July 1956 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.
Just the other day I saw
a greeting card with a sailboat on the front with the words "Anchors Away," on it.
It does not seem to haven been meant to be a pun on "anchors aweigh;" the card writer didn't know any
better. This episode of "Carl & Jerry" has our teenage Ham radio operators and
electronics hobbyists running a newly built model tugboat powered by a steam engine
and navigated via a radio control system. As is always the case, no activity of
the pair goes without drama of some sort. Author John T. Frye used his writings
to present technical topics within the storyline, both in the "Carl & Jerry"
series here in Popular Electronics and his earlier "Mac's Radio Service Shop" series that appeared in Radio &
Television News editions in the 1940s and 1950s.
Carl & Jerry: Anchors Aweigh
By John T. Frye
It was a beautiful July day. The warm sun sparkled
on the little ripples produced by the gentle breeze moving over the broad expanse
of backwater above the dam in the St. Joseph River, and there were just enough white
clouds drifting in the sky to bring out its deep summer blue.
All this natural beauty was wasted on Carl and Jerry, however. As they knelt
on the bank, their admiration was entirely absorbed by the gleaming brasswork of
the three-foot-long radio-controlled model tugboat resting on the ground between
"I still say it was a dirty gyp not to let me help put it together," Carl complained.
"But I told you my uncle in the Navy sent me the plans for the boat, the motor,
and the radio-control equipment from England," Jerry said patiently. "He wrote that
he wasn't going to have an ignorant landlubber swab for a nephew if he could help
it, and that I was to build the thing all by myself and have it ready for his inspection
when he arrives next month on leave. If I had let you help me put it together -
and I really ached to show it to you-that would have been cheating."
... Just as the rowboat was almost within reach of the old man's
outstretched hand, it turned aside: Jerry had pushed the wrong button ...
"Well, all right," Carl said grudgingly; "but let's get started. I want to see
"First," Jerry began, as he took out three bottles from a box beside him, "we've
got to mix the fuel. This water-cooled diesel motor runs on equal parts of ether,
castor oil, and kerosene."
"If you don't mind, I'll move up-wind while you mix," Carl said, hastily scrambling
to his feet. "I've got a grandmother who thinks castor oil is good for whatever
ails boys, and Mom believes everything Grandma says. As a result, I know I've taken
enough castor oil to float that boat easily; and I just can't stand the smell of
the stuff. How much moxie does that motor have?"
"It has five cubic centimeters piston displacement, and will develop a full 1/2
B.H.P. at 12,000 rpm."
"A half horsepower, huh? That's a real powerhouse! But then, I suppose a tug
should have power. How about the radio controls?"
"I built up a sensitive three-tube receiver to go with the six-channel reed bank
my uncle sent over. Servos operating with the reed selector unit give me any degree
of right or left rudder, and I have full control of the motor speed from idle to
full-throttle. Since the diesel won't run backward, I can't reverse the boat yet;
but I hope to have a gear-box installed in there pretty soon that will let me reverse
it. The unused channels will be used at a later date to carry out some big plans
The boys put the fuel into the motor fuel tank and checked out the radio controls.
Jerry plugged a milliammeter into a jack on the boat receiver and tuned the input
circuit to the frequency of the transmitter, with the meter serving as tuning indicator.
Then they watched the operation of the servos connected to the rudder and throttle
arm as the buttons on the remote control transmitter case were depressed. Everything
worked perfectly, and they were just preparing to start the motor when a harsh,
high-pitched voice behind them demanded:
"What're you kids fixing to do?"
They turned around to see a sour-visaged old man standing beside a boat tied
to the bank. Under his arm were several long cane poles, and he carried a battered
minnow bucket in each hand.
"We're just going to tryout our radio-controlled boat," Jerry explained politely.
"I knew it!" the man exclaimed with triumphant satisfaction. "I just felt in
my bones you were up to some devilment like that. Well, let me tell you brats something:
I'm going out there in the middle of the river to fish for crappie, and when I fish
I want things quiet. That silly contraption had better not come within a hundred
yards of my boat, or you'll be sorry. Do you get that?"
"We'll keep the model away from your boat," Jerry promised .
Muttering to himself, the old man loaded his paraphernalia into his boat and
shoved off. As he leisurely rowed toward the middle of the wide river, the boys
"Gee, what a grouch!" Carl exclaimed.
"I had a big notion to tell him off."
"I'm glad you didn't," Jerry said slowly.
"In the first place, he's an old man and should be shown respect. More important,
though, is the fact that his hobby of fishing is just as important to him as our
hobby of playing with this boat is to us. He's probably been fishing here for a
long, long time and has a right to keep on doing so without interruption.
"Anyway, I'd just as soon not send the tugboat out any distance today. We'll
keep it here close to the bank while we become familiar with the controls. Then,
to, I want to see which one of these propellers I brought along will provide the
most push. Running the motor for only short stretches at a time should help to break
Without further talk, the boys started the motor and gently placed the little
boat in the water. It rode beautifully as they sent it in tight circles close to
the bank, and they were deeply gratified at how quickly and completely it responded
to signals sent out by the transmitter. Then Jerry fastened a line from one of the
towing irons at the stern of the little tug, and fastened the other end of the line
to a spring scale held just above the surface of the water. Carl pushed the full-throttle
button on the transmitter, and the popping exhaust suddenly rose to a high-pitched
whine. The water boiled up behind the stern of the little vessel as it squatted
low in the water to pull with all its might against the scale.
They noted the measured pull of the boat and then placed another propeller on
the drive shaft and repeated the test. One propeller of the four eventually tried
showed several ounces more pull than any of the rest; so the boys left it on the
shaft. Then they refilled the fuel tank and prepared to proceed with their next
experiment: trying to "dock" an old railroad tie floating leisurely past by pushing
against it with the fender around the tug's bow:
"Old Sourpuss must have caught one," Carl commented, as he rose from placing
the boat back in the water, and glanced out to where the old man was standing up
in his boat a couple of hundred yards away.
"No; he's pulled in the anchor and is letting the boat drift with the breeze.
I've been watching him. He ought not be standing up in a narrow boat that way, though
Jerry broke off with a gasp as the old man, who had been transferring a minnow
bucket from one side of the boat to the other, suddenly lost his balance and toppled
out of the boat backward, the minnow bucket still clutched in his hands. The departing
thrust of his feet gave the boat a shove and it was a good thirty feet away when
his head bobbed to the surface.
"Help! Help!" the choked voice of the old man came faintly to the boys.
"Can't you swim?" Carl called through the megaphone his cupped hands made.
"Nary a stroke," was the answer. "This minnow bucket is holding me up, but it
leaks and won't last long."
Carl sat down on the grass and began tearing at his shoelaces.
"That's too far to swim," Jerry said desperately. "He'll have gone under long
before you get there."
"I've gotta try. We can't just sit here and watch him drown."
"The tugboat! The tugboat!" Jerry exclaimed, as his eyes lighted on the puttering
little model that slowly had put out from shore while it was left unattended. He
pushed a button on the transmitter case, and the motor exhaust rose to a scream
of power as the tug shot ahead. It performed a graceful arc and hurtled across the
surface of the water.
"What are you going to do?" Carl demanded, watching the swiftly narrowing gap
between the little tug and the head of the old man - which could just be seen in
the water beyond the drifting rowboat. "That little model will never keep him afloat.
It might if he were careful, but he's too excited to think. He'll capsize the tug
at his first grab."
"Don't forget that this is a tugboat we've got," Jerry remarked, without taking
his eyes off the little radio-controlled craft. As he spoke, the little boat's motor
slowed to an idle, and it settled down in the water as it moved slowly ahead to
nuzzle its prow against the square stern the rowboat. Then Jerry pushed a button
and the motor again revved up to full-throttle. The rowboat lazily moved ahead toward
the head of the old man. Just as it was almost within reach of his outstretched
hand, it turned aside; Jerry had pushed the wrong button and the bow of the little
model slipped off the transom of the rowboat.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Carl demanded accusingly.
"This is tricky," Jerry explained desperately. "You gotta make the tugboat go
to the right when you want the rowboat to go to the left."
As he talked, he sent the little boat in a tight circle and brought it into position
once more. This time he successfully maneuvered the rowboat into the reach of the
barely floating man.
As soon as the old man had safely hold of something substantial, the paralyzing
fear went out of him. He moved hand over hand along the side of the boat to the
square stern and then pulled himself into the boat over the transom. After resting
a few seconds, he took in his poles and started rowing toward the boys, keeping
an interested watch on the little tug that performed triumphant circles around him
as he rowed along.
"Well, boys, I just don't know what to say," he admitted candidly, stepping out
on the shore. "I know as sure as I'm standing here that if weren't for you two and
that dandy little boat of yours I'd be dead right now. But I can't seem to think
of any way to tell you how much I thank you."
"Don't worry about that," Jerry said, with a friendly grin. "We're just tickled
to pieces that everything worked so well."
"This much I have to say," the old man went on. "I sure feel bad about the way
I talked to you two a little while ago. From now on in, as far as I'm concerned,
you can run that wonderful little contraption right up and down my backbone any
time you please."
"Then maybe you'd like to come down here tomorrow and watch us try it out for
some speed runs," Carl suggested.
"I'd be proud to," the old man said promptly. "Fact is, I'm kind of hankering
to have one of those things myself. While I was rowing in, I had the idea that if
a man trolled a pork-rind spinner off the back of that thing there's no telling
how many bass he might take! And he could just sit here on the bank and smoke his
pipe while he was doing it, too!"
Posted February 20, 2023
(updated from original
post on 4/11/2016)
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, by John T. Frye
Carl and Jerry Frye were fictional characters in a series of short stories that
were published in Popular Electronics magazine from the late 1950s to the early
1970s. The stories were written by John T. Frye, who used the pseudonym "John T.
Carroll," and they followed the adventures of two teenage boys, Carl Anderson and
Jerry Bishop, who were interested in electronics and amateur radio.
In each story, Carl and Jerry would encounter a problem or challenge related
to electronics, and they would use their knowledge and ingenuity to solve it. The
stories were notable for their accurate descriptions of electronic circuits and
devices, and they were popular with both amateur radio enthusiasts and young people
interested in science and technology.
The Carl and Jerry stories were also notable for their emphasis on safety and
responsible behavior when working with electronics. Each story included a cautionary
note reminding readers to follow proper procedures and safety guidelines when handling
Although the Carl and Jerry stories were fictional, they were based on the experiences
of the author and his own sons, who were also interested in electronics and amateur
radio. The stories continue to be popular among amateur radio enthusiasts and electronics
hobbyists, and they are considered an important part of the history of electronics
and technology education.
- Going Up
- March 1955
Shock - September 1955
- A Low Blow
- March 1961
- The Black
Beast - May 1960
Electronik, September 1958
- Pi in
the Sky and Big Twist, February 1964
Bell Bull Session, December 1961
Boogie, August 1958
- TV Picture,
Eraser, August 1962
Trap, March 1956
at Work, June 1956
Aweigh, July 1956
Has His Day, August 1956
- The 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
Operation Startled Starling - January 1955
- A Light
Subject - November 1954
Teaches Boy - February 1959
- Too Lucky
- August 1961
and Jeopardy - December 1963
Santa's Little Helpers - December 1955
Tough Customers - June 1960
Pocket Radio, TV Receivers
Yagi Antennas, May 1955
Stomping, March 1962
- The Blubber
Banisher, July 1959
- The Sparkling
Light, May 1962
Research Rewarded, June 1962
- A Hot Idea, March
- The Hot Dog
Case, December 1954
New Company is Launched, October 1956
the Mistletoe, December 1958
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
Induction, June 1963
- He Went
Detective, February 1958
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."