July 1955 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.
Aside from the storyline,
one notable aspect of this installment of "Carl & Jerry" is one of the illustrations
used in it. Jeff Duntemann (K7JPD),
himself a sci-fi and technical book author, wrote a piece on the evolution of John
T. Frye's Carl & Jerry series in Popular Electronics, and in
it he commented on the changes in drawing styles and character appearances over
the many years that Frye inked his illustrations. I read Duntemann's article a while
ago, but remembered the picture of Norma and
Carl's dog Roscoe when I saw it again just now. The format obviously departs from
the vast majority of Frye's typical works due to its distinctly cartoonish look.
As for the plot of the story - it involves an attempt to shake the wings off mosquitoes.
Carl & Jerry: Ultrasonic Sound Waves
With a pair of tweezers, he carefully transferred the mosquitoes
to the pan ...
Ultrasonic sound waves play a part in fostering romance - with unexpected complications.
By John T Frye
The shadowy coolness of Jerry's basement lab was a welcome relief from the shimmering
heat outside. As Carl came in, he saw Jerry's rotund figure perched on top of a
stool at the workbench, on which rested a delicate horn pan balance with a one-milligram
weight in one of its pans. With a pair of tweezers, Jerry was carefully transferring
some minute objects from a fruit jar lid to the other pan.
"Looks like you're really up to big business today," Carl observed. "What're
you weighing, peach fuzz?"
"Nope, ... mosquito cadavers," Jerry said, as his round face wreathed itself
into an enigmatic smile.
Carl moved to the bench and peered down through his horn-rimmed glasses at the
jar lid. Sure enough, in it were several rather badly mauled mosquito carcasses.
"Why?" Carl demanded.
"We-l-l-l," Jerry said hesitatingly, "It's a rather long story-"
"Never mind the buildup," Carl interrupted. "You know you're dying to tell me;
"It all started a couple of nights ago.
Looking out my bedroom window, I saw Norma, the girl next door, sitting on her
porch swing, blubbering and crying away. Thinking that maybe she had locked herself
out of the house or something, I went down to see what was wrong.
"It developed that a character by the name of Melvin Akers, who works at the
bank, has her 'snowed.' For the life of me, I can't see why, for this Melvin guy
is the sort even nature hates. He's allergic to anything that grows. He breaks out
in a rash if anyone even mentions onions or radishes. She swears he can get ivy
poisoning just from seeing the word 'ivy' in print.
"Even so, she has her mind dead set on marrying the creep; and that night she
thought she practically had the job done. Melvin was in a rare mood - for him -
with nothing to take his attention off her; and he had even made a couple of cracks
about how pretty her hair looked in the moonlight.
"They sat down in the porch swing, and she started rehearsing mentally just how
she was going to say 'I will' to his proposal. Then, all of a sudden, Melvin began
slapping at his face and ankles, and suddenly stood up and said he had to leave.
He's one of those people mosquitoes love to bite, and the bites swell up on him.
So, he had to get home quickly and use some special ointment on them.
"That was why she was crying. She said she'd pinned her hopes on this moonlit
porch swing setting all spring; and now that it had failed, she just knew Melvin
would never propose."
"Why doesn't she try citronella?" Carl asked.
"I thought of that, too, but she says the odor clashes with her Sweet Surrender
perfume, in which she has invested no small sum and which she is sure plays a big
part in giving old Melvin the business. I told her I'd try to see if I couldn't
think of something to help her."
"How come you're so eager to play Cupid?" Carl asked suspiciously; "although
I must admit you've got the figure for it. You going soft on this gal, too?"
"You got rocks in your head?" Jerry demanded witheringly. "She's practically
an old woman. I'll bet she's 22 or 23 if she's a day. It's just that I don't like
having someone bawling under my window when I'm trying to sleep. And then, her problem
appeals to my scientific curiosity."
"How about Melvin? Don't you think it's playing it kind of low down to help trap
a fellow man?"
"That bothered me a little until I happened to remember he was the local joker
who wrote to the FCC and said he was sure we radio amateurs were interfering with
his TV reception. All his trouble was being caused by an old-fashioned carbon filament
light bulb in his basement. Some of those old bulbs act like miniature TV transmitters
and cause interference to crawl up and down the picture."
"He deserves to get married!" was Carl's prompt, harsh judgment; "but how are
you going to help with the mosquito situation?"
"I got an idea from something I read in Radio & TV News two or three years
ago. You know sound waves can exert severe stress on objects that are resonant to
the frequency of the sound. Remember how some opera singers can shatter a wine glass
just by holding the right high note? Well, I think I can produce an ultrasonic sound
wave at a frequency which will vibrate a mosquito violently and destroy him without
people being able to hear the sound.
"Yesterday I borrowed a high-power movie sound system tweeter speaker from a
projectionist friend of mind and hooked it across the output of my hi-fi amplifier.
This amplifier has frequency response clear up to 100,000 cycles; so when I ran
my audio signal generator into the front end of the amplifier, I got considerable
power output from the speaker above the range of hearing. To check this, I suspended
a tiny pith ball on a light thread in the path of the narrow cone of sound put out
by the speaker and then varied the frequency of the signal generator. At certain
ultrasonic frequencies, the ball was jerked back and forth so violently by the inaudible
sound waves that it looked blurred. I'm sure that if I can hit just the right frequency
I can exert several G's of stress on a mosquito and shake him loose from his wings!"
"Why are you weighing the mosquitoes?"
" ... To get the average weight to use in the acceleration graphs and formulas
for vibratory motion that I found down at the library. They're pretty hard to use,
but if I do it right I should be able to figure out just the right frequency to
apply maximum stress to a single mosquito."
As he talked, Jerry finally got the scales to show a satisfactory balance; and
then he carefully counted the dead mosquitoes in the pan. Next he reached for his
battered slide rule, made a few calculations, and jotted down some figures on a
"We-l-l," he finally said hesitatingly, "if I've not slipped somewhere, it looks
as though a frequency of about 19,000 cycles ought to do it. Tonight I'll run that
frequency into the amplifier and direct the cone of sound from the tweeter speaker
right at Norma's porch swing from my upstairs window. She says she'll maneuver Melvin
into position there promptly at 10:30 if she has to chloroform him. I'll keep the
mosquitoes at bay with my supersonic ray until Norma and her Sweet Surrender perfume
have done their dirty work."
"You playing an electronic Cupid is something I've got to see," Carl announced.
"Reserve me a seat up in your room tonight. I'll be over right after that 9:30 shoot-em-up
He was as good as his word, and the two boys squatted on the floor by the window
of the hot, darkened bedroom for almost an hour before they heard the picket gate
of the house next door click open and shut, and caught sight of two figures walking
onto the vine-hung front porch. Jerry already had the amplifier warmed up; and as
he heard the rhythmic squeaking of the porch swing chains, he flipped on the oscillator
that had been preset to the ultrasonic frequency. The shift in the fluorescent blue
glow on the glass envelopes of the amplifier output tubes indicated that they were
delivering power. No sound was heard from the speaker, however, and there was no
halt in the rhythmic squeaking of the swing chains.
"Well, at least Melvin can't hear the sound," Jerry whispered hoarsely as he
stared down at the darkened porch. Just as he said this, there was an anguished
howl from below, and a frantic ball of white erupted from beneath the porch and
ran crazily about the moonlit yard.
"Holy cow!" Carl gasped, "it's Bosco!
What's the matter with him?"
Norma ran down the porch steps as Bosco pawed gingerly at his
Before Jerry could answer, Melvin's trembling voice floated up to them: "It's
a mad dog!" he shrieked. Then he burst from the shadow of the porch, and with two
giant steps reached the picket fence and vaulted nimbly over it. He alighted on
the sidewalk running, and as his staccato footsteps died away in the distance, Jerry
reached over and switched off the oscillator. Instantly Bosco's howling stopped.
"Bosco certainly fouled that up," Jerry said sadly. "Dogs can hear sounds too
high-pitched for human beings, and that high frequency note must have been pretty
painful to poor Bosco's ears.
The two boys went downstairs and across the yard. To their astonishment, they
heard the sound of almost hysterical laughter coming from the porch, and then Norma
ran down the steps, threw her arms about them, and kissed each squirming boy soundly
on the cheek.
"I'll never, never forget how funny Melvin looked as he went over that fence,"
she finally managed to gasp. "And I want you boys to know I'll never forget what
you've done for me. I guess I felt sorry for Melvin because he seemed to have so
much trouble, and I foolishly thought I was in love with him; but I certainly couldn't
love anyone who would run off and leave me alone with a mad dog ... I don't know
how you did it, but you're wonderful!"
As she said this, she stooped down and picked up Bosco, still pawing gingerly
at his ears, and gave the dog a big hug; then she went into the house, giggling
"Women!" Carl said disgustedly, as he rubbed the lipstick print off his cheek
vigorously with the back of his hand.
"Check," Jerry agreed. "I suppose we may as well go to bed now, but I'm coming
over the first thing in the morning to see if there are any wingless mosquito fuselages
lying around under that swing."
Carl took a couple of steps and then turned around. "Hey, Jer," he said thoughtfully,
"I wonder if you'd promise me something."
"Sure thing. What is it?"
"Well, if I should ever become so weak-minded as to think I want a girlfriend,
just let me manage my love life all by myself, will you? Please don't try to help
Posted August 24, 2021
(updated from original post on 6/4/2014)
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.
- The Black Beast - May 1960
Vox Electronik, September 1958
- Pi in
the Sky and Big Twist, February 1964
Bell Bull Session, December 1961
Boogie, August 1958
- TV Picture,
Electronic Eraser, August 1962
Trap, March 1956
at Work, June 1956
Aweigh, July 1956
Bosco Has His Day, August 1956
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
Joking and Jeopardy - December 1963
Santa's Little Helpers - December 1955
Two Tough Customers - June 1960
Pocket Radio, TV Receivers
Yagi Antennas, May 1955
Stomping, March 1962
Blubber Banisher, July 1959
- The Sparkling
Light, May 1962
Research Rewarded, June 1962
- A Hot Idea, March
- The Hot
Dog Case, December 1954
A New Company is Launched, October 1956
Under the Mistletoe, December 1958
Electronic 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
Elementary Induction, June 1963
- He Went
Electronic Detective, February 1958
Aiding 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."