Saturday, June 20, 2009

StarText People: "The Duke"

Throughout its history, StarText was blessed with subscribers who wanted to do more than just subscribe. They wanted to make a difference. David Duke was one of those subscribers. While in appearance you might think David was more at home in the Outback of Australia, he was in fact a tech-savvy, fun-loving, Bar-B-Q-cookin,' kind of guy with the proverbial heart of gold. He wrote a column that combined cooking and storytelling -- always a great combination for Texas entertaining. Today, Duke still calls the Metroplex home and I'm sure is still cooking great brisket for his friends and family.
Here the Duke relates his StarText experiences in his own words, as only Duke could tell it, addressed to the nickname he bestowed on me, "Bark Bark." -- Gerry

Bark Bark,

Here we go...

Back as far as I can remember in my history with StarText I begin with a dream of what could be done, which is today pretty much a reality. I had already been working for Texas Instruments Inc. for about 13 years. By that time I was working in Quality Control. Maintaining the entire specification manufacturing of integrated circuits in what we fondly called the Front End.

All that means is that I had file cabinets that contained approximately 50 to 75,000 IBM punch cards with information on them that controlled the entire manufacturing process on a single computer system. If an operator at a given workstation wished to look up the proper mix of photo-sensitive liquids it was right there on a small CRT at the workstation. My job consisted of making changes to those data cards. I was the Engineering Change Notice Implementer for the entire operation.

Needless to say I had been around computers and had the operation of several operating systems in my head at any given time, some of which if you will remember resulted in the first commercially mass-produced integrated circuits. And further Jack Kilby, a scientist at TI, invented those devices which ultimately lead to personal home computers. The first small hand- held calculator, The Datamath, was beyond our wildest dreams. Then came the TI 99 home computer. It was little more than a toy but it was programmable in BASIC but that was another operating system I had very little use for. But it did have games that you could play.

Then I started upgrading that to what eventually turned into a complete home computer with a staggering 32k memory card in an “Expansion Box."

Along with eight or so other slots for further expansion. I think I filled every slot in that box. One of the slots I put in an RS232 communications card just for the heck of it. Then I added the acoustic coupler so I could add connectivity to other computers via the phone line. It also had a cassette tape recorder in the beginning so I could load games on cassette and save them for further play at a later date. WOW! Then added a 5 1/4” floppy drive and another floppy drive as a slave to the first. By God it ALL worked!

I had little or no knowledge of what I had actually built! Later with speech synthesizer -- AKA ‘Speak and Spell,’ another first by TI -- almost got me in trouble when I typed in "F*** You" and told it to speak that! It did and I bought it on the spot! Come on Gang, it was an era of experimentation.

Which in all practical purposes led me to two-year duty stint in Singapore. I loved it.

But moving forward I returned and put all that computer stuff behind me and how I made my first connection to StarText is a mystery. But I did connect somehow -- User ID # 15290 I think? And it started an E-Mail adventure that was so far ahead of it’s time to not believe. Well to me at least. I had heard of BBS chats but never participated in one. I somehow managed to log on to a new text-only based system called StarText! There I could answer questions or pose one of my own. Usually from only certain hours in a day and the messages were strictly moderated for content. I’ll never forget Bev Kurtin’s famous police whistle. While she was acting moderator and someone broke a rule out would come her whistle and a big TWeeeeettt!

Once when I was trying to explain the advantages of tax-free investments in municipal bonds I was making an analogy to sewer systems and said the city would get money invested in a sewer line back with interest for life and pay investors back in tax-free income. I said you pay your sewer bill or you don’t Doo Doo. That was just more than our leader Mr. Barker could allow and he deleted it. That in essence made the story pointless. Well not to be outdone I came back with a story about a Doo Doo Bird sanctuary.

By then we were pretty well entrenched within StarText. Another favorite story is about the meetings in Amon Carter’s conference room. There I met some of the most important people in the videotext world! It was brainstorming at its best. [He is referring to a focus group we hosted for the executives of Viewtron, who came to town to learn more about StarText] I even brought a brisket I had smoked to one of those meetings. There was nothing left of that brisket. Another was a wine and cheese provided by Christine Russell who at one time told me to NOT Dare refer to these meetings as “Star Chamber” which is a somewhat bizarre movie staring Michael Douglas. I am not making this up.

Then several times around Christmas I would go by a place named “The Nut Vending Co.” and buy several gifts for family and friends which I always included the group in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram office of StarText and pass around some candy and nuts to whoever was there at the time. I met face-to-face with some of the people who did the day-to-day work of running StarText. That was a very rewarding habit.

There was also the time I had a BBQ party here at my house for all StarTexans for free. I forget how many showed up but it was impressive. Names Like Jim Boughton, Ron Norman, Betty P., Mrs. T, Mary Keenan, George Mertz (Capt. George), Wolfgang Webber and his wife/son who were a show in their own right, of course Gerry Barker and his Beautiful Wife Pam who I wanted to kidnap! There were friends of the people who were there I had never met before. One even offered to make a tomato, onion, lime, pepper, salsa as a dip for the party which she did in my kitchen that turned out wonderful!

In some of the earliest conversations were with EJ (Ed Jackson -- see the earlier post) at 4:30 am before I went to work when we could discuss things about Life and its ups and downs. How I loved to cook and write about doing so. Which Ed talked me into writing a cooking story at least once a month for StarText which was a lot of fun although it was a bit tedious having only a word processing program on my by then TI99/4A and the TI Writer program was a weird duck. The 99/4A monitor would only display 40 characters at a time on a line and would then wrap. So I was never really sure what I wrote would appear in correct form. I wrote the stories, saved them to 5 ¼” floppy then call StarText and log on to send them.

If I was lucky the whole thing would load and be there for Gerry to look over. It worked for little over a year and I still have all the stories in print. I have one of them here in this computer and will try and attach it here which Gerry promised he would include in a book about StarText. This one actually won a prize of a month free of StarText. I think that was another meeting of the group at Infomart in Dallas. That one made Bev Kurtin do a wheelie in her wheel chair.

Let’s see if I can do this:


OK! Here Goes

Blend in a small pot over low heat ( I mean Low )

1/2 cup Peanut Butter (creamy )

One quarter cup peanut oil

2 tablespoon’s of dried onion bits (or one small onion grated )

1 clove crushed Garlic ( best ) or one quarter teaspoon garlic Powder

1 to two tablespoons of sesame seeds

3 teaspoons of HONEY! This is very important here!

2 tablespoons of lemon Juice

2 teaspoons of Soy Sauce

And here is the Killer:

One fourth teaspoon to one half of Cayenne Pepper the really hot stuff! ( the more the better to me )

A few tablespoons of Hot Water ( as in two )

Then stir this and allow it to cool ( don’t overdo it with the heat ) about 10 minutes or till bubbly then put the whole thing in one of those crock pots you bought from the PTA cheese sale. It will keep a very long time without refrigeration

The best way to serve this is a small cracker like Wheat Thins or Triscuit.

The really strange thing about this little trick is that it has THREE different things that happen. First ( in the order of how we taste ) the taste buds get the first message from the Honey, then the second mild taste of the Peanut Butter. Then KBOOM *RED PEPPER*

I'LL Swear that THIS WORKS. It should take from a count of eight to ten seconds for the Grenade to go off and it is almost predictable fun to watch the result!

Try it you will Love It!

My Best to you,


So it appears to have loaded from an old file I had stored here.

That little feat of magic file retrieval copy and paste would have been impossible in the beginning of StarText. We had little we could do to any online text.

In the meantime to me interacting with others was a sort of online game with real people in real time. And although a favorite visiting place was started quite by accident with a conversation between Gerry Barker and Ronald (Ron) Hawpe over 25 years ago it has survived in one way or another to this very day -- the virtual town of Brisbee! One where anyone could open any type of business he/she so desired. All sorts did and some lived and prospered.

Not to be outdone here I came up with my famous “Brisbee Bordello!” All of which was a clean cut fun type of “House” with many an innuendo and how things were run from day-to-day. Even in the beginning the Bordello was full of surprises. I wanted something special to open the file on it. With the help of Jim Boughton we imbedded a secret spot on that introduction that if you knew where to click on it would bring up an animation of a stripper dancing to the famous David Rose tune of “The Stripper.” Nothing was actually reveled -- there was always a hand or a feather boa strategically placed -- but it was obvious she had no clothing on.

I pulled that one over on Gerry for months while everybody else was laughing their butts off! I don’t know to this day if he ever really knew I did that.

So much has changed since those first days it’s hard to imagine how much we did with so little. For one thing it may have taught me how to paint pictures with words. Not that I couldn’t do that before I just got better at it.

There a few survivors of old-time Brisbee still around but they have moved to another place and are having fun with a new group. I am sure I have forgotten some event I should have mentioned, however all that was done in the name of StarText was first in my mind of some of the most fun exciting times I ever spent on a computer. As they say… “Priceless!”

G’ Day


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