March 1959 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.
This might be the first
(and only) appearance of Carl's father, at least in a drawing. In this episode,
John T. Frye's high-tech teen duo Carl and Jerry design and build a "polecat
detector." In the process, a little drama is thrown in when a stander-by mistakenly
believes he is being insulted. Even if, in spite of the detailed description
by Jerry, you don't learn how a photocell-based threshold crossing circuit works,
you might just learn the meaning of 'lugubriously.' Mr. Frye always worked
valuable technical information into his stories about "Carl & Jerry," "Mac's
Service Shop," and other regular features which appeared in electronics magazines
Carl & Jerry: He Went That-a-Way!
By John T Frye
Carl and Jerry were perched on the workbench of their basement laboratory
listening to Carl's father as the big, pleasant-featured Mr. Anderson said:
So when your mother saw that skunk go under our house, Carl, she was really
'shook' as you boys put it. She's threatened my life if we do anything to upset
the little beast there because she still remembers how, when she was a girl
down on the farm, her dad set the dogs on a skunk under the house. The whole
family had to move out and live in the corncrib for a month."
"How do we know the polecat's still under there?" Carl asked.
"We don't. Possibly it's gone away. But we don't want to be 'half-safe' and
close up that opening until we're sure. That's where I thought you electronic
hot-shots could help. Can't you rig up some sort of electronic device that will
let us know if the skunk comes out from under the house? I mean some sort of
gadget that will sound an alarm if something comes out through that hole but
will stay silent if something goes in."
Jerry's round face wrinkled in a frown of concentration. "Ye-s-s-s," he finally
breathed, "that ought to do it!" He grabbed up a piece of chalk and began to
sketch his plan on a blackboard.
Carl's father took the microphone in his hand and shouted
in his great booming voice, "There goes the skunk! There goes the skunk!"
"Here's a transistor with a high-sensitivity relay that I'll label RL1 in
the collector circuit. The transistor's biased so the relay is held closed.
Notice we have a 1000-μfd. capacitor across the relay winding. Here's a selenium
photocell. When a beam of light shining directly across the opening under the
house falls on this cell, it generates a current that bucks out the transistor
bias current. That causes the collector current to fall nearly to zero, and
the relay opens. If anything interrupts the light beam, the collector current
rises and the relay closes. The voltage across the relay coil charges the capacitor,
and the discharge current from this capacitor keeps the relay closed for 30
seconds or so after the light beam has been restored. Okay so far?"
"Check!" Carl said promptly.
"Fine! Here's another relay-transistor-selenium cell/light source combination
that's set up a yard or so from the wall of the house. The only difference is
that it has no capacitor across the winding of RL2. This relay also stays open
until its controlling light beam is broken. Then it closes; but, unlike RL1,
it opens again immediately when the light falls on the cell again.
"Now the contacts of RL1 and RL2 are connected in series so both have to
be closed simultaneously before current through them will actuate this heavy-duty
relay, RL3. Relay RL3 controls this solenoid. When the solenoid is actuated,
it pulls out a pin that lets a gate fall down across the opening under the house.
At the same time it turns on a switch that starts our tape recorder. An endless
loop of tape on the recorder keeps repeating a warning message over and over."
"I think I get it," Carl said slowly. "If the skunk is outside now and goes
under the house, nothing happens. He will break the beam that controls RL2 first,
but this relay will open again immediately after he has passed; consequently,
when he breaks the beam of RL1 and it closes, RL3 is not actuated. On the other
hand, if he tries to come out, RL1 will close immediately when he pokes his
nose out of the hole. It will stay closed as he comes on out and walks a step
or so and breaks the beam of light controlling RL2. When this happens and RL2
closes, RL1 is still held closed by the discharging capacitor. That means RL3
closes and works the solenoid that drops the gate, sealing off the opening under
the house, and also starts the tape recorder to let us hear the 'all clear.'
"Even I can understand that," Carl's father said with a broad grin; "and
it sounds like a fine idea. How about letting me dictate the glad tidings on
that loop of tape?"
"Sure thing," Jerry said as he took the cover off the tape recorder. "We'll
leave the recorder in here and hook up another speaker outside the house. Then
we'll hear the message whether we are inside or out."
... Put up your dukes, he shouted ...
By chance this message filled the loop of tape exactly so that when the recorder
was running the warning was repeated Over and over without interruption.
"I'll run over and try to coax your mother down off the chandelier and explain
that we have the situation well in hand," Mr. Anderson said, "while you boys
start work on your direction-of-skunk-movement indicator."
It didn't take long for Carl and Jerry to assemble the comparatively simple
apparatus. From long experience the two boys worked together smoothly and efficiently.
They mounted the photocells inside mailing tubes to shield them from bright
daylight. The light sources were 117-volt bulbs with simple reflectors and hoods
to send the light directly into the ends of the mailing tubes. Since the lamp-to-cell
distances were short, powerful lights were not needed.
They arranged little fences so that an animal going in or out of the small
opening in the house foundation would have to break both light beams in sequence.
A light lattice-work gate was set so that it dropped in front of the hole when
the solenoid pulled a prop out of the way.
By the time everything was finished, the sun had gone down. The boys sat
on the front steps of Carl's house and enjoyed the unusually warm March evening
as they talked over their installation to make sure nothing could possibly go
wrong. As they talked, Carl's father came out the front door wearing his hat
"I'd certainly like to stay here and see what happens with the polecat detector,"
he said ruefully; "but I just got a telephone call that disturbs me. As you
know, I'm running for city councilman in the primary. Pat Gallagher down the
street is running against me. Just now I got word that some low-lifer has told
Pat a string of lies about what I am supposed to have said against him; and
he, quite understandably, has his dander up. I'm going over there right now
and straighten things out before they get worse - which they can very quickly.
Pat's got a temper that matches his red hair, and I don't want him mad at me.
I'll be back as soon as I can - hey!" he broke off; "There goes Pat across the
At this precise instant there was a muffled bump at the side of the house,
and a few seconds later a voice bellowed forth:
"There goes the skunk! There goes the skunk!"
The two boys and Mr. Anderson raced around the house. The gate had dropped,
closing off the hole, but the skunk was not in sight. Jerry walked over and
threw the switch that stopped the tape recorder. It was not until then that
the three of them noticed a little red-headed man come bounding around the house,
peeling off his coat as he ran toward them.
"Stop, you big hulking coward!" he shouted at Mr. Anderson. "I'll teach you
to call me names and then run. Put up your dukes, man; don't shame yourself
in front of your own flesh and blood."
"Now hold on, Pat," Mr. Anderson said as he moved away from the little man
who was dancing back and forth with his clenched fists held stiffly in front
of him in the style of the immortal John L. Sullivan. "That wasn't me you heard.
Jerry, turn that thing back on and show him."
... Poor Bosco got the worst of it ...
"Don't add lying to your other black-hearted crimes! I know that Bull of
Bashan voice of yours when I hear it. Are you going to fight or am I going to
At this moment bedlam broke loose. The tape recorder began shouting its message.
A small black animal with a white stripe down its back and along its tail tore
around the back corner of the house and raced toward them with Bosco, Carl's
dog, in hot pursuit. In the distance they heard the wail of an approaching siren.
The skunk dashed for the hole in the foundation, only to find it closed off.
He was trapped. He had to use his secret weapon. Before the horrified gaze of
the four people, that plumed, white-striped tail came up and a horrible, choking
stench enveloped the whole area.
Poor Bosco got the worst of it because he was closest, but there was plenty
to go around. The dog howled in agony as he rolled on the grass and pawed at
his stinging eyes. The men and boys fled blindly toward the front of the house.
The skunk then sedately and daintily picked his way past the writhing dog and
disappeared around the back of the house.
Two patrolmen piled out of a squad car at the curb and came racing toward
the group on the front lawn, but suddenly they got a whiff of the rich odor
and came to a stiff-legged halt. "What's going on here?" they asked. "We got
a report two men were fighting."
"Someone must be mistaken," Mr. Anderson said blandly as he tried vainly
to breathe by exhaling only. "I've seen no fighting here; have you, Mr. Gallagher?"
"Certainly not," Pat answered promptly.
"Things have come to a pretty pass when a man can't get rid of a skunk without
being badgered by the police."
"Who's that blatting away about 'There goes the skunk,''' an officer insisted.
"That's just a tape recording; and it's too long a story to tell now," Mr.
Anderson said. "We've got to see what can be done about decontaminating ourselves.
Pat, we've got a shower in the basement, and I've got some old clothes down
there you can wear home. I'm afraid we are all going to have to bury what we're
"That's mighty friendly of you, Steve; and I'll take you up on it. Sheila
would never let me in the house in this condition."
"Okay, gentlemen," one of the officers said as he got back into the squad
car; "but if you don't mind, I'd like to make just one remark - quite respectfully,
you understand. I don't know what kind of a campaign you two intend to put on,
but it certainly is off to a smelly start!"
As the squad car drove off, Mr. Anderson and Pat Gallagher looked at each
other for a long second; then an irrepressible smile crinkled Pat's Irish face.
Mr. Anderson pounded the little man on the back, and all four whooped with laughter
as they trooped toward the basement entrance of the Anderson house. Jerry flipped
off the switch on the recorder control, and the voice coasted to a stop.
"There goes the-e sku-u-u-u-nk!" it said lugubriously.
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: 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
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."
Posted March 11, 2021
(updated from original post on 6/23/2014)