Carl & Jerry: Going Up, Up, Up
March 1955 Popular Electronics

March 1955 Popular Electronics

March 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.

articles from Popular Electronics.

"Radio and television waves are reflected in the same way as light waves. As both light and radio waves are forms of electromagnetic waves, they are both subject to the same basic laws and principles. Visual examples of light reflection are everywhere from specific mirrors to flat reflective surfaces like glass, polished metal and the like. So too, radio waves can experience reflection. Conducting media provide the optimum surfaces for reflecting radio waves. Metal surfaces, and other conducting areas provide the best reflections, so the story below is feasible and within the known technology at the time. The use of a highly directional Yagi antenna would have been very important because without it the reflected waves would have been inverted (out of phase) with the normal signals, thereby reducing the overall received signal. This effect was noticeable with analog television as a helicopter or other aircraft passed over a receiver in an urban area sometimes resulting in severe ghosting."

Thanks to Mr. Ferrous Steinka for submitting this commentary on the episode of Carl & Jerry appearing in the March 1955 issue of Popular Electronics magazine.

Carl and Jerry: Going Up, Up, Up

By John T. Frye

Carl and Jerry: Going Up, March 1955 Popular Electronics - RF Cafe

Twas one of those unseasonably warm days that March often borrows from May and then pays back with a chilly day of its own during the latter month. Jerry Bishop was a victim of this nice weather. Instead of lolling comfortably on the leather-covered couch in his basement laboratory while his nimble mind toyed with some fascinating electronic problem, he found himself standing in the middle of a vast expanse of winter-littered front yard with a rake firmly grasped in his plump hands. Recalling the dark threats his father had made about what would happen if he came home that evening and discovered a single unraked square foot of that yard, the boy plied the rake vigorously.

As he engaged in this unaccustomed and --to his mind—unseemly exercise, Jerry reflected bitterly that any other time his pal and neighbor, Carl Anderson, would be around to provide Jerry with at least a fifty-fifty chance of inveigling his friend into helping; but Carl had not shown up all day. Like most jobs, though, once started it was not so bad. He had the yard more than half finished an hour later when Carl came dashing around the house with his dog, Bosco, in playful pursuit. Around and around the yard the hay and dog romped while Jerry leaned on his rake handle and looked at this reckless waste of energy with mild disapproval. Finally Carl threw himself on his back at full length in front of Jerry and let Bosco tug and worry at his pants leg while he looked up with a grin and said, "Well, Blubber Boy, how do you like doing a little physical labor for a change? I've been sitting up there with old Mr. Gruber in his room for the past hour watching you. It was an interesting study in slow motion."

"What were you talking to him about?" Jerry asked, ignoring the other remarks.

"I was trying to get him to tell me about his experiences with the Rough Riders. I always thought old people enjoyed talking about the past. Well, someone ought to explain this to Mr. Gruber. All he wants to talk about is flying saucers!"

Carl and Jerry: Going Up, UP, Up: March 1955 Popular Electronics - RF Cafe"What about flying saucers?"

"He's read everything about 'em he can get hold of, and he has a stack of science-fiction magazines this high," Carl said as he suddenly elevated one powerful, lanky leg straight up in the air to show the height of the magazine stack, with Bosco, his eyes tightly shut, still clinging doggedly to the pants cuff. "Mr. Gruber's convinced the saucers contain people from Mars who are trying to raid the earth, and he keeps a loaded double-barreled shotgun right by his bed to repel an invasion by day or night."

As Carl talked, Jerry walked slowly over to a silvered-ball lawn ornament and stared at it fixedly as he walked around it.

"Crystal gazing will get you nowhere," Carl jeered unsympathetically. "You may as well make with the rake, Jake."

"I was just noticing I could see you and Bosco reflected in this globe, no matter where you were playing with him," Jerry said with a thoughtful look on his round face.

"A fascinating bit of useless information," Carl remarked as he sat up and vigorously wiped his horn-rimmed glasses with a questionable-looking handkerchief.

"No information is useless," Jerry declared reprovingly. "This gives me an idea. TV signals move in straight lines much the same way light does. If we had a silvered ball like this mounted away up in the air where it would be in the direct line-of-sight of signals arriving from the station on Channel 6, sixty-five miles away, those signals would strike different points on the ball and be reflected down into every location in town, where TV antennas pointed right at the ball should provide excellent reception. A balloon with a metallic painted surface doubtless would serve just as well as the silvered ball. Even if such a spherical balloon moved around, there would always be some point on its surface that would serve to reflect the signals down to a given antenna, just as there was always a point on this ball that reflected the light waves from you and Bosco to my eye."

"Well, since we don't have a balloon-" Carl suddenly stopped short and clapped a hand over his mouth.

"Hey! You know where there is a balloon!" Jerry accused excitedly.

"Me and my big mouth!" Carl exclaimed in disgust. "I just remembered that I have a rubber balloon six feet in diameter and a cylinder of compressed helium to inflate it. Dad picked them up at a war surplus store some time ago. I'm saving the balloon for amateur Field Day. Then I'm going to see how our portable club station transmitter can get out with a long wire vertical antenna."

"Aw, Carl, you don't want to wait until then to try out your balloon," Jerry wheedled. "Maybe that cylinder has enough helium in it to fill the balloon several times. Let's spray it with a coat of aluminum paint and see how my idea works tonight."

"We-I-I-I, I dunno," Carl said slowly, obviously weakening. "How high would it have to go, and what would we use to hold it? I was going to use wire out in the country, of course."

"Using wire on a balloon in town, around all the wires carrying high voltage electricity, would be about as healthy as rubbing noses with a cobra," Jerry observed. "I've got a roll of binder twine in the basement that will be just the stuff. As to how high we've got to go, let's see now . . ." He pulled a battered slide rule from his hip pocket and began working with it as he talked.

"I remember the formula for determining how far out you can see on the earth's surface from a high point, allowing only for the normal curvature of the earth. D = 1.23√Ht, where D is the distance you can see in miles and Ht is the height of the viewing position - in this case the top of the transmitting antenna - in feet. Channel 6's tower is just about 1,000 feet; so we take the square root of that, which looks like 31.6, and multiply it by 1.23, and we get very, very close to 39 miles.

"Now we know the station is 65 miles away, and 39 from 65 leaves 26 miles as the distance our balloon must be able to 'see' if it is to establish what hams call 'eyeball contact' with the transmitting antenna. Substituting this in our formula gives us 26 = 1.23√Hb, where He is the needed height of the balloon in feet. Dividing both sides of the equation by 1.23 gives us about 21.1 = √Hb. Squaring both sides of this yields 445 = Hb. In other words, our balloon should be around 450 feet in the air for line-of-sight reception. In actual practice, the height worked out by this formula can be decreased by a factor of from 1.25 to 1.35 to allow for the refraction that TV signals experience in the earth's atmosphere that ordinarily increase the 'virtual line-of-sight' distances beyond the true line-of-sight figures. Just to be safe, though, I think we'll stick to the figure worked out."

"Well, let's get going," Carl said as he sprang to his feet and vigorously brushed off the seat of his trousers.

"I'd like to," Jerry said wistfully, "but I've got to finish this yard first. Of course, if you were to get your rake and help...."

"All right, all right!" Carl shouted over his shoulder as he hurdled the fence between his yard and Jerry's. "I might have known I'd be suckered into something if I came around while you had work to do, but maybe this will teach me a lesson. I'll be right back with the rake."

He was as good as his word, and the remainder of the yard was quickly finished. Carl's explosive energy made short work of the leaves and twigs - and even of some of the grass roots! As soon as the yard was done, both boys tossed their rakes aside and made a bee-line for Carl's garage.

There Carl fished a long box out of an old trunk and opened it to reveal the limp carcass of a large yellow rubber balloon and a small metal cylinder of gas. It took only minutes to attach the two and open the valve. There was a great hissing sound, and the wrinkled envelope swelled and smoothed out into a beautiful golden sphere. Apparently the man who filled the cylinder calculated very nicely, for just as the balloon reached a diameter of roughly six feet, the hissing noise stopped and the rubber sphere ceased to grow.

" 'Maybe the cylinder has enough helium in it to fill the balloon several times,' he says," Carl quoted bitterly.

"So I was wrong," Jerry cheerfully admitted as he closed the valve in the neck of the balloon. "Wups!" he exclaimed as the neck slipped from his fingers and the balloon soared up and bumped along the rafters of the tall barn that had been converted into a garage. "It's a good thing we didn't fill it out of doors. You get a ladder and recapture the slippery thing while I get our spray gun and put some aluminum paint in it."

Neither operation took long. Carl held the captive balloon and turned it about while Jerry stood on a stepladder and sprayed the surface with metallic paint. Jerry directed the paint spray with more enthusiasm than accuracy, and by the time the job was finished, Carl's face had a metallic sheen that matched the silvery sphere he was holding.

"I'll bet my face cracks six ways the next time I smile," he muttered through stiff lips. "Now I know how the man in the iron mask must have felt. Say, wait a minute!" he exclaimed as he picked up a piece of black tissue paper and began whacking away at it with the tin snips. In a couple of minutes he climbed up on the ladder and pressed the bits of paper against the sticky surface of the balloon. Those bits of paper (serving as eyes, mouth, and nose), transformed the silvery bubble into the bald head of a menacing, snaggle-toothed ogre.

"Holy cow!" Jerry exclaimed, "I'd hate to meet that guy in the dark."

"When I was in the third grade, I won a prize for carving- the meanest-looking Halloween pumpkin," Carl modestly admitted.

The boys spent the remaining daylight hours rigging up an old yagi Channel 6 antenna the Bishops had taken down when they put up their new all-channel antenna and rotor. The yagi was mounted on a broom handle thrust through the rungs of a stepladder so it could be rotated on a horizontal axis.

"By keeping the side of the yagi pointed at the station while the front of it points up in the sky, we can make sure all the reception we get is reflected from the balloon," Jerry explained. "A yagi picks up practically nothing off the side."

Carl's folks had gone out of town for the weekend; so the two boys had the

run of the Anderson home. It was thought best to keep the balloon raising point, the yagi antenna, and the TV receiver all as close together as possible so that information could be easily relayed back and forth between the balloon-and-antenna operator and the TV set observer. To this end a short length of twin lead was run from the TV receiver out through a window to the yagi set up on a short ladder between the Anderson house and the Gruber home next door. The binder twine was measured off and a knot tied every fifty feet so the height of the balloon could be known. When everything was ready, both boys went over to Jerry's house for supper, leaving the balloon safely hidden inside the closed garage. They did not want to send it up until after dark to avoid attracting attention.

By eight o'clock it was quite dark except for the light of a bright moon just coming over the housetops. Carl and Jerry, armed with flashlights, stealthily conveyed the balloon, tugging and bobbing in the gusty breeze, out of the garage and into the narrow space between the houses.

"Sh-h-h, don't make any noise," Carl whispered as he pointed to the lighted window above their heads on the second floor of the Gruber house. "Grandpa Gruber must be catching up on his science fiction reading, and in spite of his eighty years, he's got plenty good ears."

"Okay; let her go up," Jerry commanded.

"Aye, aye, sir; releasing ballast," Carl whispered as he let the coarse binder twine slide through his fingers.

The released balloon soared aloft like a live thing for about twenty feet, and then it stopped with a jerk.

"What's the matter'?" Jerry whispered hoarsely.

"Darned twine is tangled," Carl muttered as he fumbled with knots in the darkness. Above their heads the balloon was caught by a gust of wind and lurched over and bumped against the lighted window pane with a soft thumping sound.

"Holy cow! Let it go, tangle and all," came Jerry's agonized plea.

Carl obeyed, and the balloon started up again; but it was too late. From the lighted room there came a sound that was half a scream of fright and half a Rebel yell.

"Boots and saddles! Prepare to mount! Charge!" came the muffled shouts of Grandpa Gruber. Then his window was thrown open and a long black tube thrust outside. A moment later an orange tongue of flame licked out of the tube toward the balloon, only to be followed a second later by a second jet of flame. Three reports rang out almost as a single clap of sound, and the balloon evaporated from sight. The binder twine dropped back to earth in a tangle over the heads of both boys.

"I got him! I got the varmint!" Grandpa Gruber cackled at the open window, as doors were thrown open and people came running from all directions. "Look for his carcass down there, but keep an eye peeled for some more of them Martians that may be hanging around. He was thirty feet tall with a head as bald as an egg and as big as a barn door and the skinniest body you ever did see. I got a real good gander at him while he was peeking in my window, and I'll swear I never saw such a mean-looking countenance outside of a nightmare. Hain't you found his carcass yet? Old Betsy here put two loads of chilled shot right between his nasty eyes; and there ain't a thing on this earth or any of the rest of the planets that can live after a dose like that."

"All right, folks, stand back; what's going on here?" demanded a policeman as he shouldered his way through the crowd.

"Mr. Gruber up there saw somebody- or some thing - peeping into his window and shot at it," a woman explained.

"Peeping into a second story window!" the policeman scoffed. "Grandpa, you'd better close that window and go on back to bed before you catch a cold. You've been having a nightmare."

"Nightmare my eye, young know-it-all!" Mr. Gruber said tartly. "I tell you I saw a man from Mars, and I let moonlight through his pumpkin head with Old Betsy here. If you can't find the body, like as not his companions have lugged it off in one of their saucer ships. But there's no use trying to explain anything to stupid people who read nothing but the comics."

Saying this, Grandpa Gruber slammed down the window, and a few minutes later the light in his room went out.

Jerry and Carl had very quietly and unobtrusively slipped into the Anderson house as soon as the policeman arrived, but they had not escaped his notice. As he got back into the squad car he said reflectively to his fellow officer, "You know, every time there's some excitement, that tall tow-headed kid with the glasses and the short fat one are right on the spot. I wonder how come."

Inside the Anderson home, Carl and Jerry sat on a couch and grinned at each other rather sheepishly.

"That's the end of my Field Day balloon and your experiment," Carl said slowly, "but I guess neither of us minds too much. It was worth it just to let Grandpa Gruber get a good look at one of his saucer folks. I just hope I've got half his zip and fire when I'm that old." END



Posted February 3, 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."