December 1961 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.
As is the normal
modus operandi (MO) of
John T. Frye with his "Carl & Jerry" series of techno-dramas, this "Too
Lucky" episode combines adventure with electronics to teach a lesson in the process
of entertaining with a great story. If you're a fisherman, you'll particularly enjoy
this one. I have to admit to not knowing about this method of "electrofishing" (although
not called by that name here) for drawing fish to a high voltage alternating electrical
field and then capturing them with a net once close enough to be paralyzed (stunned).
A process called "galvanotaxis" which causes uncontrolled muscular convulsion in
the fish causes them to swim towards the source.
A comprehensive list of all the Carl & Jerry episodes posted on
RF Cafe is at the bottom of the page.
Carl & Jerry: The Bell Bull Session
By John T. Frye, W9EGV
It was a dead-calm humid summer evening, and Carl and Jerry were listlessly tossing
a softball back and forth on the latter's front lawn. They stopped playing and watched
with interest as a brilliant red convertible rounded the corner on screeching tires,
pulled to the curb, and came to an abrupt, teetering halt. A short, wiry, middle
-aged man hopped out and strode purposefully toward them across the grass.
"Are you the young fellows who solve problems ?" He projected the question ahead
of him while he was still a dozen yards away.
"We try - especially if the problem can be solved by electronics," Jerry admitted.
"Well, I don't see how electronics enters into this affair," the little man said
as he stopped in front of them; "but people who should know tell me you two are
either pretty sharp or mighty fortunate when it comes to unraveling odd-ball situations,
and the situation I'm in is about as odd-ball as they come. The name is Sellers,
J. P. Sellers. If we can go somewhere and talk, I'll tell you what's on my mind."
The boys ushered Mr. Sellers into their basement laboratory and sat on the workbench
while he perched himself on the edge of the leather-covered couch across from them.
"Did either of you ever hear of a fisherman having too much luck ?" he suddenly
shot at them.
Jerry and Carl exchanged puzzled glances, then shook their heads with the close
unison of windshield wipers.
"I'm not surprised," J. P. sighed. "I didn't think such a thing was possible
myself until a couple of weeks ago, but I know better now. Here's the story:
"I have a cabin cruiser on Lake Segun, about fifty miles north of here. I like
to fish, and I've been spending my summer weekends on the boat for the past four
or five years. In that time I've become pretty well acquainted with the other 'regulars'
at the lake, and a good bit of friendly fishing rivalry has sprung up among us.
In fact, we make up a little pool each week for the man who brings in the best string
"Two weeks ago I went out on the lake a couple
of miles, anchored in a likely spot, and prepared to make some casts with my spinning
outfit; but before I could wet a line the strangest thing happened. A whole bunch
of fish appeared just below the surface in a kind of semicircle around the bow of
the boat where I was standing, and began swimming slowly toward me. There were large-
and small-mouth bass, silvers, walleye, bluegill, and goodness knows how many other
kinds; and every one was a whopper! When they came close, one by one they floated
to the top and turned on their sides. Then they just lay there as though they were
asking me to take them in.
"Well, as soon as I recovered from my astonishment, I obliged them. I grabbed
my dip net, and in five minutes I had scooped up the darndest bunch of fish you
ever saw outside of a fishing-lure advertisement. Then, suddenly, the fish that
were still floating righted themselves and swam down into the lake, and the others
were gone, too.
"You can imagine how I laid it on the fellows at the bait-shack that evening
when I collected the weekly pool without a contest. You should have heard them hoot
when I told them exactly how I got the fish. They called me a liar right to my face
and accused me of using everything from dynamite to curare.
"The next morning when I set out from the dock, at least half a dozen boats tagged
along and let their anchors slip as soon as I dropped mine. It was the same crazy
business all over again. Almost as soon as I cut my engine, the fish began coming
to the surface around the front of the boat and turning on their sides. I can't
abide a fish-hog; so I didn't net any of them this time, but you could have raked
those other fellows' eyes off with a stick. You'd think they would have apologized
for calling me a liar, wouldn't you ? Oh, no; not them! They kept demanding that
I tell them my 'secret,' and they got mad when I said that I had no secret and didn't
understand what was happening any more than they did.
"Last weekend when I was up at the lake they wouldn't let me in the weekly pool.
They said 'commercial fishermen' weren't allowed. On top of that, the game warden
followed me every time I took the cruiser out. The fish came up around the boat
just as before, and he dared me to net one. It seems that catching fish in a dip
net, unless they're hooked first, is illegal in this state. Since he hadn't actually
seen me take the others in a net, he couldn't do anything about that; but he hinted
that if he could prove I was doing something to the fish to make them act as they
did, he'd put me where I wouldn't be doing any fishing."
Mr. Sellers jumped to his feet and strode nervously
up and down the basement floor. "There it is," he said. "I can't take much more
of this. If you boys will go up to the lake with me tomorrow and find out why the
fish act that way around me, and prove to the folks it's nothing I'm doing, I'll
pay you a hundred dollars plus your expenses. What do you say ?"
The boys exchanged a long look; then Jerry spoke for both: "Understand, we can't
promise anything, Mr. Sellers; but we'll certainly give it a try."
"Fine!" J. P. said as he headed for the door; "see you here at seven sharp tomorrow
"At worst," Carl remarked a little later as he juggled the softball from one
hand to the other, "we'll at least have a day at the lake." "Yeah," Jerry agreed;
"and at best we'll get fifty bucks apiece. That ought to just about buy our books
when we start college next month."
On the dot of seven the next morning the yellow convertible screeched its way
to the curb again, and soon J. P. Sellers and the boys were riding through the sunny,
dew -fresh morning. Mr. Sellers handled the long, heavy car expertly, but he drove
faster than Jerry or Carl liked, and they were glad when they arrived safe and sound
at the lake.
They were not too surprised to find that J. P.'s cabin cruiser was the largest
and finest boat on the lake. Before they went on board, J. P. unplugged a heavy
cable going to the cruiser from a special socket on the dock. As he did so, a gasoline
engine started somewhere in the boat.
"That's a gasoline-powered, 220 -volt a.c. generator which takes care of the
deep-freezer, the refrigerator, et cetera, when I'm away from the dock," was J.
P.'s answer to the boys' questioning looks. "It starts automatically when power
from the mains is cut off."
Carl and Jerry helped him cast off and then went forward to the bow of the boat
while Mr. Sellers handled the craft from a control position atop the cabin. He drove
the boat the same way he did a car: too fast for comfort.
Jerry noticed a wooden 2" x 2" about twelve feet long clamped to the low railing
and sticking forward and down into the water. Some kind of a heavily taped object
was on the end, and a piece of cable ran back along the wooden pole to a black-crackle
metal box that was plugged into an outlet on the deck. One side of the box carried
a toggle switch and a pointer knob.
"What's that thing ?" Jerry called up to J. P.
"It's a gadget my nephew was experimenting with three or four weeks ago," J.
P. shouted above the rhythmic slap-slap-slap of the waves against the speeding hull.
"He put a big lamp - I think it was 500 watts at 230 volts -in that socket on the
end of the pole and controlled the brilliance of it with some sort of a lamp-dimmer
he built into that box. He wants to see if a lamp of just the right brightness,
immersed in the water, will attract fish. He's coming back to make some more experiments
next week; so I left the gear in place. He'll have to get a new bulb, though. I
broke the one that was in there while docking a couple of weeks ago. . . . Say,
take that hatchet and stand by to knock the clevis pin from that chain holding the
stern anchor when I give the word."
He cut the motor, and the boat settled in the
water. When J. P. nodded, Jerry tapped the pin from the clevis, and the released
anchor cable ran out quickly. A gentle breeze from the southeast swung them around
so that the sun was at their backs as they looked down from the bow. At first nothing
happened, but then they saw some shadows floating up from the bottom. In a few seconds
they could make out a whole ring of large fish facing directly toward them. Inch
by inch, the fish moved forward.
"I never saw anything like that," Carl breathed. "Jerry, I'm going overboard
and get a fish's eye-view of this thing. Maybe the fish can see something about
this boat that's invisible to us up here." He peeled off his sweat shirt and trousers
as he talked, revealing that he was already wearing his swim trunks.
"Can you swim ?" Mr. Sellers asked a bit foolishly.
"Like a paramecium," Carl retorted as he slid out over the stern. Soon he was
treading water just outside the closing ring of fish.
"See anything?" Jerry called.
"No, but I think I feel something," Carl said in a puzzled voice. "I seem to
be getting a continuous slight shock. I'm going to swim closer to the boat."
A few strokes brought him almost to the place where the end of the wooden pole
was sticking into the water. "It's a lot stronger here," he reported as he reached
out a hand for the socket on the end of the pole.
Jerry, who had been watching Carl with a thoughtful look on his face, suddenly
sprang into action. With a single movement he brought the sharp edge of the hatchet
he was still holding down on the cable running across the rail. There was a spurt
of blue flame and the hissing snap of short-circuited wires.
"Hey, what are you doing up there?" Carl demanded as he took hold of the end
of the pole.
"Probably saving your life," Jerry answered as he stared with a white face at
the large half-moon melted from the bit of the hatchet. "Come back on board. The
fish are gone, and I think the mystery is about solved."
By the time Carl got back into the boat, Jerry had taken a screwdriver from his
pocket and was removing screws from the unplugged black metal box.
"Uh-huh, I thought so," he said with satisfaction. "These little things are silicon-controlled
rectifiers. A silicon-controlled rectifier is a pnpn semiconductor with three junctions.
In the reverse direction, it acts like a standard silicon rectifier; but it will
also block current in the forward direction until either a critical break-over voltage
is exceeded or a signal is applied to the third or 'gate' lead. When this happens,
the rectifier is almost instantly switched to a heavily conducting state. By adjusting
the phasing of a pulsed gating voltage, you can make the rectifier conduct over
whatever portion of a half-cycle you like. This, in turn, permits you to regulate
the amount of pulsating d.c. flowing through a load circuit, such as a lamp."
"And that thing was turned on, feeding 220 pulsating
d.c. volts to the exposed filament support leads of the broken bulb," Carl said,
getting a little pale himself.
"Right. Notice that this toggle switch is shot. It's too light to handle the
voltage and current necessary for this lamp-dimmer, and the vibration of the boat
kept jarring it on and off. That's why the "charm" suddenly stopped working that
day after Mr. Sellers netted all the fish. When you said you felt a slight shock,
I started wondering where it could be coming from; and I figured it out just as
you reached for the lamp socket. I didn't have time to warn you; so I just cut the
"I don't see what all this has to do with the fish," J. P. broke in.
"The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses pulsating d.c. to capture fish alive,"
Jerry explained. "They employ a 230-volt d.c. generator whose output is fed into
a square-wave pulsing unit. It has been found that 50-cycle pulses are most effective.
The positive lead is connected to an aluminum grid electrode held under water in
front of a metal boat, and the negative lead is connected to the hull.
"When the apparatus is turned on," Jerry continued, "nearby fish are forced to
align themselves in the path of the current with their heads pointing toward the
electrode. Each pulse produces a muscular spasm in the fish that forces it to swim
ahead. The closer it approaches the electrode, the greater the current. Enough current
renders the fish unconscious, and he rises to the top. If he swims too close to
the electrode before being knocked out, he's electrocuted."
"And you mean I accidentally had the same sort of apparatus?" J. P. sputtered.
"About the only difference was that you had 60-cycle pulses instead of 50-cycle
ones," Jerry remarked; "but that didn't keep your fish-charmer from working."
"Boys, you get the hundred dollars!" J. P. exclaimed happily as he reached up
and put a hand on both their shoulders. "Now, let's go back to the bait shack. I
want you two to explain all this technical stuff to those dough-heads and to the
game warden. They won't believe anything I say. Boy, am I going to enjoy seeing
those hard-noses eat crow! Is that all right with you two ?"
"A-okay !" Carl said with a happy grin.
Posted August 17, 2022
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."