My grandfather hand-built a satellite dish in 1979. This was in rural North Florida. Most people there had never seen one before.

The local police investigated him briefly for “spying for the Russians,” though why you’d spy with something so obvious and sizable was never clear.

Anyway, my grandfather constructed a dish that would’ve at the time cost around $115,000 in today’s dollars for around $4,000, not including his own labor. The most expensive part was the low noise amplifier. The rest was mainly just tubing and some wire mesh.

After I got a little older, I’d help him build the dishes when I went over. He then was building them to sell to others. I wasn’t very good at it because I was and am about as handy as a sea slug, but my grandfather was remarkably tolerant of my mis-bending of pipes.

I remember marveling that we could build something on a picnic table made out of chicken wire and pipe that could pick up a signal from space no stronger than a 60-watt light bulb.