Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Curtis Mathes - The Most Expensive TVs In America

With that kicky handle, your TV can tag along! 
Curtis Mathes is one of those brands that's been around forever, but isn't necessarily a household name. This old black & white television is from the company's earlier days when they were still making TV's in the US (they were actually the last fully US owned electronics company when they closed their doors in 1988). Curtis Mathes used to be a private label brand that billed itself as "The most expensive television set in America; and darn well worth it", and were only sold through special channels. Sometimes they had stand-alone stores that sold CM product exclusively. In my neighborhood Curtis Mathes equipment came from the hardware store.

I was most aware of the brand when the home video market really warmed up in the late 70's/early 80's.  Curtis Mathes was there with their own branded VCR's and TV's. They were quite a bit more expensive than other brands, and the TV commercials were quite proud of the very long 4 year warranty included in the price. So these appliances must have been very special, right?

While CM started out making their own TV's, by the 80's they were re-branding electronics from Matsushita, Daewoo, Pioneer, and more. This wasn't an unusual practice since many large retailers also rebranded electronics to sell under their own banner (usually the strategy was that you could get the same Panasonic VCR cheaper if it was branded for JC Penny). While CM joined in the relabeling game, my Curtis Mathes store they heavily implied that there was something extra special about the products they were offering and priced it accordingly. The approach must have worked as I know people who still think of Curtis Mathes as being a deluxe brand experience. After losing their last US factory in the late 80's, Curtis Mathes became a bit of a zombie brand. America's most expensive television became the in-house label for Kmart electronics in the late 90's.

Ahh... back when classy brands used cursive.As for this classic black and white 10M070 TV, I couldn't get it to power up. It could just be that the switch is broken, but the whole thing could be kaput. Neither would be surprising given how old the TV is. The thing that left me scratching my head is that this TV is from a time when CM was heralding their American roots in their advertising, yet this model was made in Japan.

Among TV collectors, opinions of CM engineering are definitely split. I read a few  online message board postings claiming that many old CM televisions weren't even custom engineered, that they were simply rebranded Zenith units (which would actually be good news given the high quality of that brand), or that the internals seemed to be sourced from multiple big name vendors. That's where I first saw this argument between those who think that CM is something special, versus those who think that's it's always been rebranded overpriced junk. Since I never had a Curtis Mathes product, I don't have a dog in this fight - but it does remind me of the power the kind of (dare I say it?) passion that brands can arouse in people.

The legend of Curtis Mathes lives on. The brand is being used to sell HD televisions, Blu-Ray players, and wooden home entertainment cabinets today. I don't know whether they are still positioning themselves as being expensive and worthwhile. Given how competitive the world of consumer electronics is, that would seem to be an unwise course to take (and I doubt it since their brand is represented in big box stores such as Wal-mart).

Does CM still have the ability to pull in customers based on memories of the old brand? I suppose that if I had grown up around Curtis Mathes (we were a Toshiba family, oddly enough) and their self-appointed reputation for quality, I might lean in that direction when buying a television even today... and nothing makes marketers happier than when consumers choose products not only with their wallets, but also their hearts.


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