[Table of Contents]
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the
history of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights (if any) are
Popular Electronics articles
on aircraft modeling. See all articles from
Whenever I hear the word "cloud" these days,
I automatically think about the application to "cloud computing." It's just conditioning from living
in the high-tech computing world. In this article from the February 1960 Popular Electronics, "cloud"
refers to the nickname given to a model R/C blimp. It's hard to tell whether the story is a real experience
or if it is just a humorous short about a scenario that we all know could be real - the infamous Mr.
Murphy makes it possible. It's a good read.
See complete list of Popular Electronics
articles on aircraft modeling.
The R/C Cloud
By Carl Kohler
Dismay - closely followed
by horror - scampered across her face. The cups on the serving tray rattled and coffee slopped out of
"You're doing it again!" she wailed. "All this time I thought you were repairing the electric clock
as you promised - and instead, you're doing it again!"
I glanced up from the components laid out before me on the workbench. Calmly, I wiped spilled coffee
from my face.
"Do you mind putting that tray down," I requested pleasantly, "before you continue with your hysteria?"
"I got a right to have hysterics," she said emphatically, placing the tray on the workbench and herself
in a nearby chair. "How many other wives have to put up with husbands who insist upon making radio-controlled
gismos that always bring disaster? I ask you, how many?"
"Probably thousands," I murmured, carefully filling the 6-volt wet battery with electrolyte. "You're
a courageous group of women - the whole, emotionally unstable lot of you."
"W-What is it?" she asked, indicating the beautifully wrought, ingeniously designed model airship
suspended over the bench.
I pushed aside the servo-rudder linkage systems and made room for my coffee cup. I leaned back and
regarded the lady with a tolerant smile.
"It's a scale-model of a well-known dirigible," I told her. "I call it 'The Cloud' because it's bound
to have a silver lining, figuratively speaking. This is one R/C model which has been cunningly designed
to be absolutely foolproof against all manner of disaster!"
"Wanna know something?" she squinted thoughtfully at me. "You're a die-hard."
"All we men of determination and tireless brilliance are die-hards," I admitted. "That's why we ultimately
demonstrate success. We never quit until we've licked the problem!"
I sipped some coffee. "In this case, I am happy to announce that the heretofore problem of R/C models
meeting untimely ends has been vanquished!"
"?" said her expressive eyebrows in unison.
"It's quite simple. I've merely eliminated all the possibilities of trouble which were responsible,
in one form or another, for the destruction of earlier models! If your stolid, domestic mind can grasp
the meaning of this accomplishment, you are welcome to congratulate yourself for having snagged a genius."
I studied my fingernails, modestly.
"I don't believe it! I just can't bring myself to believe you've done any such thing!" she hissed.
"And I'm willing to lay next week's pin money on the line that when you try to put this gimmick into
action, something-I don't know what exactly - will go wrong." She folded her arms and leered contemptuously
at "The Cloud."
My flashing mind swiftly estimated next week's pin money. A tidy sum. Enough to buy plenty of the
little electronic odds and ends every enthusiast needs for his supply shelf.
"Before I accept your wager and win the surest thing since gambling was invented, I think it only
fair to mention a few of the safety elements involved - in case you want to change your mind and save
your money." I stood up and indicated the various components scattered on the bench.
" 'The Cloud' will safely operate at altitudes of 500 to 1000 feet above ground level where BB guns
and slingshots cannot reach it. Trouble from neighborhood moppets: eliminated. I will maintain constant
contact with 'The Cloud' via a light safety line which, in addition to controlling the gas escape valve,
allows me to prevent the airship from drifting helplessly should the escapement become inoperative.
Thus, several more improbables are checked and scientifically eliminated."
"And," I continued, counting the factors off on my fingers, "I've cleverly avoided the possibility
of escaping gas being ignited by rimming the discharge tube with wood - thereby eliminating any chance
of a static charge building up and destroying the model by explosion!"
"I'm still letting my
money ride," she said, her face a study in determination. "It just won't be natural if you haven't overlooked
"It will be a pleasure to take your money, then," I mumbled irritably. "Because you're betting against
a scientifically stacked deal. See you in the backyard in a week - and be sure you bring my winnings
The following few days were spent assembling the personally modified systems and making certain that
the Pittman 9002 "Panther" motor was in excellent condition. While I double-checked every installation
and triple-checked the model's construction, I mentally spent that easily-come-by pin money several
times and enjoyed splurging every cent of it.
A week later, I sauntered through the kitchen, jauntily carrying "The Cloud" in one hand and the
R/C transmitter in the other.
"Get your loot and follow me," I advised.
"You are about to see my reputation re-established as the creator of foolproof R/C models."
We adjourned to the patio where I filled the airship with hydrogen from the tank I'd purchased, (after
discovering that cooking gas wouldn't provide the necessary "lift,") and I attached the safety line
securely to the gas escape valve device.
"In case you're counting on the safety line getting away from me, I think you'd better know that
I'm tying it to my waist," I declared smugly. "Care to hand over the winnings now instead of later,
"I'll wait," she demurred - sullenly.
Humming a merry little tune, I launched "The Cloud." Gracefully, it rose into the air, rolling slightly
in the vagrant air currents as it reached higher altitudes.
"There you are!" I exclaimed. "Nary a thing going wrong! . No difficulty, no disaster! Watch how
-" I jabbed the control buttons on the transmitter unit, "-- it responds, accurately and totally."
"Gee," she said. "Lookit
the big eagle flying around up there."
"All untoward elements have been brilliantly-"
"Golly, that's a mean-looking eagle. Hey, I think it sees your model!"
"- and scientifically elimin - GET AWAY FROM THAT DIRIGIBLE! SHOO! BEAT IT!" I yelled.
The eagle began to circle around "The Cloud," closing in on it with each revolution. Frantically,
I jabbed the control buttons in an effort to get the model out of the curious bird's range.
"I don't think that eagle likes. your model," she murmured jovially. "Lookit him follow it!" "If
we only had a BB gun," I moaned, jabbing the controls again in an attempt to keep "The Cloud" out of
range of those sharp, cruel talons.
"BB guns?" She smirked. "They've been scientifically eliminated, remember?" "Shut up and heave rocks
at him!" I barked. "Maybe I can get the model down before -" I started hauling in the safety line with
desperate energy, "- he manages to effect any damage with those sharp -"
Without warning, the eagle suddenly dove upon "The Cloud." His talons ripped into the balsa-wood
with a crunch that carried all the way down to us. Then, with a triumphant shriek he flapped away.
As I stood paralyzed with grief, "The Cloud" descended in a number of jagged fragments, its props
still whirling courageously even as they smashed onto the patio brickwork.
"Don't forget to double next week's pin money, genius!" snickered Mrs. K. "I knew that crazy gismo
was for the birds."
Posted September 23, 2011