September 1958 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
By the time this Carl &
Jerry episode entitled "Vox Elektronik" was published in 1958, creator and author
John T. Frye had written the techno-dramas for Popular Electronics magazine
for four years - beginning with the first edition of the publication in October
1954 ("A New Company
Is Launched"). In this saga, the teenagers, both of whom already have shared
many adventures involving homemade electronic gizmos and Ham radio, experience one
of the instances of girl craziness competing for the attention of one or the other.
It involves a Charlie McCarthy-style
wooden dummy named "Splinter." Used in the story is a dummy-fide joke about onions
and the River Kwai, no doubt a reference to the World War II movie "Bridge on the
River Kwai*," which had hit the movie theaters about a year earlier.
* A lot of people - most likely those who have never actually seen it - incorrectly
refer to the movie as "Bridge over the River Kwai."
Note: VOX is
an acronym for Voice-Activated Switch, or Voice-Activated Exchange. "Elektronik"
is the German translation for "electronics," and is often used for music and
Carl & Jerry: Pi in the Sky and Big Twist
... "The transmitter in your pocket and receiver in the dummy
will take care of the voice -throwing" ...
By John T. Frye W9EGV
Jerry was looking for his pal, Carl. The latter's mother said she had not seen
her pride and joy for a couple of hours. And Bosco, the dog, only yawned widely
when ordered: "Go find Carl!"
This was puzzling. Losing big, rambunctious, noisy Carl was like misplacing a
B-47 on a small-town airfield. As Jerry stood in the back yard mulling over the
mystery, he heard faint, strange sounds coming from the garage on the rear of the
lot. He tiptoed across the grass and placed his ear against the closed door. A strangled,
falsetto voice inside was piping:
"The little boy threw the onions into the river because he wanted to see the
Not waiting to hear more, Jerry threw the door open and beheld a strange sight
in the shadowy interior. Carl was sitting Indian-fashion on the garage floor. Perched
on his knee was a very battered, limp-legged ventriloquist's dummy, and on the floor
at his side was spread open a small booklet boldly entitled Throw Your Voice. Carl's
mouth was drawn back in a horrible grimace and the leaders in his neck stood out
like ropes as he tried to project his voice into the slack-jawed dummy.
"Oh, it's you," Carl greeted Jerry. "I might have known a man couldn't have any
privacy. But since you're here, take a listen and see if it sounds as if my voice
were coming out of this refugee from a toothpick factory."
He screwed his face back into its former distorted shape and grated: "Pancakes
are like der sun because they rise in der yeast and set behind der vest."
Jerry shook his head emphatically from side to side. "Nope; it sounds as if you
were trying to talk as you went under for the last time."
... "Then I actually began to feel sorry for George, especially
after Linda got up out of the swing and sat down on the edge of the porch with me"
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Carl said disconsolately as he released the dummy
and let its wooden head bang on the concrete floor. "But I've simply got to do something
to show Linda that this new guy, George, isn't the only satellite in orbit."
Jerry's round face puckered into a worried frown.
"How come that's important? What do you care what a girl thinks?"
"Well, this George really sears me. At Linda's party Saturday night, I was telling
her about how we helped the sheriff catch those moonshiners when this George character
drags out his dummy and begins to carry on a corny dialogue with him. After that,
Linda just couldn't seem to see anyone but George.
"I've simply got to show her that I could be a ventriloquist too - and a much
better one than George - if I really wanted to. That's why I swapped Milo Perkins
my trumpet for this bunch of kindling and the book to go with it. Milo said he got
everything he knew about ventriloquism out of this book."
"Did you ever hear Milo do any voice throwing ?" Jerry wanted to know.
"Why, come to think of it, no! Why, that dirty crook!"
"From the little I've read about ventriloquism, it takes a long time to learn
to create the illusion, unless, of course, you have a natural talent," Jerry said.
"Frankly, Carl, I take a dim view of the whole business. I thought we felt the
same way about girls: there will be plenty of time for them later, but right now
you and I can have lots more fun with electronics."
"I know," Carl said miserably; "but I still can't stand being made to look like
a dope in front of Linda - at least not by a porch-swing poodle like George. Anyway,
we're pals, aren't we?"
"You know we are," Jerry answered in gruff embarrassment.
"Well, a pal helps a pal, no matter whether the pal likes what the pal is doing
or not," Carl said with more conviction than clarity.
Jerry heaved a sigh of submission and picked the dummy off the floor. "Hmm-m-m,"
he mused, "there's plenty of room inside the body for a transistorized receiver
and a miniature loudspeaker. We can spring-load his jaw so that it's normally closed
and a pull on this cord will open it. Audio voltage picked off the receiver and
rectified with a germanium rectifier will produce pulses of d. c. which can drive
a high-current transistor with a solenoid in its output circuit. This solenoid will
give a yank on the jaw cord with every syllable of the voice picked up by the receiver."
"I get it!" Carl said, jumping to his feet. "You're really going to throw your
voice, right through the ether waves! You'll be hiding somewhere and talk back to
me through the little transmitter."
"Uh-uh!" Jerry denied. "You're really going to throw your voice. You'll wear
a throat mike concealed by your collar. A switch will cut this mike in when the
dummy talks and cut it out when you talk. All you have to do is learn to talk without
moving your lips very much when the dummy is supposed to be talking. The little
transmitter in your pocket and the receiver inside the dummy will take care of the
"That's the end, the absolute end!" Carl applauded excitedly. "Let's get going
on it. George and I are both supposed to go over to Linda's tonight to plan a class
picnic. Think we can have Splinter here wired for sound by that time ?"
"I don't see why not," Jerry said listlessly. "We can use the transmitter and
receiver we fixed up for that Santa Claus caper last Christmas. Of course, we'll
have to do a little modifying on the transmitter to make it work with that surplus
throat mike, and we'll have to rig up the solenoid circuit on the receiver; but
it shouldn't take long."
And it didn't. Everything, for once, worked just as Jerry planned. The installation
was finished as Carl's mother gave him the first supper call. Splinter was propped
up on the bench of the laboratory in Jerry's basement, and Carl fastened the throat
mike in place and recited: "One, two, three, four; testing!"
The words came from the dummy! True, the voice was muffled and deep-sounding
because of the throat mike, but the high volume from the speaker overrode the slight
sound escaping from Carl's lips. Best of all, though, was the realistic way the
dummy's jaw worked with every syllable.
"Wow! Does that ever work smooth! Thanks a million, Jer. I've got to go now because
Mom sounded pretty mad on that last call; but if you're still up when I get home,
I'll tell you what happened."
As he said this, Carl grabbed Splinter unceremoniously by the neck and pounded
up the basement stairs. Slowly and thoughtfully, Jerry went about the business of
putting away the tools and brushing off the littered bench.
After supper Jerry tried to read an article on analog computers, but the meaning
of the words kept slipping out of his attention. He tossed the book aside and wandered
aimlessly about the house. Finally he went outside and sat on the front porch in
the moonlight. He felt strangely lonely as he leaned back and listened to the chirping
of the nocturnal insects.
He jumped as a cold, moist nose touched his hand. "Hi, Bosco," he whispered,
clamping the dog between his knees and beginning to rub the animal's ears affectionately;
"I'll bet you would never let any old girl spoil our friendship!"
At that instant the stillness of the evening was broken by a sound that could
be one of two things: a steam calliope with a fiat wheel or Carl walking along the
sidewalk whistling off-key.
"Hi, Jer," he greeted gaily as he collapsed on the steps beside his chum and
tossed Splinter onto the porch.
"How did you manage to tear yourself away from the fascinating Linda so early?"
Jerry asked sarcastically. "Did Splinter let you down?"
"Oh, no, Splinter was a howling success. When I got there, George and Linda were
sitting in the porch swing, and good old George had already gone into his act. He
and the dummy were talking up a storm, and Linda was giggling admiringly at every
word. I listened politely for a while and then I innocently asked George how far
he could throw his voice. He laughed in a snotty sort of way and said it wasn't
really a case of throwing the voice - he merely created an illusion.
"Well, I said that might be all right for amateurs but that I had noodled around
with ventriloquism a little myself and thought I did a pretty good job of projecting
my voice. George boy gave a big scornful laugh at this, and Linda joined in although
she whispered to me afterward that she was just trying to be polite.
"So I took good old Splinter out of the sack in which I had been carrying him
and propped him up against the honeysuckle vines at the end of the porch. Then I
stepped back about ten feet and asked him how he felt. He snapped right back that
he felt fine and wanted to know who the pretty girl in the swing was.
"I'll not bore you with details of the rest of the dialogue, but honestly it
wasn't too bad. I really felt good, and it seemed to roll out all by itself. George's
face was something to look at, especially when he saw Splinter's jaw flapping away
in the moonlight. Linda was thrilled to pieces.
"She couldn't keep her hands off Splinter; so I told her she could hold him while
I tried something really difficult - throwing my voice behind me. I walked out to
the gate, and Splinter and I still carried on. Linda made George touch Splinter
so he could actually feel my voice vibrating inside the dummy's body.
"George looked like a whipped dog. 'I simply can't understand it,' he kept muttering
over and over. Actually I began to feel sorry for him, especially after Linda got
out of the swing and sat down on the edge of the porch with me. I mean she couldn't
dig anyone but me and Splinter; George had to say something two or three times before
he got her attention."
"That must have made you feel just wonderful," Jerry said wistfully.
"No, it didn't. It made me feel kind of sick and ashamed. If Linda was as fickle
as all that, I decided George could have her. Just as I reached this conclusion,
George got up from the swing and mumbled something about three being a crowd and
said perhaps he had better go. Linda said if that was the way he felt, perhaps he
"That was when I got up. I told George that he could stay because I was going;
and since Linda was so interested in ventriloquism, he was the one to tell her about
it because I actually knew from nothing."
"Then I explained how I had tricked them with electronics. Actually, I don't
think they had the foggiest notion of how Splinter works when I got through - you
know how little most people know about electronics. At any rate, I grabbed up Splinter
and took off like a big bird, leaving George and Linda standing there on the porch.
She had the funniest look on her face." For a little while both boys sat silent
in the soft light of the moon, enjoying the warm feeling of restored comradeship.
"Hey, Jer," Carl exclaimed, jumping to his feet and dusting the seat of his trousers.
"Yeah ?" Jerry asked.
"Let's go down to the lab and get started on some really big electronic project,
something that's real gone."
"Okay," Jerry said happily.
Posted June 25, 2020
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.
Vox Electronik, September 1958
- Pi in
the Sky and Big Twist, February 1964
Bell Bull Session, December 1961
Boogie, August 1958
- TV Picture,
Electronic Eraser, August 1962
Trap, March 1956
at Work, June 1956
Aweigh, July 1956
Bosco Has His Day, August 1956
Hand of Selene, November 1960
or Not?, October 1956
Electronic Beach Buggy, September 1956
Extra Sensory Perception, December 1956
in a Chimney, January 1956
Performance, November 1958
of Judas, July 1961
- The Sucker,
New Year, January 1963
Snow Machine, December 1960
Extracurricular Education, July 1963
Slow Motion for Quick Action, April 1963
Sleuthing, August 1963
- TV Antennas,
a Soroban, March 1963
Fair --", September 1963
Worm Warming, May 1961
Joking and Jeopardy - December 1963
Santa's Little Helpers - December 1955
Two Tough Customers - June 1960
Pocket Radio, TV Receivers
Yagi Antennas, May 1955
Stomping, March 1962
Blubber Banisher, July 1959
- The Sparkling
Light, May 1962
Research Rewarded, June 1962
- A Hot Idea, March
- The Hot
Dog Case, December 1954
A New Company is Launched, October 1956
Under the Mistletoe, December 1958
Electronic Eraser, August 1962
- "BBI", May 1959
Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River
Sniffer, July 1962
- Ham Radio,
Torero Electronico, April 1960
Wireless, January 1962
Electronic Shadow, September 1957
Elementary Induction, June 1963
- He Went
Electronic Detective, February 1958
Aiding an Instinct, December 1962
- Two Detectors,
with a Tachometer, July 1960
and the Pirates, April 1961
The Crazy Clock Caper, October 1960
Carl & 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."