November 1954 Popular Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Many thanks to website
visitor Mr. Ferrous S. for providing an OCR version of this Carl &
Jerry story, and for writing the following:
"The earliest optoelectronic devices are photodetectors, and the basis of photodetectors
is the discovery and research of photoelectric effects. In 1873,
discovered the photoconductivity of selenium. In 1888, German
Heinrich Hertz observed
that when ultraviolet light irradiated the metal, it could make the metal emit charged
particles. In 1890, Philipp Lenard determined the charge−mass ratio of charged particles
and proved them to be electrons, thus clarifying the essence of photoelectric effect.
In 1900, German physicist Planck introduced energy quantum into the study of blackbody
radiation, and proposed the famous Max Planck formula to describe the phenomenon
of blackbody radiation, which laid the foundation for quantum theory. In 1929, Kohler
made a silver-oxygen-cesium photocathode and a photocell resulted. In 1939, Vladimir Zvorakin of the Soviet Union made a practical photomultiplier tube. In the late
1930s, lead sulfide (PbS) infrared detectors were invented, which can detect radiation
up to 3 microns. Thermoelectric infrared detectors and radiocalorimeters made of
semiconductor materials appeared in the 1940s. In the mid−1950s, cadmium sulfide
(CdS), cadmium selenide (CdSe), photoresistors and short-wave infrared lead sulfide
photodetectors were put into use. In 1954, the first silicon-based solar cell was
born at Bell Laboratory in the United States. In 1958, HgCdTe infrared detector
was invented by William Lawson et al."
Carl & Jerry: A Light Subject
By John T. Frye, W9EGV
Carl Anderson entered his home in his usual forceful manner. That is, he took
a giant step across the threshold and clung tightly to the doorknob until the slamming
door stopped him in mid-stride. He next dog-trotted down the hall to the open door
of the living room where he stopped briefly to execute a graceful push- shot with
his schoolbooks to the davenport cushions. Finally he sailed into the kitchen like
a whirling dervish. With almost a continuous motion he jerked open the refrigerator
door, lifted out a pint bottle of chocolate milk, downed it with four or five thirsty
gulps, and banged the door shut. The empty bottle went into the sink with a jangling
clatter as the boy slammed out the back door. Upstairs in her sewing room Mrs. Anderson
listened to the progress of this miniature door-slamming tornado through the downstairs
part of her house without any particular sign of annoyance. In the first place,
she was used to it; and in the second, she experienced that warm feeling of contentment
a mother always knows when her children, be they four or forty years of age, are
safely home. Even though Carl had gone out the back door she knew he was headed
no farther than the basement "laboratory" of his friend, Jerry Bishop, next door.
As Carl skipped down the outside basement steps and burst through the door, his
eyes were met by a singular sight. Jerry's well-padded form was sprawled on the
couch at one side of the room. Although it was still broad daylight, he held a lighted
flashlight in his hand and was waving the narrow beam languidly back and forth across
the face of what looked like a small birdhouse sitting on the workbench along the
opposite wall. Each time the spot of light passed over the quarter-sized opening
in the face of this box, an electric bell lying on the bench beside it gave out
with a brief "br-r-r-ing" of sound.
Carl slumped against the doorjamb and said
lugubriously, "I've been afraid of this. The mad genius has finally flipped his
lid. That's what comes of reading physics texts and tube manuals instead of comic
books like any other red-blooded American boy. I'm a little disappointed, though,
in the lack of originality. Old Diogenes used that carrying-a-light-in-the-daytime
routine several centuries ago."
"That's our boy!" Jerry murmured as he grinned across at Carl. "If you can't
understand it, belittle it, is the motto, huh? Had you not been so busy trying to
lash your feeble intellect into thinking up a wisecrack about the flashlight, you
might have noticed some connection between my moving its beam back and forth and
the ringing of the bell."
"So-o-o-o," Carl drawled with quizzically arched eyebrows.
"So I'm experimenting with photoelectric cells. Notice that as long as I keep
the beam of light on the cell through that small opening in the box the bell continues
to ring, but it stops as soon as the light is turned away."
"Say, how about that! That's pretty neat!" Carl said with sudden enthusiasm.
"Let me do it. How does it work?" he asked as Jerry let him take the flashlight
and play it back and forth across the opening in the box.
"You really want to know or are you just asking to be polite?" Jerry demanded.
"I really want to know, Stupid!" Carl growled, "and you're just aching to lecture;
so quit stalling and get on with it."
"Okay, but first I've got to know if you remember anything at all of what you
learned in physics about the construction of an atom."
"Of course I remember," Carl said indignantly. "An atom has a positive nucleus
about which circle tiny negative do-jiggers of electricity called electrons. There
are always just enough of these electrons in a normal atom so that their total negative
charge is equal to the positive charge of the nucleus, leaving the atom with a neutral
charge. Under some circumstances, though, an electron can be pried loose from its
atom and go bucketing around by itself. An atom that has lost an electron assumes
a positive charge and is called an ion. Electrons are attracted to any positively
charged object; ions have a yen for negatively charged things."
"You amaze me!" Jerry remarked as he lifted up the lid of the box on the bench
and pulled out a small glass photoelectric cell. "You can see this cell only has
two elements in it. That half-cylinder is the cathode, and the little rod in the
middle is the anode. Notice the inside surface of the semi-cylinder is coated with
a kind of silvery-colored gunk. The stuff may be one of several different substances,
but whatever one is used in this particular tube, its main characteristic is that
electrons are given off from its surface whenever light falls upon it. Up to a certain
point, the more light that falls on this cathode coating the more electrons are
"What's inside the bulb besides the cathode and anode?"
"Mostly plenty of nothing. Maintaining a high vacuum inside the bulb greatly
aids the emission of electrons from the cathode and helps them cross over to the
"Why do they go to the anode?"
"Because it is positively charged with respect to the cathode. You will remember
you told me a positively-charged object has a great attraction for free electrons.
In this case the anode is ninety volts positive with respect to the cathode, and
there is a steady stream of electrons from the cathode to the anode. Any time you
have a stream of electrons all moving in the same direction you have an electrical
current, for an electric current is made up of a movement of electrons. Before I
forget it, I had better mention that while this particular tube is of the high vacuum
type, some photoelectric cells have a controlled amount of gas inside the bulb."
"What's the idea?"
"It increases the sensitivity. Let me think how I can explain this. Oh yes, now
I've got it. Did you ever see an apple fall from the very tiptop of a tree heavily
loaded with dead-ripe fruit?"
"Suppose I have, but what's that got to do with photocells?"
"Perhaps you noticed that on the way down the falling apple struck other apples
and dislodged them so they fell with it. The branches on which these apples had
been clinging jerked upward as they were freed of the weight of the dislodged fruit,
and this movement knocked loose still more apples from the branches above them.
The net result could easily be a dozen apples falling to the ground as the result
of the loosening of that first apple from its stem.
"The same thing happens inside the gas type photoelectric cell. As an electron
is scampering merrily along toward the anode, it collides with a gas atom and knocks
loose one or more electrons from the atom that immediately join it on its short
and speedy journey. The gas atom, converted into an ion by the loss of an electron,
is attracted to the cathode. As it falls into the cathode the smash knocks loose
still more electrons that are then free to go to the anode. Just as happened with
the apples, for every electron that is freed from the cathode by the influence of
light falling upon it, a half-dozen or so electrons may reach the anode. This greatly
increases the sensitivity of the cell."
"Then why aren't all photoelectric cells of the gas type?"
"A shrewd question, Carlos mi amigo, but there is an answer: while gas cells
have a higher sensitivity than vacuum types, the latter have higher internal resistance,
maintain a more constant sensitivity throughout their life, and are not so easily
damaged by applying higher than rated voltages." "How come you've got other parts
in this box? I see another tube in here besides a relay and a bunch of resistors.
Why don't you just put the relay that turns the bell on and off in the anode circuit
of the photoelectric cell and let the current flowing through the cell open and
"Because the current through the cell is very tiny, being measured in microamperes.
A relay that would work on such a tiny current would be very delicate and undependable.
It is much better to employ some sort of current amplifying tube between the cell
and the relay. That tube you see in there is one particularly suited for this job
and is called a thyratron."
"What the heck's a thyratron? Sounds like a glandular disease."
"Well, it's not. A thyratron is sometimes called a relay tube because its action
is very much like that of a relay. As long as the negative potential on the grid
of such a tube remains above a certain critical value, no current at all flows through
the plate circuit of the tube; but when the negative grid voltage is lowered to
that critical value, the plate current suddenly rises from zero to a comparatively
high value. If we adjust the grid voltage of a thyratron very close to the critical
value and then arrange for the current through our photoelectric cell to influence
this grid potential, very slight changes in illumination of the cell can produce
rapid and positive operation of a relay in the plate circuit of the thyratron tube.
Photoelectric cells and thyratrons go together like hot dogs and root beer."
"Are there any other kinds of photoelectric cells besides the vacuum and gas
"Sure thing. Both of these are what are known as 'emissive' types. In addition
we have the 'conductive' type of cell. This cell has two electrodes connected by
a material that exhibits a change in resistance in accordance with the light falling
on it. A typical cell will display 30 megohms of resistance in the dark and only
one megohm in bright sunlight. Such a cell behaves much the same as the emissive
type with this exception: it displays no polarity and is less subject to damage
by high voltages. Conductive cells may or may not be mounted in a vacuum, for low
pressure is not necessary for their proper action."
"What kind of a cell is in the light meter my dad uses in taking pictures?"
"That's still another type called the 'generative' cell. In many ways, particularly
at this time, it is the most interesting of the lot. Several materials, including
selenium, cesium, and metal sulphides, are capable of generating an electrical current
when light energy falls on their surfaces. Selenium compounds and selenium sulphide
output small but predictable amounts of current. Several cells with a combined known
amount of surface area are connected together so that the meter reading indicates
the footcandles of light falling on the cell window."
"Why do you say these cells are the most interesting 'particularly at this time'?"
"For one thing these cells convert light energy directly into electrical energy
without first going through some other form, such as heat. That has tremendous and
exciting significance. Every single day the sun bathes the earth in more than 1,000,000,000,000,000
kilowatt hours of energy. This daily gift of radiated energy is equal to all that
is contained in the world's reserves of coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium. The
sad part of it is, though, that practically all of this energy goes to waste, at
least as far as man's attempt to harness it is concerned. Your dad's photoelectric
exposure meter represents about the best we have been able to do in converting light
into electricity until very recently. and it has an efficiency of only about one
"Just a few months ago, however, the Bell Laboratories that invented the transistor,
came up with a new solar energy converter that is six times as efficient as the
light meter. Each cell in this converter is made up of a wafer of two types of specially
treated silicon—the main ingredient of common sand. One of these silicon cells in
full sunlight will produce about a half a volt with no load. When the load is adjusted
to take maximum power, the voltage falls to about one-third of a volt and stays
close to that figure over a wide range of illumination. A short- circuited cell
in bright sunlight will deliver about one-eighth of an ampere for each square inch
of active surface or about one-tenth ampere at a load causing a one- third volt
output. Groups of cells can he connected in parallel for additional current or in
series for additional voltage. As long as this 'solar' battery is working into a
high impedance load, good voltage output is had with much less than full illumination.
On quite cloudy days the silicon cell will produce usable output with the radiation
that comes from the sky."
"How much power have they managed to get out of thing?"
"Silicon solar batteries have been used to power transistorized radios and transmitters
and to operate a toy ferris wheel. Telephone engineers are already thinking about
using them to run low-power mobile equipment or as battery chargers for amplifiers
in rural telephone systems. At present it. takes a ten-cell battery to produce 1
quarter of a watt, and Bell engineers estimate you would need about twenty five
square feet of silicon wafer to keep a hundred-watt lamp burning and about a quarter
of an acre of the stuff to power a small home.
"Keep in mind, though, that we have just got a toe-hold in this field, and improved
efficiencies are bound to appear. In fact the Wright Air Development Center of the
Air Research and Development Command has already announced a new solar generator
using cadmium sulphide instead of silicon, and it has been estimated that a thin
crystal slab of this material with an area of only sixty square feet could be built
into the roof of a house and would supply all its electrical requirements."
Carl stood up and stretched until his joints cracked. "That's the way it goes,"
he mourned. "No longer will I be able to draw a simple pleasure from watching the
electric eye door at the super market swing open at my approach. Now I'll be thinking
about thyratrons, electrons, silicon cells, and cadmium sulphide. Worse yet, when
I'm trying to get a sun tan, I'll be feeling guilty about all that solar energy
Posted May 25, 2021
(updated from original post
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."