June 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.
In typical Carl & Jerry
style, the teen experimenters ("makers" or
"DIYers" in contemporary lingo) spent another summer vacation day cobbling together
an electromechanical contraption or even purely electronic device with a specific
goal in mind. Whether designing and building a circuit for tracking down the cause
of strangely acting synchronized wall clocks ("The Crazy Clock Caper") or devising a system for catching a vandal
in the act of vandalizing ("Geniuses
at Work" - this story), creator John T. Fry provides a mix of developing
personalities, describing the task at hand, and maintaining a degree of suspense
regarding how the adventure will end.
Carl & Jerry: Geniuses at Work
By John T. Frye
For an hour Carl and Jerry had been working
away on separate projects at opposite ends of the workbench in their basement laboratory.
Each was too stubborn to ask what the other was doing, but the puzzled glances each
of them sneaked at the other's equipment from time to time revealed how great was
the strain. Finally Jerry cracked.
"So, okay; I give up. What are you doing with that timer clock, making a time
"Not at all," Carl answered, taking off his horn-rimmed glasses and wiping them
with a very dubious-looking handkerchief. "You know what a large charge I get out
of these bright, warm, sunny, sparkling summer mornings. I don't want to miss a
single one of them, and this timer clock I built from that article in the May, 1955,
issue of Popular Electronics will make sure that I won't. A 110-volt a. c. electric
gong that used to be in a fire station is plugged into the 'turn on' outlet on the
back of the timer and converts it into an electric alarm clock that nobody, but
nobody, can ignore."
"At the same time," Carl continued, "you know that my second love is sleeping,
and nothing gripes me quite so much as to have that gong bounce me out of bed only
to discover it's a cloudy or rainy morning good only for staying in the sack. What
I'm doing now is taking out insurance against such a revolting development. This
sun-battery photocell will be mounted outside my window where the rays of the rising
sun can shine directly on it. Leads will go from the cell to a sensitive relay whose
contacts close only when direct sunlight falls on the cell. These contacts are inserted
in one of the leads going to the gong, and -"
"I get it," Jerry broke in, admiringly. "If it's a cloudy day, the relay contacts
will stay open and keep the timer from ringing the gong; but if the sun is shining,
then the timer clock will wake you - and doubtless the rest of the household - at
the time for which it is set. My boy, you're a real brain!"
"Really nothing," Carl said, with airy modesty. "What are you doing there?"
"Well," Jerry said hesitantly, "I guess you might say I was making a mug-trap."
"You're not getting through to me. Try another wavelength."
"It's this way," Jerry explained. "My Uncle Walter, who lives on a farm just
south of town, has something very funny going on in his henhouse. About every other
night, something or somebody - probably the latter - goes into the henhouse, tears
up the hens' nests, and scatters them all over the floor."
"Why do you say it's probably 'somebody'?"
"Because my uncle thinks that only a human being would be able to unfasten the
rather complicated latch on the door. He says, too, that if it were a fox or a skunk
or a weasel, such an animal would kill the chickens and eat them; but all the mysterious
visitor does is scare heck out of the hens. They're so nervous that their egg-laying
is falling off."
"A hen with a nervous breakdown is something
I've got to see," Carl said with a grin; "but where do you fit into all this?"
"Uncle Walt, who realizes I'm an electronic genius, wants me to help him catch
the critter, or at least to find out what it is. He doesn't want to use any ordinary
kind of trap because he suspects that may be kids are doing the mischief, and naturally
he wouldn't want to hurt them. At the same time, he doesn't want just to sit around
and have his prize hens scared silly."
"What've you got in mind?"
"I can show you a lot easier than tell you. Why don't you go out to Uncle Walt's
with me and stay all night? You can tell your mom I invited you."
"It's a deal! Wait until I get my leg-power hot rod, and I'll be right with you.
I've got to see this Strange Case of the Harassed Hens to a finish."
Carl's mother had no objection, and soon the boys were riding their bikes toward
the farm. As was always the case when something interesting was in prospect, they
didn't use the seats of the bicycles much, and they soon arrived at the prosperous-looking
farm of Jerry's uncle. Uncle Walt was a tall lean man with bright blue eyes set
deep in a lined and weathered face. After Jerry had introduced Carl and explained
that he was going to stay all night, the man turned to his nephew and said, "Well,
how about it, Marconi? Are you all set to give our mysterious visitor his comeuppance?"
"I think so, Uncle Walt. If you don't mind, Carl and I will get busy right away
setting up the - the - the device."
"Be my guests, boys!" Uncle Walt said with a grin, waving toward the neat, well-painted
chicken house. "I'll go and start the milking."
"First," Jerry said, as he started unloading the cardboard box he had brought
along, "we'll mount this normally closed micros witch on the door jamb so that its
contacts are held open by the closed door, and so that the contacts will close just
as soon as the door starts to open. As you can see, the switch is inserted in one
wire of this line cord, which will go from an outlet socket inside the chicken stable
to the rotary solenoid fastened to this board with the camera."
"Hold it! What exactly is a rotary solenoid?"
"It's a solenoid that twists a shaft through an arc of several degrees when current
is applied to it, instead of moving a plunger as the ordinary solenoid does. The
little arm fastened to the rotating shaft connects through this small spring to
the shutter release of the camera. And notice that at the end of the little arm's
travel it flips this toggle switch from on to off"
"Two questions: why use the spring, and what does the toggle switch do?"
"First," Jerry said, "we'll mount this normally dosed micro switch on the door
jamb so that its contacts are held open by the dosed door ..."
"The first thought of any experimenter or technician worth his salt is to protect
his equipment against possible damage, and that's the function of both the spring
and the switch. This rotary solenoid is very fast-acting, and I was afraid it might
injure the camera unless a shock-absorbing linkage was used between the arm and
the shutter release. Also, this solenoid is intended only for intermittent use and
would overheat and be destroyed if current were allowed to remain on it for a long
period of time, as would happen if the door of the chicken house were left ajar.
The switch is in series with the micro switch and takes the voltage off the solenoid
after it has done its job of tripping the camera. What's more, with this switch
in the off position, the door can be opened without tripping the camera - an important
factor in setting things up, testing, or using the door during daylight hours when
we don't need to have the trap set."
"Where will the camera be placed?"
"Back inside this box to protect it from the weather. The lens will be focused
on the door, and when the solenoid trips the shutter, the synchronized flash will
light up the whole area, providing us with a fine 'mug-shot' of whoever or whatever
is fooling with the door."
Carl walked slowly around, studying the layout from all angles.
"I see only one thing wrong," he finally remarked. "If the prowler is human,
the firing of the flash bulb is bound to show him where the camera is. What's to
prevent his taking camera, evidence, and all along with him?"
"That's using the old hat-rack!" Jerry applauded. "Since it's my camera, that
worried me, too. But I've got the solution right here." As he said this, he reached
down into the cardboard carton and pulled out an electric bell. "This bell will
be connected across the line cord going to the solenoid. It'll be behind the micro
switch but ahead of the toggle switch. That way it'll start to ring as soon as the
door is opened, and will keep on ringing until the door is closed or until we come
out and shut it off. Beast or human, it would have to be an iron-nerved character
to stick around with this bell clanging away."
With the plan clearly in mind, the boys set to work and completed the installation
in short order. They put the box housing the camera at one side of the door where
it would be most likely to get a good profile shot of anyone looking down at the
latch. When everything was in place, Jerry flipped the toggle switch on the camera
mounting board to off and plugged the line cord into a receptacle inside the building.
Instantly the electric bell began to ring loudly; but it stopped when the door was
closed. Jerry thrust a bulb into the flash gun mounted on the camera and called
to his uncle who was just going to the house with a brimming bucket of milk dangling
from each arm:
"Uncle Walt, will you want to go into the chicken house any more during the evening?"
"Nope, I'm all through in there; so you can set your trap. Then you boys come
on up to the house and wash up for supper. It ought to be about ready -"
After one more final inspection of the wiring, Jerry flipped the toggle switch
to on and the boys followed Mr. Bishop to the house. There, Mrs. Bishop, who looked
a lot more like a club woman than a "typical" farm wife, served a fine country meal
consisting of golden-brown store-dressed fried chicken, ready-mixed light biscuits
covered with plenty of good yellow margarine, and a dessert of commercially quick-frozen
strawberries spread over large mounds of luscious vanilla ice cream from the local
ice cream plant.
This huge meal and the outdoor exercise the boys had had made them so sleepy
that they were barely able to stay awake until nine o'clock. Right after that, they
all went to bed.
It seemed to Jerry that his head had barely touched the pillow before he found
himself sitting bolt-upright in bed, staring into the darkness, while the distant
ringing of a bell came through the open window. Nimbly he hopped out on the floor
and switched on the light, only to discover that Carl was already tugging his pants
on over his pajamas.
"Sounds like we got a rat in our trap," Carl grunted, as he tried to wriggle
a bare foot into his shoe.
The boys pounded down the stairs and out into the barnyard. The bobbing circle
of light from Mr. Bishop's flashlight guided them to the hen house where Uncle Walt,
a double-barreled shotgun cradled in the crook of his arm, stood looking at the
open door of the building.
"Whatever the thing was, it took off when the bell started to ring," he told
the wide-eyed youths; "but if your contraption worked, you should have his calling
card inside the camera."
An examination with the aid of the flashlight revealed that the toggle switch
had been flipped to off, indicating that the camera shutter had been tripped. Jerry
removed the camera from the board and advanced the film to the next exposure.
"It's only two a. m.; so we may as well go back to bed," Uncle Walter suggested,
as he closed and latched the door. "I'll see you young buckeroos at breakfast."
For a few minutes after getting back in bed, Carl and Jerry were too excited
to go to sleep. But they soon calmed down and drifted off into slumber. They knew
nothing more until Jerry's Aunt Enid knocked at their door and told them that breakfast
The boys bolted their breakfast pancakes and sausage in short order. They paused
only long enough to take a couple of pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Bishop, "just to finish
off the roll" as they unflatteringly put it, before they hopped on their bicycles
and headed back for town and the darkroom Carl had fixed up in a corner of his basement.
Inside this room, with the safelight turned on, Jerry removed the roll of Verichrome
film from the camera, stripped off the backing paper, and attached clips to the
ends while Carl filled one tray with developing solution, another with clear water,
and a third with hypo. A quick check with a thermometer showed that by one of those
happy coincidences that do happen occasionally, the solutions were exactly at 68
degrees. Carl passed the strip of film through the clear water a couple of times
and then began to seesaw it gently and methodically through the tray of developing
solution. After a couple of minutes, Jerry, whose head had been bobbing up and down
with the movement of the film as he tried to make out the emerging negative pictures,
"We didn't draw a blank, anyway; there's something on every frame."
"By golly, it's a midget burglar!" Jerry declared, looking over at the negative
which was third from one end of the strip of film Carl had developed.
After a couple more minutes of passing the film through the developer, Carl transferred
it to the clear water for a few passes and then began to seesaw it through the tray
of hypo. When he had done this for several minutes, he stopped and turned on the
"By golly, it's a midget burglar!" Jerry declared, looking over at the negative
which was third from one end of the strip of film Carl had developed.
"Burglar, my eye!" Carl said with a grin. "That's a coon, and a big fat one at
that. All coons have that distinctive mask-marking around the eyes. There's something
around his neck I can't make out on the negative. Let me finish fixing, washing,
and drying the film. Then we'll make a print so that we can really see the details."
An hour later both boys were examining a fine large print of the raccoon, which
must have been staring directly at the camera when the flash bulb went off. It was
standing on its hind legs, and its little paws still had hold of the latch. Around
its neck was a leather collar with a metal plate fastened to it.
"That must be a pet coon," Jerry said.
"I'll run upstairs and tell Uncle Walter, and see what he knows about it."
In a few minutes, he came back into the darkroom with a broad grin on his face.
"The mystery is solved. Uncle Walt says that the coon is a pet of a boy who lives
on the next farm. It's so tame that they just let it run loose like a dog. It must
have been prowling around Uncle Walt's farm when it discovered how to open the chicken
house door - coons are very clever about things like that - and then had itself
a real ball scaring the hens. This was so much fun, evidently, that the coon came
back and did it again every night or so. Uncle Walt called the boy, and he promised
to keep Mr. Coon tied up at night.
"Another victory for the electronic coon hunters!" Carl remarked, starting to
put away the developing materials.
Posted February 22, 2023
(updated from original
post on 8/17/2016)
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
Great Bank Robbery or "Heroes All" - October 1955
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."