I'd always keep a jar of coins next to the Foxtel IQ. This article describes the very beginning of cable TV
"Pay TV is Here", Michael M. Mooney, National Review, 5th June 1962.
Two very different Pay-TV systems are now on the horizon: the Zenith-RKO ("Phonevision") system which starts its three-year Hartford test this month — also called the "over-the-air" system; and Paramount Pictures' "Telemeter" system, which has been running in Etobicoke, Canada since February 1960 and is scheduled to open next in Little Rock, New York, and San Francisco — the so-called "wire system."
In the "over-the-air" Zenith-RICO system, a subscription decoder (a box about 8 by 10 by 4 inches) is wired in and sits atop the set. The subscriber pays an initial installation charge of about ten dollars. Prices for an evening's programs will vary between 25¢ and $1.50; the price may include "double features," or a feature and a short, etc.
Subscribers receive advance notice of subscription programs, by direct mail, or through newspaper ads that give program details, hour and date, and a special three-digit code number for each subscription program, and the price for tuning in. When he has decided on his program, the subscriber turns on his decoder and rotates a dial until the proper code combination appears in a small window in the front of the decoder. Picture and sound then come through loud and clear.
When subscription programs are not on, Channel 18 in Hartford will send out conventional commercial programs, sponsored or sustaining. At any time, even when subscription programs are on, the viewer may switch his set to conventional commercial programs, then back to the subscription program at will, without additional charges. In effect, therefore, the Pay programs are "added attractions" on the TV set for which the consumer must pay if he wants them. There are conventional commercial stations in Hartford to compete with the new Pay TV station.
Initial installations of the decoders at Hartford are to be of the “credit” type. The decoder makes an electronic record each time it is tuned to a subscription program. At monthly intervals the subscriber removes the billing tape from the decoder and forwards his payment for the programs he saw.
In the "wire," or Telemeter, system there is also a box on top of the set, but it eats coins. When the subscriber turns on his set, he may watch the conventional commercial programs, or he may flip a switch to tune in the Telemeter attachment. He then hears a "barker" announce the programs being offered and their prices. Since three programs can travel along the same wire at once, the subscriber may choose the program on Channel A, B or C. A price indicator displays the charge for each program, and until the subscriber puts in the coins his TV screen remains blank. Inside the Telemeter attachment a tape recording automatically identifies all programs purchased. This recording is collected, along with the cash, every 30 to 60 days. It not only tells what the subscriber paid, it tells Telemeter how to pro-rate the royalties among the various entertainment packages. The subscriber may always switch from the program he has paid for, over to commercial TV, and back again, without additional charge.
Generally two different shows are offered on two of the channels every three or four days. The third channel features public service programs and sports. At any given time, therefore, there may be a movie on Channel A, a Broadway show on Channel B, a hockey game on Channel C. Multiplexing over the wires allows the Pay-TV promoter to satisfy different tastes simultaneously. Features on the first two channels are generally shown twice every evening, at prices ranging from 50¢ to $2.00. Public Service programming (news and local events) is free; hockey games cost $100. There is an initiation fee of $5.00 and a monthly minimum of 75 cents. The cashbox accepts anything from nickels to fifty-cent pieces and even credits the subscriber if he overpays.