🔗 Muntzing

🔗 Technology 🔗 Electronics 🔗 Engineering 🔗 Industrial design

Muntzing is the practice and technique of reducing the components inside an electronic appliance to the minimum required for it to sufficiently function in most operating conditions, reducing design margins above minimum requirements toward zero. The term is named after the man who invented it, Earl "Madman" Muntz, a car and electronics salesman, who was not formally educated or trained in any science or engineering discipline.

In the 1940s and 1950s, television receivers were relatively new to the consumer market, and were more complex pieces of equipment than the radios which were then in popular use. TVs often contained upwards of 30 vacuum tubes, as well as transformers, rheostats, and other electronics. The consequence of high cost was high sales pricing, limiting potential for high-volume sales. Muntz expressed suspicion of complexity in circuit designs, and determined through simple trial and error that he could remove a significant number of electronic components from a circuit design and still end up with a monochrome TV that worked sufficiently well in urban areas, close to transmission towers where the broadcast signal was strong. He carried a pair of wire clippers, and when he felt that one of his builders was overengineering a circuit, he would begin snipping out some of the electronics components. When the TV stopped functioning, he would have the technician reinsert the last removed part. He would repeat the snipping in other portions of the circuit until he was satisfied in his simplification efforts, and then leave the TV as it was without further testing in more adverse conditions for signal reception.

As a result, he reduced his costs and increased his profits at the expense of poorer performance at locations more distant from urban centers. He reasoned that population density was higher in and near the urban centers where the TVs would work, and lower further out where the TVs would not work, so the Muntz TVs were adequate for a very large fraction of his customers. And for those further out, where the Muntz TVs did not work, those could be returned at the customer's additional effort and expense, and not Muntz's. He focused less resources in the product, intentionally accepting bare minimum performance quality, and focused more resources on advertising and sales promotions.

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