wire led straight
up from the bail, and Jerry followed this upward with his hands until he came to the surface.
He discovered he was behind the screen of vines and that the thin strand of steel piano wire
ran up through these vines to the top of the quarry. He was about to call to Carl, whom he could
see through the leaves, when he was stopped by the sound of a man's voice above him yelling at
"Just stay where you are and keep your mouth shut, buddy, and you won't get hurt. My friend,
Chauncey, and I just want to pick up something we left here a while back. When we get it, we'll
go our way and you can go yours."
"Go on and pull up that grease bucket, Bert," Jerry heard another voice say. "I'll keep the
gun on him. I can't wait to get my hands into that lovely green grease. You know, I'll bet that
tricky sheriff was hiding out, waiting on us. Man, he was really flying low when we met him on
the highway. That phony tip of yours was a real smart idea."
Very quietly Jerry eased himself up on the rock ledge. Then, after a short search, he picked
up a piece of broken broom handle floating near his feet and twisted it in the piano wire so that
a couple of turns went around it.
A few seconds later he felt the man above fumbling and tugging at the wire.
"Come here and help me, Chauncey.
The wire must be tangled in the leaves or something, and the footing ain't very good on this
slope. I sure don't want to drop the end of the wire. That kid can't go anywhere with us watching
him. Take hold of that side of the stick and help me pull."
A stronger tug came on the wire, and Jerry slowly rose to his feet, giving slack. Then, grasping
the piece of broom handle with both hands, he leaped from the ledge throwing his full weight onto
the wire. The result was startling. Two bodies came hurtling down from above and hit the water
with great splashes. A third smaller splash was made by the revolver.
When Jerry surfaced, he saw Carl leaping up the steep path as if he were a mountain goat. Listening
to the men behind him spluttering and cursing as they clawed their way up on the ledge, Jerry
decided Carl had a good idea; he swam quickly to the foot of the path and climbed out of the water.
The two men were starting toward him along the ledge, and he didn't even take time to remove
his air tanks or swimming fins as he started a clumsy ascent up the path. Carl said afterward,
that, as he watched Jerry frantically slipping and floundering on the path, all he could think
of was a circus seal climbing up a stepladder to get a fish.
When the two men started to follow Jerry, Carl pelted them with stones. Jerry struggled out
of the diving equipment and joined the fight at the top of the path. Using only jagged chunks
of rock for weapons, the two of them easily held the men at bay until the sheriff came back a
half hour later.
After the boys had explained the situation and the law officer had Chauncey and Bert safely
handcuffed to the steering wheel of his car, Jerry dove down and brought up both the revolver
and the end of the piano wire. The grease bucket was hauled to the surface and opened. Inside,
lying on sand used for ballast, were several neat packages of currency.
"Every dollar is here," the sheriff announced when he finished counting it. "All the time those
police divers were groping around on the bottom, the money was hanging right over their heads
waiting to be found by a gadget like that one of yours. Those two had this planned right from
the start. Instead of taking off down this road to get away from the troopers, they were heading
for this quarry to hide the dough. Well, boys, that little electronic doodad of yours sure did
well by you today. The insurance company has a pretty good reward out for the recovery of this
money, and it's all yours."
"How about you?" Carl demanded.
"You should get a third of it. We would have been sunk if you hadn't come back when you did."
"Nope. A sheriff in this state can't accept a reward in cases like this. It's reward enough
for me to see those two clowns get what's coming to them."
He paused while his eyes roved from the homemade sonar rig to the empty grease bucket. A mischievous
grin spread over his face as he concluded:
"So help me, when I write up my report, I'm going to call this The Case of the Two Buckets!"
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 March 18, 2014