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Carl & Jerry: Great Bank Robbery or "Heroes All"
October 1955 Popular Electronics

October 1955 Popular Electronics

October 1955 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.

The middle of the last century was the era of science fiction with fantastic adventures and inventions. In order to engage kids in the realm, clever and fearless teenagers were cast as leading characters. The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, The Radio Boys, The Radio Girls, and others proved their sleuthing prowess, bravery, and ability to assess situations and respond remarkably. That made the introduction of the Carl & Jerry series in Popular Electronics magazine a pretty good bet for John Frye. Mr. Frye had already been for many years writing technical articles and what I have dubbed "technodramas™," including the also popular "Mac's Radio Service Shop" series. His stories always integrated not just high tech paraphernalia, but also discussions of functional details of circuits, test equipment, and components. This "Great Bank Robbery" story, in addition to being a bit hokey, weaved together Ham radio operation, class "B" amplifier principles, and electromagnetic signal propagation on various wavelengths.

Carl & Jerry: Great Bank Robbery or "Heroes All"

Carl & Jerry: Great Bank Robbery or "Heroes All," September 1955 Popular Electronics - RF CafeBy John T. Frye

"Just once," Carl complained bitterly as as he trudged along the road toward the approaching hills, "I'd like to take a hike without having to be a packhorse for a whole mess of electronic equipment."

"Oh, quit your griping," Jerry said good-humoredly, as he skipped lightly along carrying a bulky but obviously not, very heavy box.

"You're just steamed because you outsmarted yourself and elected to carry the little box without knowing it contained the nice heavy batteries. You're just as eager as I am to try out this portable 420-megacycle rig, and we'll never have a better opportunity than to work back to town from the top of Old Saddle Back Mountain."

Carl & Jerry Gret Bank Robbery - RF Cafe"Where does this joker who is supposed to work with us live?"

"He's a new ham in town. His name is Gene Mays, and he lives in an apartment on the third floor of that building the police station is in. Gene is a real v.h.f. and u.h.f. bug and has been concentrating on the ham bands above 30 mc. for several years. This combination transmitter and receiver is a home-brew job of his own manufacture."

"How come you're suddenly so hopped up on u.h.f. You can't talk any farther on those frequencies than you can on 75, 40, 20, or 10 meters, can you?"

"No. In fact, reliable communication on 420 megacycles is limited pretty nearly to line of sight. Much greater distances are achieved, of course, under unusual conditions, just as you occasionally get freak TV reception from a station many hundreds of miles away. Taxicab companies operating in the neighboring 460-mc. band have found that with the transmitter feeding an antenna 50 feet high they can depend upon reaching cabs cruising within a radius of eight to ten miles from the transmitter tower. On the other hand, atmospherics have practically no effect on reception and the wavelength is so short that the signals penetrate into tunnels, bridges, etc."

"What's the short wavelength got to do with that?"

"A scientific description would have to go into the modes of waveguide operation, but let's just say that a radio wave is very much like a cat. You know, they say a cat's whiskers serve it as a sort of feeler gage, and that the cat will not insert its head into any opening which the ends of those whiskers will not clear. A radio wave operates the same way. Unless a tunnel-like passage has cross-section dimensions sufficiently great with regard to the wavelength of a radio wave, that wave will not enter the passageway. A good example of this would be when your car radio goes dead inside the framework of an iron bridge.

"But I like to fool around with u.h.f. because the field is not as crowded as are the lower frequencies. Here a bright young man like myself - ahem! -just might discover something new all by himself. On top of that, it's a wonderful place to play around with antennas because the half-wave elements are measured in inches instead of feet. You can build an elaborate multi-element array and set it on top of your dining room table. Gene will be using such a collinear array on top of the apartment building, and he has equipped this job with a clever collapsing corner-reflector that folds up and fits inside the case when not being used but will provide 10-db gain over a simple dipole when opened out."

The boys had been so busy talking that the distance to the hills melted away without their noticing it, and as Jerry finished they found themselves standing in the deep notch cut through the rough limestone where the road went over the small mountain. Hitching up their belts, they started the short but arduous climb to the top of the cut.

"Whew!" Jerry exclaimed as they finally made it. He set the bulky transmitter-receiver case on the ground and stretched out on his back. "A guy ought to drink goat milk before trying that."

"YOU should talk," Carl remarked as he set the heavy battery box squarely on top of his pal's stomach. "How would you like to tote that all those seven miles from town?"

Jerry squirmed out from beneath the box and began to open up the portable station case. In just a matter of minutes, he had the connecting cable plugged into the battery case; and the corner reflector, opened up so that it looked like the wide-open jaws of a striking snake, was aimed at the distant town.

"We've got a while to wait," Jerry remarked, as he glanced at his wrist watch. "Gene was not to start looking for us until a half hour from now."

"Where are the earphones ?" Carl asked.

"This set uses a speaker, and you'll be surprised at the volume," Jerry told him. "The output stage is operated class B so as to put out a good strong signal and yet be as economical as possible so far as battery current is concerned."

"Let's see now," Carl reflected, "class B tubes are biased so that they draw practically no plate current without a signal on their grids. The plate current rises as there is need for it to handle an increasing signal voltage on the grids. Right?"

"Hundred per cent -" Jerry started to say, when the receiver he was idly tuning blared forth with such a bellow that he fell backward off the rock on which he had been sitting.

"W9CFI! W9CFI! W9CFI! Here is W9HST calling. If you're hearing me, Jerry, come in at once. This is important!"

Jerry scrambled back to his knees, threw a switch and shouted into the mike, "W9HST, W9HST. You're five by nine, Gene. What's up? W9CFI over."

Carl & Jerry fool bank robbers - RF Cafe

"... if one of you will be so accommodating as to try a little funny stuff he can save the county the cost of a trial for the whole lot of you."

"Roger, Jerry, and listen closely for we haven't much time. A gang of men just held up the Farmers & Merchants Bank and have headed out that road in your direction. I was down in the police station when the report came in. A couple of carloads of men are after them, but the police chief says they can never catch the hopped-up hot rod the robbers are using before they reach Old Saddle Back. Once across it, the thieves can lose themselves a dozen different ways in the valley on the other side. I told the chief, who is right here with me, that maybe you and Carl could stop them. Do you think you can do it - without getting hurt, I mean? They're bad characters and shot a teller in the bank during the holdup."

As this transmission was coming through, Carl and Jerry stared at each other with widening eyes across the receiver case.

"Stand by while we talk it over," Jerry finally said weakly into the mike, and then his eyes followed Carl's searching stare down into the valley toward town. Because of the trees, the course of the road could only be seen for a short distance, and there was no sign of a car.

"Don't look at me," Carl said to the eyes he could now feel boring into the back of his head. I promised my mother never to have anything to do with bank robbers."

"We've GOT to do something," Jerry declared, as he rubbed his flat-topped haircut in desperation. "You start pushing rocks down onto the road. Just get enough of them down there, spaced so that a car can't pass through without blowing a tire or knocking a hole in the oil pan. If you can make it look like a rockslide, all the better; but just make sure a car will have to stop until the rocks are cleared away before it can pass."

Without waiting for an answer to this command, he pushed the transmit switch and barked into the mike: "Gene, have the chief get three of his men up there in your shack on the double. Give the chief and each of the men a number from one through four. In a couple of minutes I'll start calling out a number first and then say a short sentence. Have the man whose number is called step up to the mike and repeat that sentence in just as mean and hardboiled a fashion as he can. And you will have to listen closely, for I'll be whispering into the mike -"

He broke off sharply as his straining ears caught the distant throbbing of a racing motor. Instantly he began dragging the portable station case over to the edge of the cut and stopped right at the brink where a small bush hid him from view from below. A glance down at the road revealed that Carl had done an excellent job of blocking it, and now that worthy threw himself, panting heavily, down beside Jerry.

"Help me prop up the back of the case so that the speaker points down at the road," Jerry said; "then, when and if we get the car stopped, you keep moving back and forth just out of sight along the edge of the cut. Try to make a lot of noise. And keep your fingers and toes crossed. We're going to need all the help we can get."

As he finished saying this, a car came roaring over the rise, and then, as the driver glimpsed the rocks in the road, slithered crosswise to a stop amid a great screeching of brakes and showering of gravel.

"What're you stopping for, you fool?" a hawk-nosed man in the rear seat demanded.

"I can't drive over that rockslide," the driver answered sharply.

"Well, all right. Everybody pile out and get those rocks out of the way," Hawknose ordered. "Those yokels back there ain't chasing us to give us the key to the city, you know."

All of the men except Hawknose got out of the car and started toward the pile of rocks. Jerry whispered a few words into the mike and threw the switch to the receive position.

"All right, you birds," a gruff voice bellowed from the speaker; "freeze right where you are. The first one who makes a move gets sprayed with double death from this tommy gun."

The men stopped in their tracks. Only their eyes shifted nervously from one to another and then turned toward the car.

"And you, Bugle Nose, crawl out of that car with your hands over your head or we'll rip it open like a can of sardines," the voice ordered.

The man in the car hesitated, and promptly the harsh voice shouted, "All right, you asked for it; now you're going to get it."

"Hold it! I'm getting out," the man with the large nose said hastily, as he scrambled out the car door with his wrists stretching up out of his coat sleeves.

"That's better," the rasping voice commented. "Bill, you keep a bead right on Bugle Beak's belt buckle and let him have it first if anyone makes a funny move of any kind. Brad, you watch the two on the right."

"Okay, Chief," another voice answered after a little pause.

"Spike, you keep an eye on the other two."

"Gotcha, Chief," was the prompt reply in still a third voice.

"Now let's everyone very, very carefully take his gun out of his pocket and drop it on the road. Then kick it off to one side. If one of you will be so accommodating as to try a little funny stuff, he can save the county the cost of a trial for the whole lot of you."

Like a scene in slow motion, the men began relieving themselves of a collection of revolvers and automatic pistols. It was noteworthy that the .45 automatic of Hawknose was the first to clank on the gravel. Doubtless the mental picture of the submachine gun pointed at his belt buckle had something to do with his alacrity.

After the guns were kicked aside, there was a long pause. Carl, who had been busily scurrying back and forth, dragging his feet and trying to sound like a small posse, looked over his shoulder at Jerry.

That youth's round face was nearly apoplectic as he fiddled desperately with the controls of the u.h.f. station that quite obviously had gone dead. A hurried peek over the edge of the cut revealed that the men below had sensed that something was wrong, and a couple of them were cautiously edging toward their guns.

"What's wrong?" Carl whispered hoarsely, as he bent over his frantically working chum.

"Don't know; but this outfit is as dead as we're going to be in about sixty seconds," Jerry answered.

Spurred on by this electrifying prospect, Carl drew back and made the typical American's classic and ultimate military service gesture for non-operating equipment: he gave the case of the portable station a lusty kick. Instantly Gene's anxious voice burst from the speaker demanding: "What's wrong, Jerry? We can't hear you. What do you want us to do now?"

Before either the bandits or the horrified boys had time to react to this development, another car came over the hill and slid to a stop behind the first. Men erupted from the car into the side ditches in twin sprays the way grasshoppers clear your path in the fall of the year; but before the bandits had time to take advantage of the shock that the unexpected sight of them gave the posse, the latter recovered themselves and collared the unarmed desperadoes. Jerry leaped to his feet and began to shout, "Boys, are we glad to see you -;" but as a bullet from the gun of a trigger-happy posseman ricocheted off the rock at his feet and whined off into the distance, he ducked back behind his bush. "Wouldn't it be too bad if you potted one of your buddies up there!" the hawk-nosed man sneered.

At this moment, the voice of the chief of police bellowed from the speaker. "You men down there listen to me. This is Chief Hall. These two boys up here stopped the bandits and held them for you. Here's the way they did it." And then he went ahead to describe the ruse in detail.

"Finally," he continued, "I'd like to say two things. First, you boys will be in on a nice reward for helping to capture those bandits. Secondly, I don't know what kind of books you've been reading, shows you've been seeing, or TV programs you've been watching, but let me tell you here and now that real cops simply don't talk the way you've just made us talk. We're all going right down to the station and wash our mouths out with soap!"

Jerry and Carl grinned happily at each other as the chief signed off.

"This has certainly taught me one thing," Jerry confessed, beginning to pack up the portable station. "I'll bet that as long as I live I'll never again be careless about inserting a plug in a socket. It was the battery cable plug that caused the set to go dead. I found it while the posse was grabbing those characters down there."

"I give up," Carl said, as he tossed his hands into the air. "A guy who keeps on trouble-shooting when there's a good chance of shooting-trouble is beyond all hope!"



Posted May 29, 2023

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.

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Carl & Jerry, by John T. Frye - RF CafeCarl & 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 electronic equipment.

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.

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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