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Carl and Jerry: Too Lucky
December 1961 Popular Electronics

December 1961 Popular Electronics

December 1961 Popular Electronics Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Popular Electronics, published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

As is the normal modus operandi (MO) of John T. Frye with his "Carl & Jerry" series of techno-dramas, this "Too Lucky" episode combines adventure with electronics to teach a lesson in the process of entertaining with a great story. If you're a fisherman, you'll particularly enjoy this one. I have to admit to not knowing about this method of "electrofishing" (although not called by that name here) for drawing fish to a high voltage alternating electrical field and then capturing them with a net once close enough to be paralyzed (stunned). A process called "galvanotaxis" which causes uncontrolled muscular convulsion in the fish causes them to swim towards the source.

A comprehensive list of all the Carl & Jerry episodes posted on RF Cafe is at the bottom of the page.

Carl & Jerry: The Bell Bull Session

Carl and Jerry: Too Lucky, August 1961 Popular Electronics - RF CafeBy John T. Frye, W9EGV

It was a dead-calm humid summer evening, and Carl and Jerry were listlessly tossing a softball back and forth on the latter's front lawn. They stopped playing and watched with interest as a brilliant red convertible rounded the corner on screeching tires, pulled to the curb, and came to an abrupt, teetering halt. A short, wiry, middle -aged man hopped out and strode purposefully toward them across the grass.

"Are you the young fellows who solve problems ?" He projected the question ahead of him while he was still a dozen yards away.

"We try - especially if the problem can be solved by electronics," Jerry admitted.

"Well, I don't see how electronics enters into this affair," the little man said as he stopped in front of them; "but people who should know tell me you two are either pretty sharp or mighty fortunate when it comes to unraveling odd-ball situations, and the situation I'm in is about as odd-ball as they come. The name is Sellers, J. P. Sellers. If we can go somewhere and talk, I'll tell you what's on my mind."

The boys ushered Mr. Sellers into their basement laboratory and sat on the workbench while he perched himself on the edge of the leather-covered couch across from them.

"Did either of you ever hear of a fisherman having too much luck ?" he suddenly shot at them.

Jerry and Carl exchanged puzzled glances, then shook their heads with the close unison of windshield wipers.

"I'm not surprised," J. P. sighed. "I didn't think such a thing was possible myself until a couple of weeks ago, but I know better now. Here's the story:

"I have a cabin cruiser on Lake Segun, about fifty miles north of here. I like to fish, and I've been spending my summer weekends on the boat for the past four or five years. In that time I've become pretty well acquainted with the other 'regulars' at the lake, and a good bit of friendly fishing rivalry has sprung up among us. In fact, we make up a little pool each week for the man who brings in the best string of fish.

Carl and Jerry discussing the problem, August 1961 Popular Electronics - RF Cafe"Two weeks ago I went out on the lake a couple of miles, anchored in a likely spot, and prepared to make some casts with my spinning outfit; but before I could wet a line the strangest thing happened. A whole bunch of fish appeared just below the surface in a kind of semicircle around the bow of the boat where I was standing, and began swimming slowly toward me. There were large- and small-mouth bass, silvers, walleye, bluegill, and goodness knows how many other kinds; and every one was a whopper! When they came close, one by one they floated to the top and turned on their sides. Then they just lay there as though they were asking me to take them in.

"Well, as soon as I recovered from my astonishment, I obliged them. I grabbed my dip net, and in five minutes I had scooped up the darndest bunch of fish you ever saw outside of a fishing-lure advertisement. Then, suddenly, the fish that were still floating righted themselves and swam down into the lake, and the others were gone, too.

"You can imagine how I laid it on the fellows at the bait-shack that evening when I collected the weekly pool without a contest. You should have heard them hoot when I told them exactly how I got the fish. They called me a liar right to my face and accused me of using everything from dynamite to curare.

"The next morning when I set out from the dock, at least half a dozen boats tagged along and let their anchors slip as soon as I dropped mine. It was the same crazy business all over again. Almost as soon as I cut my engine, the fish began coming to the surface around the front of the boat and turning on their sides. I can't abide a fish-hog; so I didn't net any of them this time, but you could have raked those other fellows' eyes off with a stick. You'd think they would have apologized for calling me a liar, wouldn't you ? Oh, no; not them! They kept demanding that I tell them my 'secret,' and they got mad when I said that I had no secret and didn't understand what was happening any more than they did.

"Last weekend when I was up at the lake they wouldn't let me in the weekly pool. They said 'commercial fishermen' weren't allowed. On top of that, the game warden followed me every time I took the cruiser out. The fish came up around the boat just as before, and he dared me to net one. It seems that catching fish in a dip net, unless they're hooked first, is illegal in this state. Since he hadn't actually seen me take the others in a net, he couldn't do anything about that; but he hinted that if he could prove I was doing something to the fish to make them act as they did, he'd put me where I wouldn't be doing any fishing."

Carl and Jerry Fish & Game boat, August 1961 Popular Electronics - RF CafeMr. Sellers jumped to his feet and strode nervously up and down the basement floor. "There it is," he said. "I can't take much more of this. If you boys will go up to the lake with me tomorrow and find out why the fish act that way around me, and prove to the folks it's nothing I'm doing, I'll pay you a hundred dollars plus your expenses. What do you say ?"

The boys exchanged a long look; then Jerry spoke for both: "Understand, we can't promise anything, Mr. Sellers; but we'll certainly give it a try."

"Fine!" J. P. said as he headed for the door; "see you here at seven sharp tomorrow morning."

"At worst," Carl remarked a little later as he juggled the softball from one hand to the other, "we'll at least have a day at the lake." "Yeah," Jerry agreed; "and at best we'll get fifty bucks apiece. That ought to just about buy our books when we start college next month."

On the dot of seven the next morning the yellow convertible screeched its way to the curb again, and soon J. P. Sellers and the boys were riding through the sunny, dew -fresh morning. Mr. Sellers handled the long, heavy car expertly, but he drove faster than Jerry or Carl liked, and they were glad when they arrived safe and sound at the lake.

They were not too surprised to find that J. P.'s cabin cruiser was the largest and finest boat on the lake. Before they went on board, J. P. unplugged a heavy cable going to the cruiser from a special socket on the dock. As he did so, a gasoline engine started somewhere in the boat.

"That's a gasoline-powered, 220 -volt a.c. generator which takes care of the deep-freezer, the refrigerator, et cetera, when I'm away from the dock," was J. P.'s answer to the boys' questioning looks. "It starts automatically when power from the mains is cut off."

Carl and Jerry helped him cast off and then went forward to the bow of the boat while Mr. Sellers handled the craft from a control position atop the cabin. He drove the boat the same way he did a car: too fast for comfort.

Jerry noticed a wooden 2" x 2" about twelve feet long clamped to the low railing and sticking forward and down into the water. Some kind of a heavily taped object was on the end, and a piece of cable ran back along the wooden pole to a black-crackle metal box that was plugged into an outlet on the deck. One side of the box carried a toggle switch and a pointer knob.

"What's that thing ?" Jerry called up to J. P.

"It's a gadget my nephew was experimenting with three or four weeks ago," J. P. shouted above the rhythmic slap-slap-slap of the waves against the speeding hull. "He put a big lamp - I think it was 500 watts at 230 volts -in that socket on the end of the pole and controlled the brilliance of it with some sort of a lamp-dimmer he built into that box. He wants to see if a lamp of just the right brightness, immersed in the water, will attract fish. He's coming back to make some more experiments next week; so I left the gear in place. He'll have to get a new bulb, though. I broke the one that was in there while docking a couple of weeks ago. . . . Say, take that hatchet and stand by to knock the clevis pin from that chain holding the stern anchor when I give the word."

Carl and Jerry arrive in car, August 1961 Popular Electronics - RF CafeHe cut the motor, and the boat settled in the water. When J. P. nodded, Jerry tapped the pin from the clevis, and the released anchor cable ran out quickly. A gentle breeze from the southeast swung them around so that the sun was at their backs as they looked down from the bow. At first nothing happened, but then they saw some shadows floating up from the bottom. In a few seconds they could make out a whole ring of large fish facing directly toward them. Inch by inch, the fish moved forward.

"I never saw anything like that," Carl breathed. "Jerry, I'm going overboard and get a fish's eye-view of this thing. Maybe the fish can see something about this boat that's invisible to us up here." He peeled off his sweat shirt and trousers as he talked, revealing that he was already wearing his swim trunks.

"Can you swim ?" Mr. Sellers asked a bit foolishly.

"Like a paramecium," Carl retorted as he slid out over the stern. Soon he was treading water just outside the closing ring of fish.

"See anything?" Jerry called.

"No, but I think I feel something," Carl said in a puzzled voice. "I seem to be getting a continuous slight shock. I'm going to swim closer to the boat."

A few strokes brought him almost to the place where the end of the wooden pole was sticking into the water. "It's a lot stronger here," he reported as he reached out a hand for the socket on the end of the pole.

Jerry, who had been watching Carl with a thoughtful look on his face, suddenly sprang into action. With a single movement he brought the sharp edge of the hatchet he was still holding down on the cable running across the rail. There was a spurt of blue flame and the hissing snap of short-circuited wires.

"Hey, what are you doing up there?" Carl demanded as he took hold of the end of the pole.

"Probably saving your life," Jerry answered as he stared with a white face at the large half-moon melted from the bit of the hatchet. "Come back on board. The fish are gone, and I think the mystery is about solved."

By the time Carl got back into the boat, Jerry had taken a screwdriver from his pocket and was removing screws from the unplugged black metal box.

"Uh-huh, I thought so," he said with satisfaction. "These little things are silicon-controlled rectifiers. A silicon-controlled rectifier is a pnpn semiconductor with three junctions. In the reverse direction, it acts like a standard silicon rectifier; but it will also block current in the forward direction until either a critical break-over voltage is exceeded or a signal is applied to the third or 'gate' lead. When this happens, the rectifier is almost instantly switched to a heavily conducting state. By adjusting the phasing of a pulsed gating voltage, you can make the rectifier conduct over whatever portion of a half-cycle you like. This, in turn, permits you to regulate the amount of pulsating d.c. flowing through a load circuit, such as a lamp."

Carl and Jerry Electrofishing, August 1961 Popular Electronics - RF Cafe"And that thing was turned on, feeding 220 pulsating d.c. volts to the exposed filament support leads of the broken bulb," Carl said, getting a little pale himself.

"Right. Notice that this toggle switch is shot. It's too light to handle the voltage and current necessary for this lamp-dimmer, and the vibration of the boat kept jarring it on and off. That's why the "charm" suddenly stopped working that day after Mr. Sellers netted all the fish. When you said you felt a slight shock, I started wondering where it could be coming from; and I figured it out just as you reached for the lamp socket. I didn't have time to warn you; so I just cut the wires."

"I don't see what all this has to do with the fish," J. P. broke in.

"The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses pulsating d.c. to capture fish alive," Jerry explained. "They employ a 230-volt d.c. generator whose output is fed into a square-wave pulsing unit. It has been found that 50-cycle pulses are most effective. The positive lead is connected to an aluminum grid electrode held under water in front of a metal boat, and the negative lead is connected to the hull.

"When the apparatus is turned on," Jerry continued, "nearby fish are forced to align themselves in the path of the current with their heads pointing toward the electrode. Each pulse produces a muscular spasm in the fish that forces it to swim ahead. The closer it approaches the electrode, the greater the current. Enough current renders the fish unconscious, and he rises to the top. If he swims too close to the electrode before being knocked out, he's electrocuted."

"And you mean I accidentally had the same sort of apparatus?" J. P. sputtered.

"About the only difference was that you had 60-cycle pulses instead of 50-cycle ones," Jerry remarked; "but that didn't keep your fish-charmer from working."

"Boys, you get the hundred dollars!" J. P. exclaimed happily as he reached up and put a hand on both their shoulders. "Now, let's go back to the bait shack. I want you two to explain all this technical stuff to those dough-heads and to the game warden. They won't believe anything I say. Boy, am I going to enjoy seeing those hard-noses eat crow! Is that all right with you two ?"

"A-okay !" Carl said with a happy grin.

 

 

Posted August 17, 2022

Carl & Jerry Episodes on RF Cafe

Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop were two teenage boys whose love of electronics, Ham radio, and all things technical afforded them ample opportunities to satisfy their own curiosities, assist law enforcement and neighbors with solving problems, and impressing – and sometimes toying with - friends based on their proclivity for serious undertakings as well as fun.

Carl & Jerry Their Complete Adventures from Popular Electronics: 5 Volume Set - RF CafeCarl & Jerry: Their Complete Adventures is now available. "From 1954 through 1964, Popular Electronics published 119 adventures of Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop, two teen boys with a passion for electronics and a knack for getting into and out of trouble with haywire lash-ups 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."
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