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Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Carl and Jerry in handcuffs? Say it ain't so! Has the pair of
good-natured, upstanding high-tech sleuths gone to the
Dark Side (George Lucas 18 years
old in 1962 when this was written)? Read the tale to
see how they figure into a plot to kill a local judge, and why
they decide to cannibalize a service station television set
for parts. What has come over Carl and Jerry?
Carl & Jerry: Pure Research Rewarded
By John T. Frye W9EGV
Carl and Jerry were driving home from an electronic buying
expedition to Center City on a beautiful warm June afternoon.
"Sure feels good to be driving again," Carl remarked, caressing
the steering wheel. "I think I missed our car more than anything
else down at school."
"Being cut off from Mom's cooking gave me that empty feeling,"
Jerry countered; "but if you want to keep on driving you'd better
get some gas. That gauge has been bumping the pin for the last
A couple of minutes later Carl pulled into a wayside filling
station and stopped at the pumps. Two men in ordinary sports
clothes were working on a car in the wash-and-lube area. Finally
one of them, wearing an ill-fitting attendant's cap, came out
to the car.
"Dollar's worth of gas, and you better check the oil and
water," Carl said as he stepped out to stretch his legs. The
man put the nozzle into the gas tank and started the pump.
"Hey, we only wanted a dollar's worth!" Jerry exclaimed as
he saw the little register wheels on the pump race past two
"Don't worry, Buster, you won't have to pay for it," the
attendant said as he pulled a large-caliber snub-nosed revolver
from his pocket and trained it on Carl. At the same time, what
felt like the muzzle of a similar weapon was pressed against
the back of Jerry's neck by the other man who had approached
"Get into the station and see that you make it snappy," the
man wearing the cap ordered.
The boys were marched through the display room of the station
into a small customers' lounge. Lying on the floor with his
bare head resting in a small pool of blood from a cut over one
eye was a bound, middle-aged man wearing an attendant's uniform.
His eyes were closed, and he was not moving.
While the bareheaded man kept a gun trained on the boys,
the one wearing the attendant's cap tied their hands behind
them, pushed them roughly down on a sofa, and started tying
their legs securely. Things had happened so fast that neither
Carl nor Jerry had uttered a word since they first stared into
the yawning mouth of that short-barreled revolver.
"You boys just stopped at the wrong time - for you," the
man with the cap said as he jerked at the ropes to see if they
were tight. "We may need to get out of here fast, and if we
can't get our car ready in time we may have to use that Beetle
of yours. Keep quiet and you won't get hurt. Bill, turn on the
radio for our guests. Turn it up loud. That way no one will
hear them if they're stupid enough to yell and make me come
in here and silence them permanently."
The bareheaded man turned on a radio resting on a table beside
a portable TV set. The other man, who was apparently the leader,
grabbed up a telephone and jerked the cord loose from the wall
button. "Just in case," he said mockingly, brandishing the telephone,
as he and his partner left the room. He slammed the door behind
them, and locked it.
At the sound of the banging door, the man lying on the floor
groaned and opened his eyes.
"Boy! Am I glad to see you move!"
Carl exclaimed soulfully. "I thought you were dead. What's
going on around here ?"
"Men escaped convicts ... Going to kill Judge Granger, who
sentenced them, when he comes at four o'clock for regular weekly
service check ... Had their car on lift when they told me ...
Managed to let it down with front tires on couple of big spikes
... Hit me on head with pistol barrel ... Have to change tires
before. ..." His voice died away as he lapsed into unconsciousness
"We're in a spot," Jerry offered. "I can't imagine their
leaving any witnesses after they kill the judge."
"So let's do something about it," Carl suggested as he strained
against the confining ropes. "I bunched my muscles while he
was tying me, and that leaves a little slack. Scoot over here
so our backs are together and help me try to work my hands loose."
This sounded easier than it actually was; but, spurred on
by the dark prospect Jerry had mentioned, the two boys finally
managed to untie Carl's hands. In a few seconds he had freed
his legs and had untied Jerry.
"Shall we untie him?" Jerry asked, pointing down at the unconscious
"Not yet. Being tied makes no difference to him, and he can't
help. If we hear them coming back, we may be able to pretend
we're still tied up and surprise them; but it won't work if
they see him untied."
"Surprise won't help much against two men and two guns,"
Jerry pointed out. "That window is barred like a jail cell.
The bars are intended to keep burglars out, but they do a fine
job of keeping us in. Sure wish he hadn't thought to take that
"Hey, maybe if we short-circuit the telephone wires, the operator
will notice something's wrong and send someone to investigate.
"No good," Jerry objected. "She'd just think something was
shorting the line and would cut it loose from the switchboard.
Late in the day as it is, a repairman wouldn't be sent out until
tomorrow. Even if one did come, he would only be tied up, slugged,
or killed. If only we had some way of talking over that line-"
his voice trailed off and his eyes took on the glassy look of
concentration. "Keep an ear to the door," he told Carl as he
slipped a penknife out of his pocket and began hurriedly removing
screws from the back of the portable TV receiver.
"We're in luck!" he said a few minutes later. "The output
transformer is mounted on the speaker, and the leads are easy
A couple of slashes of the penknife severed the two leads
going to the primary of the transformer, and Jerry quickly
stripped the insulation from the ends of the wires. Next he
jerked a floor lamp plug from the wall socket and cut off the
wire at the base of the lamp. The length of lamp cord thus obtained
had all four wire-ends stripped of insulation, and the wires
at one end were twisted around the bared transformer leads.
A handkerchief was placed between the wire splices to keep them
from shorting together.
Then Jerry removed the cap from the telephone junction button
on the baseboard and connected one of the lamp cord wires to
one of the screw terminals. When the other wire was touched
to the other terminal, the hum of the dial tone came clearly
from the speaker of the TV set.
"What are you doing?" Carl demanded. "We're going to try
to use the speaker of the TV set for both the microphone and
earphone of a telephone," his friend replied. "You hear it working
as the earphone now. When sound waves in the room here vibrate
the speaker cone, the voice coil moves back and forth through
the strong field of the speaker's permanent magnet. This generates
alternating currents in the voice coil that flow through what
is normally the secondary of the output transformer and induce
corresponding currents in the primary. Since the transformer
has a turns ratio of 30 or 40 to 1, the feeble voltages across
the voice coil are amplified 30 or 40 times in the primary.
The output voltage across the primary will still be considerably
less than the output of a carbon - button - microphone - and
- transformer combination, but I'm praying it will be enough
for the job."
"That was a dial-phone. How are you going to dial?" Carl
Jerry shut his eyes to concentrate and bumped his forehead
with the heel of his hand to jog his memory. "I've got to remember
how that telephone works," he muttered. "When the handset is
on the cradle, the line is open-circuited to the 50 volts or
so of d.c. present. A large capacitor and the ringer coils are
in series across the line so the bell will respond to an a.c.
ringer voltage. When the handset is picked up, the earphone,
carbon-button mike, and the primary of the induction coil are
connected in series across the line, and this drops the d.c.
voltage to less than ten volts.
"When you put your finger in a dial opening," Jerry continued,
"and pull it down against the stop, the line is short-circuited.
As you release the dial, the spinning mechanism first disconnects
the receiver-mike combination so you don't hear the clicks of
the dial operation; and the line is open-circuited momentarily
once for every unit in the number dialed. When the dial stops,
the earphone-transmitter combination is reconnected and the
short circuit is removed from the line."
"You'll never be able to do all that by just touching a pair
of wires together," Carl said in a discouraged voice.
"I don't think I have to. I believe it's the amplitude and
timing of the open-circuit pulses that work the automatic relays.
I'm hoping I can dial by simply breaking the connection once
momentarily for every unit dialed. Move that radio away from
the TV set and be ready to explain the situation if I get someone
on the line. Talk as loudly as you dare and right into the speaker.
The book says 'Information' is 13; so I'll try for her. Ready?"
At a nod from Carl, Jerry lifted one of the leads off the
connecting screw and replaced it instantly. There was a click
in the speaker, and the dial tone disappeared. A gleam of hope
shone in Jerry's eyes at this, and he jerked the wire back and
forth rhythmically three more times. There was a clicking sound
in the speaker; and then, after an agonizing pause, a woman's
voice said faintly but clearly, "Information."
"Hello. Can you hear me?" Carl asked. "Please speak louder,"
the woman's voice directed.
"Listen carefully. This is an emergency," Carl said, raising
his voice as much as he dared. In a few sentences he explained
the situation, told where they were, and asked the girl to contact
the state police at once. The alert operator repeated all the
information as a double-check, and Carl okayed it.
Jerry quickly unfastened the wires from the wall button,
stuffed the line cord into the back of the TV receiver, and
propped the back cover in place. Then he and Carl sat down on
the sofa and looped the rope back and forth across their legs
with the ends of the loops tucked between their limbs, so that
to a casual glance they looked as though they were still tied.
The clock on the wall said four o'clock.
A few minutes later the key turned in the lock, and the boys
barely had time to thrust their hands behind them before the
man with the cap came into the room. "Still here, huh ?" he
said. "I just wanted to be sure. We won't need your car after
all. We have a couple of new tires mounted, courtesy of our
friend there on the floor. Now, as soon as we take care of a
little business, we shall be on our way, if you don't mind -
and we'll make sure you don't mind! Guess I better check those
Jerry could feel Carl's body tensing beside him as the man
took the revolver from his pocket and moved toward them, but
at that instant the other man's voice called from outside: "Get
out here, Carney ! The judge is coming down the road!"
Carney's face twisted in a cold smile of anticipation as
he turned on his heel and strode from the room. He closed the
door but did not stop to lock it.
"We were too late with our call," Carl groaned, throwing
off the ropes and turning down the radio so they could hear.
Jerry already had the door open a crack and was looking through
it at the driveway of the filling station. A gray-haired man
in an old but well-cared-for businessman's coupe had stopped
in front of the open door of the lubrication stall.
"Frank, the regular man, took sick suddenly," Carney was
explaining glibly. "We're filling in for him. He told us to
take good care of you, and we certainly intend to. Just drive
in there on the lift, and we'll get started."
"Well, all right," the elderly man said after a little hesitation.
"Frank always has me back onto the lift because it's easier
to check the transmission that way. You two stand at either
side and kind of guide me."
"They'll kill him as soon as they get him inside," Carl whispered.
"We can't just stand here and let it happen. When I give the
word, let's rush them. Grab one of those tire tools lying on
the floor as you go through the door. It's not much to go against
a gun, but it's all we've got. Ready?"
Before Jerry could answer, an astonishing thing happened.
The big trunk lid of the judge's car flew up to reveal two state
troopers crouched inside holding sawed-off shotguns trained
on the astonished convicts. The hands of the latter shot above
their heads as though jerked by puppet strings.
A state patrol car roared around the curve and screeched
to a halt on the driveway. It was closely followed by an ambulance,
and in a matter of minutes the two handcuffed convicts were
on their way back to prison and the injured station attendant
was on his way to the hospital.
Later, taking advantage of the relative quiet that followed
the crisis, the troopers explained to the boys how a cruiser
just down the highway had received the information about the
events at the gas station by radio, and how they had intercepted
the judge and explained the situation to him. The old man had
bravely insisted on the plan used in order to save lives. Carl
and Jerry, in turn, tried to explain how they had used a TV
set to talk on the telephone; but the state troopers were still
scratching their heads in puzzlement as the boys drove away.
"I'm puzzled by one thing myself," Carl admitted as he pulled
the car onto the highway. "How come you know so much about how
a telephone works?"
"That's an unexpected dividend on pure research," Jerry answered
with a grin. "One day three or four years ago, when my folks
were conveniently away, I did some voltage and resistance measuring
on our telephone and traced out the circuit printed inside the
case. I had no notion whatever of using the information. I was
"Well, your curiosity possibly saved four lives - including
two pretty important to us," Carl remarked. "In the future,
when one of my Profs urges me to study something just for the
sake of knowing it, I'm going to remember this day."
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 lashups 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."
Carl & Jerry Episodes on RF Cafe
- Electronic Eraser,
- Electronic Trap, March
- Geniuses at Work, June
- Eeeeelectricity!, November
- Anchors Aweigh, July
- Bosco Has His Day,
- The Hand of Selene,
- Feedback, May 1956
- Abetting or Not?, October
- Electronic Beach
Buggy, September 1956
- Extra Sensory
Perception, December 1956
- Trapped in a Chimney,
- Command Performance,
- Treachery of Judas, July
- The Sucker, May 1963
- Stereotaped New
Year, January 1963
- The Snow Machine, December
Education, July 1963
- Slow Motion for
Quick Action, April 1963
- Sonar Sleuthing, August
- TV Antennas, August 1955
- Succoring a Soroban,
- "All's Fair --", September
- Operation Worm Warming,
Stomping, March 1962
- The Blubber Banisher,
- The Sparkling Light, May
- Pure Research Rewarded,
- A Hot Idea, March 1960
- The Hot Dog Case, December
- A New Company is Launched,
- Under the Mistletoe,
- Electronic Eraser,
- "BBI", May 1959
- Ultrasonic Sound Waves,
- The River Sniffer, July
- Ham Radio, April 1955
- El Torero Electronico,
- Wired Wireless, January
- Electronic Shadow,
- Elementary Induction,
- He Went That-a-Way,
- Electronic Detective,
- Aiding an Instinct,
- Two Detectors, February
- Tussle with a Tachometer,
- Therry and the Pirates,
- The Crazy Clock Caper,
Posted April 10, 2014