July 1955 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
Aside from the storyline, one notable aspect of this installment
of Carl & Jerry is one of the illustrations used in it.
Jeff Duntemann (K7JPD), himself a sci-fi and technical book
author, wrote a piece on the evolution of John T. Frye's
Carl & Jerry series in Popular Electronics,
and in it he commented on the changes in drawing styles and
character appearances over the many years that Frye inked his
illustrations. I read Duntemann's article a while ago, but remembered
the picture of Norma and
Carl's dog Roscoe when I saw it again just now. The format obviously
departs from the vast majority of Frye's typical works due to
its distinctly cartoonish look. As for the plot of the story
- it involves an attempt to shake the wings off mosquitoes.
Carl & Jerry: Ultrasonic Sound Waves
Ultrasonic sound waves play a part in fostering romance - with
By John T Frye
The shadowy coolness of Jerry's basement lab was a welcome
relief from the shimmering heat outside. As Carl came in, he
saw Jerry's rotund figure perched on top of a stool at the workbench,
on which rested a delicate horn pan balance with a one-milligram
weight in one of its pans. With a pair of tweezers, Jerry was
carefully transferring some minute objects from a fruit jar
lid to the other pan.
With a pair of tweezers, he carefully transferred
the mosquitoes to the pan ...
"Looks like you're really up to big business today," Carl
observed. "What're you weighing, peach fuzz?"
"Nope, ... mosquito cadavers," Jerry said, as his round face
wreathed itself into an enigmatic smile.
Carl moved to the bench and peered down through his horn-rimmed
glasses at the jar lid. Sure enough, in it were several rather
badly mauled mosquito carcasses.
"Why?" Carl demanded.
"We-l-l-l," Jerry said hesitatingly, "It's a rather long
"Never mind the buildup," Carl interrupted. "You know you're
dying to tell me; so give."
"It all started a couple of nights ago.
Looking out my bedroom window, I saw Norma, the girl next
door, sitting on her porch swing, blubbering and crying away.
Thinking that maybe she had locked herself out of the house
or something, I went down to see what was wrong.
"It developed that a character by the name of Melvin Akers,
who works at the bank, has her 'snowed.' For the life of me,
I can't see why, for this Melvin guy is the sort even nature
hates. He's allergic to anything that grows. He breaks out in
a rash if anyone even mentions onions or radishes. She swears
he can get ivy poisoning just from seeing the word 'ivy' in
"Even so, she has her mind dead set on marrying the creep;
and that night she thought she practically had the job done.
Melvin was in a rare mood - for him - with nothing to take his
attention off her; and he had even made a couple of cracks about
how pretty her hair looked in the moonlight.
"They sat down in the porch swing, and she started rehearsing
mentally just how she was going to say 'I will' to his proposal.
Then, all of a sudden, Melvin began slapping at his face and
ankles, and suddenly stood up and said he had to leave. He's
one of those people mosquitoes love to bite, and the bites swell
up on him. So, he had to get home quickly and use some special
ointment on them.
"That was why she was crying. She said she'd pinned her hopes
on this moonlit porch swing setting all spring; and now that
it had failed, she just knew Melvin would never propose."
"Why doesn't she try citronella?" Carl asked.
"I thought of that, too, but she says the odor clashes with
her Sweet Surrender perfume, in which she has invested no small
sum and which she is sure plays a big part in giving old Melvin
the business. I told her I'd try to see if I couldn't think
of something to help her."
"How come you're so eager to play Cupid?" Carl asked suspiciously;
"although I must admit you've got the figure for it. You going
soft on this gal, too?"
"You got rocks in your head?" Jerry demanded witheringly.
"She's practically an old woman. I'll bet she's 22 or 23 if
she's a day. It's just that I don't like having someone bawling
under my window when I'm trying to sleep. And then, her problem
appeals to my scientific curiosity."
"How about Melvin? Don't you think it's playing it kind of
low down to help trap a fellow man?"
"That bothered me a little until I happened to remember he
was the local joker who wrote to the FCC and said he was sure
we radio amateurs were interfering with his TV reception. All
his trouble was being caused by an old-fashioned carbon filament
light bulb in his basement. Some of those old bulbs act like
miniature TV transmitters and cause interference to crawl up
and down the picture."
"He deserves to get married!" was Carl's prompt, harsh judgment;
"but how are you going to help with the mosquito situation?"
"I got an idea from something I read in Radio & TV News
two or three years ago. You know sound waves can exert severe
stress on objects that are resonant to the frequency of the
sound. Remember how some opera singers can shatter a wine glass
just by holding the right high note? Well, I think I can produce
an ultrasonic sound wave at a frequency which will vibrate a
mosquito violently and destroy him without people being able
to hear the sound.
"Yesterday I borrowed a high-power movie sound system tweeter
speaker from a projectionist friend of mind and hooked it across
the output of my hi-fi amplifier. This amplifier has frequency
response clear up to 100,000 cycles; so when I ran my audio
signal generator into the front end of the amplifier, I got
considerable power output from the speaker above the range of
hearing. To check this, I suspended a tiny pith ball on a light
thread in the path of the narrow cone of sound put out by the
speaker and then varied the frequency of the signal generator.
At certain ultrasonic frequencies, the ball was jerked back
and forth so violently by the inaudible sound waves that it
looked blurred. I'm sure that if I can hit just the right frequency
I can exert several G's of stress on a mosquito and shake him
loose from his wings!"
"Why are you weighing the mosquitoes?"
" ... To get the average weight to use in the acceleration
graphs and formulas for vibratory motion that I found down at
the library. They're pretty hard to use, but if I do it right
I should be able to figure out just the right frequency to apply
maximum stress to a single mosquito."
As he talked, Jerry finally got the scales to show a satisfactory
balance; and then he carefully counted the dead mosquitoes in
the pan. Next he reached for his battered slide rule, made a
few calculations, and jotted down some figures on a pad.
"We-l-l," he finally said hesitatingly, "if I've not slipped
somewhere, it looks as though a frequency of about 19,000 cycles
ought to do it. Tonight I'll run that frequency into the amplifier
and direct the cone of sound from the tweeter speaker right
at Norma's porch swing from my upstairs window. She says she'll
maneuver Melvin into position there promptly at 10:30 if she
has to chloroform him. I'll keep the mosquitoes at bay with
my supersonic ray until Norma and her Sweet Surrender perfume
have done their dirty work."
"You playing an electronic Cupid is something I've got to
see," Carl announced. "Reserve me a seat up in your room tonight.
I'll be over right after that 9:30 shoot-em-up TV program."
He was as good as his word, and the two boys squatted on
the floor by the window of the hot, darkened bedroom for almost
an hour before they heard the picket gate of the house next
door click open and shut, and caught sight of two figures walking
onto the vine-hung front porch. Jerry already had the amplifier
warmed up; and as he heard the rhythmic squeaking of the porch
swing chains, he flipped on the oscillator that had been preset
to the ultrasonic frequency. The shift in the fluorescent blue
glow on the glass envelopes of the amplifier output tubes indicated
that they were delivering power. No sound was heard from the
speaker, however, and there was no halt in the rhythmic squeaking
of the swing chains.
"Well, at least Melvin can't hear the sound," Jerry whispered
hoarsely as he stared down at the darkened porch. Just as he
said this, there was an anguished howl from below, and a frantic
ball of white erupted from beneath the porch and ran crazily
about the moonlit yard.
"Holy cow!" Carl gasped, "it's Bosco!
What's the matter with him?"
Before Jerry could answer, Melvin's trembling voice floated
up to them: "It's a mad dog!" he shrieked. Then he burst from
the shadow of the porch, and with two giant steps reached the
picket fence and vaulted nimbly over it. He alighted on the
sidewalk running, and as his staccato footsteps died away in
the distance, Jerry reached over and switched off the oscillator.
Instantly Bosco's howling stopped.
"Bosco certainly fouled that up," Jerry said sadly. "Dogs
can hear sounds too high-pitched for human beings, and that
high frequency note must have been pretty painful to poor Bosco's
The two boys went downstairs and across the yard. To their
astonishment, they heard the sound of almost hysterical laughter
coming from the porch, and then Norma ran down the steps, threw
her arms about them, and kissed each squirming boy soundly on
Norma ran down the porch steps as Bosco pawed
gingerly at his ears ...
"I'll never, never forget how funny Melvin looked as he went
over that fence," she finally managed to gasp. "And I want you
boys to know I'll never forget what you've done for me. I guess
I felt sorry for Melvin because he seemed to have so much trouble,
and I foolishly thought I was in love with him; but I certainly
couldn't love anyone who would run off and leave me alone with
a mad dog ... I don't know how you did it, but you're wonderful!"
As she said this, she stooped down and picked up Bosco, still
pawing gingerly at his ears, and gave the dog a big hug; then
she went into the house, giggling happily.
"Women!" Carl said disgustedly, as he rubbed the lipstick
print off his cheek vigorously with the back of his hand.
"Check," Jerry agreed. "I suppose we may as well go to bed
now, but I'm coming over the first thing in the morning to see
if there are any wingless mosquito fuselages lying around under
Carl took a couple of steps and then turned around. "Hey,
Jer," he said thoughtfully, "I wonder if you'd promise me something."
"Sure thing. What is it?"
"Well, if I should ever become so weak-minded as to think
I want a girlfriend, just let me manage my love life all by
myself, will you? Please don't try to help me !"
Posted June 4, 2014
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
- Carl & Jerry: 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
- Extra Sensory Perception, December
- Trapped in a Chimney, January 1956
- Command Performance, November 1958
- Extracurricular Education, July
- Treachery of Judas, July 1961
- The Sucker, May 1963
- Stereotaped New Year, January 1963
- The Snow Machine, December 1960
- Extracurricular Education, July
- Slow Motion for Quick Action,
- Sonar Sleuthing, August 1963
- TV Antennas, August 1955
- Succoring a Soroban, March 1963
- "All's Fair --", September 1963
- Operation Worm Warming, May 1961
- The Crazy Clock Caper, October 1960
- Two Detectors, February 1955
- Tussle with a Tachometer, July 1960
- Therry and the Pirates, April 1961
- The Sparkling Light, May 1962
- Pure Research Rewarded, June 1962
- A Hot Idea, March 1960
- 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