The analog era produced a plethora of video accompaniments and gadgets to supplement the multitude of VCRs that had invaded homes across the land. Groovy rewinders to keep your machine mean, souped-up controls to simplify recording and cleaning contraptions galore flooded the market in all shapes and sizes, bringing even more video excess to the seemingly insatiable consumer.
Got this bad boy on deck for when my 57 Chevy Bel-Air retires. Puttin’ a lot of miles on ‘er most everday, my frands.
But VCRs were inarguably the essential piece of gear, and to that end were the high-priced, top-shelf items of the video era. The thought of having to purchase a VCR for each television in the house was enough to make families’ bank accounts tremble with trepidation. And though the prices on VCRs were on a substantial decline in the mid-80s and were ranging anywhere from $200 – $600 (with some economy level VCRs priced at just under $200), most families still weren’t too keen on the idea of shelling out upwards of $1000 to equip each television set in their home with the playback capabilities for magnetic magic.
Here’s my personal RABBIT set. This is the later version with the Archer brand name, made exclusively for Radio Shack. Too bad I didn’t get MINE from a Radio Shack. OHHHHHH! Click the image for the RABBIT commercial, man!
Enter the RABBIT VCR Multiplying System: a product capable of throwing signals from one TV to another enabling your VCR (or cable!) signal to be recognized on every TV connected to the transmitter. With an SRP of about $90, each RABBIT system came with one transmitter and one receiver, but additional receivers could be purchased at about $50 each, which is still only about a quarter of what you’d pay for another VCR at that time.
An earlier variant of packaging. Damn, I can’t help it. That bunny would have sold me, too. And nice innuendo, man.
Here’s how it worked: you hook up the RABBIT VCR Multiplying System transmitter to the back of your VCR (or cable box), and then run the wire from the transmitter to the receiver; attach the receiver to the TV of your choice and BAM! All of a sudden what happens with your main TV / VCR hookup is reflected on the TV with the receiver. It’s magic! What’s that? You want to channel surf in the living room, but your significant other wants to watch her Dynasty tapes, and your only VCR is in the living room? No problemo, mang. Just pop in the tape, flip a switch, and she can watch the VCR signal in the bedroom while you enjoy some late night (non-cable) television all by your lonesome! Double magic! Splitting the signal is just half the fun!
Here’s a glimpse at the inside of the manual, with instructions on how to hook it all up. Notice the corrective sticker on 2. “Man, Larry! Now we gotta go through all these manuals are put on the sticker… Nah… nah…. YOU gotta go through all these manuals… start a’stickin, Larry!”
What’s more, you could even use the VCR remote (or cable remote) on the TV with the receiver, away from the actual VCR. The RABBIT receiver just bounces the infrared over to the VCR via the transmitter, and you’re in business. The thought of swiping the remote, sneaking into the other room and pausing a movie intermittently while the person watching the main TV think they might be having a bad trip is worth the price of this puppy alone. That said, to really consider the level of technical wizardry (and resulting luxury) this product was providing must have been pretty mind-blowing considering this was in 1986.
Here’s what’s inside that groovy little box with the bunnies. Notice the white wire to the bottom left. That’s what you’d hook it up with… or strangle yourself with if you couldn’t get it to work. It’s multi-purpose, man.
Now RABBIT originally released a wireless version of their product in 1985, but the FCC put the kibosh on that model and pulled it from shelves since, technically, the device was employing an unlicensed radio signal, and was therefore illegal. But the release of the wired version eventually did hit stores nine months later in March of 1986, and though it wasn’t the wireless version the company had hoped for and the connection distance was limited to 150 feet before experiencing sound a picture break, the wiring did allow the transmission of the remote functions. So, all in all, it’s not a completely bad trade off.
Front and back shot of the wireless version of the RABBIT. In this version, it’s called a VIDEOCASTER. Man, they shoulda kept that.
A predecessor to signal bouncing contraptions like The Dish Network’s THE HOPPER and others like it, this slice of 80s entertainment excess is just about as nostalgic as it comes. It’s still available on third party sites (most new in the package!), so if you’re ever down a VCR and just feel like stepping into a time warp, you, too, can employ the RABBIT and multiply the video vindication. Dig those bouncing signals, my fellow tapeheads.
Groove on and on and on.