RF Cafe visitor Mike (WN2A) reminded me of "Madman Muntz," who was a widely
known television commercial personality on the West Coast from the 1950s through
the 1970s. Earl William "Madman" Muntz's zany live and animated commercials were
used highly successfully in selling cars, including one he himself designed and
manufactured called the Muntz
Jet. Along with being a master salesman, Madman Muntz was also a self-taught
electronics engineer of sorts. He is credited with developing the first 4-track
stereo tape deck for cars (the
Stereo-Pak), which was a
precursor to the 8-track tape deck.
Muntz Porta Four portable 4-track tape player (eBay
Muntz Stock Certificate (scripophily.net)
What Mike mentioned specifically was the line of Muntz television sets. Not satisfied
to merely manufacture TV sets, Muntz created an entire service shop and fleet of
mobile television trucks ("Muntzmobiles"). It was kind of an early version of the
Nerd Herd. Based
on the Madman's trademark method of minimizing the number of components used in
his products, chances are the repair services were used often. According to legend,
"He invented the practice that came to be known as 'Muntzing,' which involved simplifying
otherwise complicated electronic devices. Muntz produced and marketed the first
black-and-white television receivers to sell for less than $100." One tactic of
Muntzing involved Earl roaming the engineering development laboratory with a pair
of wire cutters in his hand, and after studying a designer's prototype model, would
start clipping out resistors, capacitors, and inductors until the picture was no
longer acceptable. He would then hand the critical component back to the engineer
and tell him to solder that one back in and leave the others out. Such a practice
assumes that all vacuum tubes and/or transistors (depending on the era), transformers, CRTs, deflection coils, and various Rs, Ls, and Cs are all going to be within a vary narrow tolerance range, and that
nothing changes in value over time. It also assumes AC line voltage will be whatever
it is on the workbench, and that ambient temperature and humidity conditions will
be similar to the lab environment. Considering the aforementioned, it is unlikely
that the Muntzing methodology was as "cut" and dry as presented. It was likely at
least partly another bit of marketing propaganda.
Madman Muntz finagled his way into the Hollywood celebrity crowd in the process
of building notoriety in the business world. He was truly a major one-man force
within his wide realm. A biographical movie entitled "Madman Muntz: American Maverick"
was produced to document his amazing life
Madman Muntz: American Maverick Movie (TV part begins at 40:09)
If all this has piqued your interest in
Madman Muntz, just do a Google search on his name and you will be treated to
a huge number of websites with photos, advertisements, videos, and biographies.
Posted April 10, 2020
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