The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 October 2006

The Curtis Mathes syndrome

Dave Dial, a former Oklahoman transplanted to Los Angeles forty-odd years ago, explained this to me, and it rang truer than I'd prefer to admit:

When a consumer buys a contraption that combines two or more functions, if one of them breaks down and is too expensive or inconvenient to repair, the consumer will typically continue to use the parts that still work. So we see combination telephone-answering machines where the answering machine has crapped out but the phone still works and is still in use. We see those cute little combination TV-VCRs where the VCR's mechanism has eaten one tape too many but the TV still works, to give two examples.

I based the syndrome on observing back in the 1960s that many homes had what was called a "home entertainment center": a huge, living-room-space-consuming combination television-radio-phonograph with th