Saturday, June 20, 2009

StarText People: Jim Boughton

Reader Note: Jim Boughton was a StarText subscriber and avid contributor, honored several times for his columns and one of only two recipients of the prestigious "EJ Award," named in honor of Ed Jackson (see prior post). The following is an interview conducted with Jim on June 15, 1994. Find out more about what Jim's been up since StarText in the Post Script.

This is one in a continuing series tracing the history of StarText. Read it from the beginning by using the Archive Post links on the right.

How long have you been a StarText Subscriber?

Which time? I originally joined StarText in the mid 1980's and was on line for about 3 or 4 years and then I had to cancel for a while. In 1990 I returned to StarText and have been here ever since except for a brief 2 or 3-month vacation.

What attracted you to StarText?

The fascination of using a modem to gain news and articles. It was fun to read the news online and a lot of times the news was much fresher than what the paper printed. Then I met Jerry Holmes and he really pushed me to get more and more involved with StarText. The next thing I knew I was moderating a column for Tandy computers. When I left the system back in the late 80's it was Jerry that kept me informed of any changes and it was his shall we say encouragement that caused me to start writing WOW.

What has kept you online?

The people! I have met so many really great people, both subscribers and staff. Many have become close personal friends. I have access to better E-mail, better news with national and world coverage, but no where in cyberspace have I found better people. That's what makes StarText so neat. It is an information service that has never forgotten the people side of business.

What are the rewards of writing a column on-line?

There are so many it is hard to list them all. First of course there is the ego thing. It is quite a feeling the first few times you see a column on-line with your own byline. Then there is that continuous shock that comes from realizing people really want to read what you write. There is the challenge of trying to put out quality work with accurate information and keep to an update schedule. Self-discipline is a lesson I am still learning in life.

But by far the most rewarding thing is the interaction with the readers. The thank you note when you solve a users problem's via E-mail that has had them stumped for hours, the tips and ideas that readers pass on and the whole interaction that goes on daily with StarText users. Writing a column starts out being a fun idea, may become a chore a little later down the line, and soon there after becomes an integral part of your life. I don't think I could ever walk away from writing the column, it is just too much fun.

Tell us how you came to be an on-line correspondent at COMDEX?

That is an interesting story. I first attended COMDEX in the Fall of 1991. I was amazed to say the very least. When I got home most of my next columns centered around COMDEX and the things I saw there. It was then the idea hit me to do an on-line column the following year. I was hooked on COMDEX and knew that no matter what, I was returning to Fall'92 COMDEX. I proposed the idea to Mike Holland [an editor at StarText] and he seemed receptive but needed more information. You see, it was my idea to cover COMDEX with a Press Pass as a true columnist.

In the summer of 1992 I received the application and Press requirements and was pleasantly surprised to learn that free lance writers were included along with on-line services. Mike saw no problem at all and soon everything was set up. Keywords were set up to upload to and I borrowed a laptop from a friend and was off to the show. I would tour the show and exhibits all day, hit a few of the after-show activities and then return to the hotel room to write the column and upload it to StarText so it would be on-line first thing the next morning.

After the second column, an amazing thing happened! I would upload the column and then check E-mail for news from friends back home. What I was finding was questions and comments from readers about things I had mentioned in the previous column or things they would like me to look for. Since I didn't have a printer in the hotel room, I would write down the questions and put them in my jacket to research the next day. That night I would upload a column and then write E-mail answers back to the readers who had written questions. I call this "interactive journalism" for lack of a better term.

It was amazing the reception it got. Readers would write and say that they felt like they were there on the floor, and the vendors and manufacturers reactions were enthusiastic as well. They loved it when they learned that a new product of theirs was written about and that people in Ft. Worth, Texas were interested enough to be writing E-mail questions.

In 1993 StarText really promoted the COMDEX series on-line and in two great articles that Christine Gonzales did in INK magazine. The results were fantastic! I was fortunate enough to have my best friend with me, Ricardo Salinas, who is also a StarText subscriber and quite handy with a camera. So we even had a photo layout to bring back for INK. The reader response was overwhelming to the whole concept. I can't wait till November and do it all over again.

How did you get involved in the [StarText] SIG [Special Interest Group]? Why do you do it?

Now there is one StarText activity I can't blame on Jerry Holmes! Doug Gohrie of the North Texas PC Users Group invited StarText to his Communications SIG in honor of the [StarText] 10th Anniversary. Since it was announced on-line, and open to anyone, a large group of StarText subscribers attended. Doug was amazed at the turnout and since he was the President-elect of NTPCUG he informed the group that we could create our own StarText SIG. All we needed was two members to volunteer to lead it.

Bev Kurtin and I had our hands raised before anyone could blink an eye! A monthly StarText users meeting, you bet! Bev and I co-led the SIG for quite awhile and when she had to cut back on some of her activities, I assumed the SIG leader position. I wasn't alone for long. Bill Jones quickly volunteered to help me any way he could and has done a fantastic job writing the STARSIG keyword and keeping the NTPCUG Newsletter and BBS updated on SIG happenings.

Why do I do it? Again, because it is fun. It is a challenge to coordinate a monthly meeting that is fun, provocative and informing. Without the great cooperation of the StarText Staff, I would be lost some months. Christy Jeter has been fantastic in supporting the SIG and Paul Harral never misses a meeting. There have been some meetings when I think the whole staff has been present except for who ever had weekend duty.

Staff and users contribute suggestions for future SIG meeting topics and the embarrassing thing is, a lot of the times they are on features of StarText I know nothing or very little about. Talk about getting an education quickly. You would be amazed how much I have learned about the system just so I could put on a plausible presentation of a particular area or feature. The exchange of information and ideas between Staff, columnists, and users is really what gives the SIG it's substance. Again it's the people. StarText without people is just words on a screen. That's something this system will never be.

Tell us about yourself: job, interests, kind of computer you use etc.

Well, first of all, I am Yankee by birth and Texan by choice. I moved here in 1980 and fell in love with Texas and Arlington. My family lives in Rochester, New York but my home is in Texas. I currently own my own computer consulting company, Polywebb Enterprise, and have an interest in and serve as General Manager of Secure Planning Corporation in Arlington. My wife Aliza works for Sky Chefs and my stepsons Ron and Neil are both in college. My own children, Jim and Terry, are married and settled in the Rochester, N. Y. area. Terry is expecting her first child this September, so I guess I am going to be a Grampa. I am sure it won't be long after that that Jim and his wife decide to do the same. Boy that makes me feel old!

My main hobby of course is computers. I get withdrawal symptoms if I am away from a keyboard too long. I am a member of the Computer Press Association and enjoy writing computer-related columns and articles. I play a lousy round of golf but I do it as a public service. Heck, I have found property on golf courses they didn't know they owned and we won't discuss the number of balls I have "float", tested for manufacturers. Unfortunately none have stayed above water for more than 10 seconds.

This last Memorial Day weekend I got to go sailing again. First time in 20 some years. Now that is a hobby I would like to be able to devote a lot more time to. But probably my most enjoyable leisure time is spent reading. I have always felt that a day that I don't learn something new is a day wasted in my life. Fortunately I was taught at an early age the magic of books and reading. I have an extensive collection of autographed books and my computer CD collection is comparable to any home library. My home computer system is a 486-50 that I constructed myself. It contains a 2 gigabyte hard drive and CD-ROM and full multimedia setup. I use a color printer, laser printer, color scanner, and even have a video capture card that allows me to watch TV while I work. And of course everything runs under Windows.

If you wave a magic wand, what changes would you make on Startext?

OK, you asked for it. The first thing I would do is give this magazine concept the burial it so longly has deserved. I would make the system feel like an AP newswire. News would come as fast as possible with no limit to the number of articles. Yesterday's news would be in the reference room, today's news would be flowing like a river. Along with this I would install a clipping retrieval service, where the system would capture any story or article containing user set keywords and store those articles in a personal area of the system for later retrieval.

The next thing I would do is tie the school subscriptions in with a responsible student interested in sports, especially on Friday night in the fall. High school football scores would be on-line minutes after the end of the game and well ahead of the 10 o'clock news on TV.

The next step would be to blur the distinction between StarText and the Star-Telegram. Columns would appear on both services whether they were StarText subscriber columns or Star-Telegram staff columnists. I would also encourage others to take up where the COMDEX series has left off in the field of interactive journalism. I dream of the day when we can have reporters at political conventions and other local and state activities, reporting on-line and fielding readers questions back to the delegates and participants. I would expand this interview area to include local, state and national elected and appointed officials answering user submitted questions.

I would open gateways on-line to other community service and information BBS such as the Fort Worth City BBS, the Arlington and Plano Police BBS, the Dallas real estate BBS, and the Texas State Department of Commerce BBS, to name just a few. A sort of local Internet or StarNet as I call it.

These are changes that could be implemented immediately or in the near future. As for the far flung changes, I would have StarText traveling over fiber optics lines of a local cable system connected to an RF Modem on my computer. The system would serve news and information with full stereo sound, pictures, and full motion video along with up to the second text. Through interactivity with the Internet, the system would not only have the latest local news for the Metroplex but the latest news for any place, in any part of the world. World wide e-mail would be second nature to everyone. Since the system would be using cable lines for distribution it would also be available to anyone with a TV set as a one way news service. And through it all StarText would still remain the people-oriented system that has made it so great all these years. The sense of belonging and the feeling of community are things that must never change but be nurtured and allowed to grow.

Post Script.

Shortly after this was done, Christy Jones hooked me up with Dave Lieber, the Star-Telegram’s most popular columnist. I started an archive of Dave’s columns on StarText, worked on his Yankee Cowboy site and developed Dave’s Video Column, the first regular scheduled video column by a newspaper columnist. Do you remember buffering, buffering, buffering … as Dave fondly calls it.

Of course the saying around the house became “another fine mess Lieber got me into” culminating in my joining the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and serving on the Board of Directors for 10 years. Eight of those years as the Web Master. I still retain both my Lifetime Member status and strong friendship with Dave.

Family wise, Aliza and I still live at the same address, she retired a few years ago from Sky Chef’s and I have worked the last 11 years as Senior System Specialist for Freeman, (country’s largest trade show contractor).

All the kids are married and I now have 4 grand children, two in upstate New York and two in Georgia. Aliza is of course hoping for more.

Hobbies haven’t changed except for the addition of gardening and landscaping. I still maintain Polywebb Enterprise on a small scale and occasionally do some beta testing of new software and hardware.

Indirectly through StarText (remember the contests and give aways?) I became a loyal TCU Football fan and attend every home game. I had to upgrade the cable package last year so I could get the away games, too.

I am also a huge NASCAR fan and have permanent seats at Texas Motor Speedway. Favorite drivers are Mark Martin and Matt Kennseth, while Aliza is partial to Kasey Kahne

After hearing from Gerry and seeing the StarText blog, my newest project will be sorting through my archive of StarText columns and memorabilia to supply to Gerry for the blog.

What a trip down memory lane as I discover columns and pages I created from Interactive activities, StarSig meetings etc. Do you remember the Tarantula Train Trip or the Ice Cream social at Thistle Hill? How about the Rangers Ballgame Outing or the Lego display at the Museum trip. Yep, I got pictures from them all.

Do you still have the infamous StarText 300 Baud modem that was given out to new subscribers, or the Christmas Tree Ornaments, or how about the StarText coffee cup or T-Shirt. Got all of them, too. I will be sending Gerry pictures in the near future to add to the blog. And when the weather cools off a little, up in the attic I have a few copies of INK that I saved for my kids because I was mentioned in them.

[Yes indeed, Jim, I do remember the subscriber parties, the giveaways, the merchandise and those 300-baud modems which for the record were really 1200-baud. We do thank you for the memories and look forward to more, including the photos.]

1 comment:

  1. Gosh, this does bring back some of the greatest memories I have ever had. Thanks to Jim and Gerry for making these dreams come true!