Widget Of The Week
Philips SBC RU 098 Football Zapper, 1998
Every so often you come
across a gadget that looks like it was designed by someone who was either high
on drugs, or suffering from a serious mental disorder. What other explanation
could there be for the Philips SBC RU 098 Football Zapper? It’s like a horrible
genetic experiment gone wrong. What depraved mind could have conceived the
unnatural mating of a universal TV remote control with a bottle opener?
On the other hand… Check
out the date, it’s 1998, a World Cup year and my guess is the boffins at
Philips were persuaded by the marketing department to come up with a gimmick to
cash in on the football competition. Philips would have been promoting their
TVs anyway; international events like the World Cup have always seen a big
surge in TV sales -- especially high-end models. Booze makers would also be
busy peddling their wares, so the Football Zapper was actually a marriage made
in heaven. Who wouldn’t want to wind up the volume and celebrate with a beer
watching their team score the winning goal (or switch channels and drown their
sorrows in the case of England supporters…)?
Little or no new technology
was involved in this hybrid design. The remote part is very similar to at least
one other model in the Philips range at the time. There really isn’t much to
say about bottle openers, except this one is a thick metal plate, sandwiched
between the two case halves of the remote. This is imparts strength and
leverage. Simply tacking a bottle opener onto the end of a remote box would
quickly come to grief.
But back to the remote
control part. It’s a fairly basic four-function design, able switch the TV on
and off, mute the sound, step through the channels and turn the volume up and
down. It can control several hundred different makes and models of TV and
needless to say it’s factory set for Philips models. To program it for another
make it’s necessary to either enter a 5-digit code, or use the Autosearch
facility. There’s a list of manufacturers and codes in the back of the
instruction manual. All you have to do is hold down the mute and power buttons
for 3 seconds, an LED comes on and the code is entered by pressing the control
buttons, each of which has been assigned a number from 1 to 7. After the code
has been successfully entered the LED blinks twice and it’s set.
If it doesn’t work there’s
usually a several alternative codes for each manufacturers and there’s the
fallback of Autosearch. For this to work the TV has to be switched on. As
before the power and mute buttons are pressed for 3 seconds then the power
button and it starts stepping though the codes for turning TVs off. As soon as
it does you have a second or so to press the power button to stop the search.
Philips gave this one to me
at the press launch for their World Cup promotional campaign. It wasn’t a
tricked up PR freebie but a proper retail product and I seem to recall that it
was priced at £30 or thereabouts. I am happy to be corrected but the only thing
I can remember is thinking was that it was way too expensive for a fancy bottle
opener; World Cup or not… I came across it recently, still in its original
packaging, in a box in my loft where it has remained undisturbed for almost two
decades, complete with its original batteries. I neither know nor care if it
works; it probably does but the TVs it was designed to control have long since
disappeared so it is at least 50 percent useless, though the bottle opener is
probably still okay…
What Happened To It?
Off the top of my head I
cannot recall any other novelty or combo remote controls as crazy as this one.
It might even be unique which, by rights, should make it quite valuable.
Philips probably shifted a few of them but I have never seen another, or can
find any record one selling on ebay. Back in the real world I doubt that any
sane person or even football fan would pay more than a couple of pounds for it.
But its day might come. I’ll be putting it back into secure storage for the
benefit of future generations who will either marvel at its ingenuity and
originality, or have a good laugh….
First seen: 1998
Original Price: £30
Value Today: £2
Features: Universal infrared TV remote control, 4 functions: power,
mute volume & channel up/down, and integral bottle opener
Power req. 2 x 1.5v AAA cells
Dimensions: 170 x 58 x 40mm
Made (assembled) in: Singapore
Hen's Teeth (10 rarest): 7