Nice video, thanks.
I first built an 'Octopus' whilst at Maritime College in the late 1980's. As you say, they have been around a long time and are often home built as so few parts are needed and they work so well on semiconductors.
Whilst working for my employer I was trained to use the Huntron Tracker instruments. For those who don't know, these are an 'Octopus' combined with a scope display to produce an all-in-one instrument for testing components. The Huntron units add a little to the design by having several voltage/current ranges to suit differing scenarios. They are very useful bits of kit, especially when hunting a fault on a PCB and you have a known good PCB as a reference to compare to. I bought a couple of used Huntron HTR1005B-1S a few years ago at a very reasonable price. Prices have sky rocketed since then so the word must be out that these are good units.
The Hameg oscilloscopes used to include an 'Octopus' mode in their design, named a Component Tester mode (CT for short). I have always thought them forward thinking to have done so. You can often pick up an HM203 series 20MHz CRO for a very low price or even free if you are lucky... if you do, you get a simplified version of the Huntron Tracker included for free !
Tektronix used to sell a advanced 'Octopus' I/V component tester under the model no. TR210....it was in fact made by Huntron and also sold under their model no. HTR-200. The unit was designed to connect to the TDS200 series DSO's in order to provide a component testing capability. It was far more advanced than the simple Octopus, HTR-1005B-1S or Hameg CT. I managed to pick one up a couple of years ago quite cheaply. If you see one at a decent price, you should consider buying it as it is a very refined piece of test kit with special low voltage/low current modes to suit modern low voltage MOS technology.
A word of warning..... Huntron carried out tests on TTL and CMOS technology to prove that the 50V test pulse that the Tracker could generate would not destroy the component under test. Huntron advise the use of the lower voltage ranges, but succeeded in proving that the chips tested still worked. It is interesting to note that Huntron later released the 2000 series that had more ranges and lower test voltages but these are still considered risky if used on very low voltage MOS components. The TR210/HTR-200 and later models all provide very low test voltage modes for VLV MOS and even have a special range lockout function to prevent accidental activation of the higher voltage ranges. Me thinks Huntron are not confident that the latest low voltage technology will take kindly to the older Huntron/Octopus excitation voltages. Be careful regarding this point if you DIY an Octopus for use on sensitive low voltage MOS technology.
The topic of this thread is 'Dirt Cheap' and none of the units I have mentioned, except the Hameg scope, could be considered cheap. A chap in the USA decided to build and market a cheaper solution. Take a look here: http://www.actracer.com/
Whilst the unit is cheaper, I do not consider it cheap per se considering the component count but then this isn't a China made unit
The ACtracer has a little bit more versatility than a basic Octopus and may be worth considering if the budget will stretch to it. Its certainly a lot cheaper than a new or used Huntron 2000 which it is trying to emulate.