> My very limited research into this matter tells me that there are certain
> brands/models of early Tivos and ReplayTVs that one can use for my
> purposes without having to sign up for guide data, etc. I'm just not sure
> which brands/models (series 1?, showstopper?, etc.) I need to be looking
> into, how much I should be spending for these older units and where
> they are available.
I'd recommend looking for one of the early standalone Phillips TIVOs, such as HDR-112, HDR-212, HDR-312, etc (all the way up to 612 I think). There are also a couple similar models of other brands, but I'm most familiar with the Philips. These are Series 1 TIVOS which are standalone models with no DTV built in. TIVO has apparently supported the ability of these older models to function without a subscription, so you can even let it dial in to get set up for your local channels, and whatever channels you get on sat, however you won't get guide data without a subscription.
You can get a refurbished SA TIVO quite reasonable at:http://www.servicedvr.com/Extra/BuyExtraTivo.asp
Last time I looked, they had the 20hr 212s for around $100, but I see they must be out of those, and now the cheapest one I see was a 30hr hdr-312 for about $129. This is cheaper than they were going on EBAY the last time I looked.
The only annoying thing about using these old TIVOs without a subscription is that it tends to pop up a message asking you to subscribe when you change channels, etc, but it goes away quickly. There are ways to get it to stop this, but I haven't bothered.
Without the subscription, you don't have access to a lot of the "features" that require programming schedules, but you can do manual recordings very easily, and the feature I like best, is that say I start watching a program at 8:00, and by 8:10 I decide that this would be a good program to have recorded. Well with just a few quick keystrokes, I can tell it to record from 8:00 to whatever the end time is, and it will retroactively record what has already played. You can do this as far back as the buffer goes. The buffer goes up to a half hour from the last time you changed channels.
These TIVOs have only 1 tuner, and will only record one channel at a time, although you can watch a previously recorded program while recording, which is nice, or you can watch OTA TV while recording, etc.
I also have a DRS-7000, and it is no where close to the TIVO in usefullness, although it does have nice features of being able to play disks with jpgs or mp3s, etc.
Hope the above helps.