From the November 1981 issue of Popular Science:
"Once a toy of the super-rich—or the electronically gifted—satellite-TV terminals are becoming a middle-class luxury. “Prices have come way down,” said Bob Cooper of Satellite TV Technology (STT). “The equipment is easier to use. It’s tremendously more reliable. And you have a wide variety of choices. The manufacturers are not just imitating each other—they’re innovating.”
What do you need? First, an antenna—10 or 15 feet in diameter (see photo above) —to gather and concentrate the microwave signals. Weakened by their long journey, the signals must be amplified, then converted from the very high frequencies the satellites use down to standard UHF frequencies. This job is done by electronic equipment—a low-noise amplifier and what the industry calls a down converter. Coaxial cable carries the signals inside to a receiver. It has no screen or speaker, but it may have a demodulator to convert the signals to frequencies your TV set can pick up.
The cost of all this has come down drastically. Commercial versions once cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Two years ago you’d pay at least $10,000 ($31,000 in today’s dollars) for a “turnkey” system, installed by the dealer, to pick up just one channel on one satellite. More versatile systems cost up to $36,000 ($112,000 today).
At the STT show, I saw good basic systems that cost about $5,000 ($12,400 today), installed. High-end systems with superior reception and convenience features go to $16,000 ($40,000 today).
There’s an even cheaper route. You can assemble your own antenna from a kit, pour the concrete footing, raise the antenna, and cable the electronics together. For $6,995, you can buy a bolt-together antenna and a semi-assembled receiver from the Heath Company ($17,000 today). This kit rivals the $16,000 ($40,000 today) systems in sophistication."