That's how Tom Scholz decided to create something that would make all that mess programmable. A device that would turn off or on up to 8 switches when pressing a single footswitch.
The first prototype was a non-midi unit. A big pedalboard that could memorize the position of 10 switches into 10 memories, each memory corresponding to one footswitch. Then 10 cables would run from the pedalboard to your rack's footswitches jacks: you could at the same time change the channel of your Sustainor, activate the Chorus, turn off the Echo and add an EQ by pressing only one footswitch.
This prototype was presented in SR&D's 1987 catalogue, but was never issued as a commercial product.
In the meantime, the Octopus took a new orientation, and was in fact cut in two distinct units: the Midiswitcher and the Midipedal.
The Midiswitcher contains the programmable features and the control switches, while the Midipedal only sends midi orders: the midiswitcher reads a Program Change number, and applies to the switches the configuration stored in its memory.
Inside the Module
The best way to understand how the Midi Octopus is to read its manual.
Just one comment here.
The manual mentions that channel H has a relay - in case you want to switch something with a voltage difference issue. Well, I had something like 7 or 8 Midi Octopii in my hands, and only one of them had this relay (left picture), all the others having only a blank space (right picture)...
Usage and limitations
The Midi Octopus is almost mandatory if you have a real Rockman rig (6 modules or more). Several Octopii can be necessary for a very complex rig.
A lot of non-Rockman players use the Octopus to control their guitar amp, if this amp has a lot of footswitches, or simply to integrate a non-midi guitar amp within a global midified rig.
The Midi Octopus can also be completed with a cool accessory called "Remote Loop". This little Hammond box contains a relay and some jacks, and can be used to bypass a non midi stompbox, or as an A/B Box to control the signal path within a very complex rig.
The only limitation of the Octopus is linked to this relay question: if you want to switch another device that has a strong negative voltage in its switching circuit, the Octopus cannot handle it if it is not equipped with this small channel H relay.
Collectibility and conclusion
The Octopus is not rare (over 6000 items), and is pretty easy to catch, though there are periods when it's almost impossible to find one! You may have seen on the picture that tops this page that the most recent Octopii had a different front-plate (almost entirely blue): these rare units correspond to the last year of production (1992).
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