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.]

The Amazing Jack Kishpaugh

It was a call I'll never forget.

It was in the first year that StarText launched. When I answered, the enthusiastic voice on the other end of the line said, "Thank God for StarText!"

Momentarily taken aback, I said thank you. Then added quickly, "Why do you say that?"

The caller didn't hestitate.

"Ten years ago I dove into a pool and hit my neck on the bottom. I haven't moved since. Thanks to StarText I can read a newspaper again without spreading it out across the floor."

The caller's name was Jack Kispaugh.

That tragic accident left Jack a quadripelgic, confined to a wheelchair and unable to move. Through computer-assisted technology Jack helped to pioneer, he was able to not only read news from the computer screen but also lead a semi-normal life.

StarText as a aide for the physically challenged -- it was something Joe or myself never considered or imagined. But what a wonderful side benefit for an online newspaper. We would later discover StarText also was making a difference in the lives of the blind.

Over the years Jack became a regular at StarText subscriber meetings. In turn, we did all we could to support the organization he founded, The Center for Computer Assistance to the Disbaled (CCAD), in Dallas. Despite challenges most of us will never know, Jack was forever cheerful and smiling, doing ever-more amazing things with the technology.

Jack passed away in 1999, But he left a legacy that will reach far into the future.

This is Jack's obiturary, reprinted here with the kind permission of the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News:

November 11, 1999

Carrollton, Texas - John "Jack" Kishpaugh, 69, of Carrollton, a pioneer in the field of assistive technology for disabled people, died Oct. 29 in Dallas Veterans Hospital.

Kishpaugh, formerly of Hershey, Pa., was the founder and director emeritus of the Center for Computer Assistance to the Disabled and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.

He became a quadriplegic in 1971 when his spinal cord was severed in a swimming-pool diving accident.

"He was told by physicians that he would only live a few years after his accident," said his brother, the Rev. Howard Kispaugh of Hershey, a retired Episcopal priest and former rector of All Saints Church, Hershey.

"He painstakingly learned to operate a typewriter and calculator [with an oral device]. His foundation teaches people to be independent."

The Rev. Kispaugh said his brother, "did a lot in getting the American Disabilities Act started."

"It was quite a tragic thing that happened to him, but he made a very good adaptation to his paralysis," said his sister, Dr. Marjorie Pool of Mechanicsburg, a retired pediatrician. "It did not affect his mind."

A native of Pittsburgh, he graduated from Greenbrier Military Academy, Lewisburg, W. Va., in 1948 and attended Babson Institute of Business, Boston, Mass.

He was a Pennsylvania Army National Guard veteran of the Korean War and an Army Reserve veteran of the Vietnam War. In Vietnam, he was a Ranger and intelligence officer with the 101st Airborne Division.

He earned a bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration at California Western University.

In 1967, he joined Allis-Chalmers Corp. as western regional manager in its Mining and Construction Equipment Group. While with Allis-Chalmers, he suffered the catastrophic injury that changed the direction of his life.

He became an executive search specialist for a national recruiting firm. In 1977, he recognized the potential of the personal computer and attended night courses, during which he became aware of computer applications for handicapped people.

In 1980, he designed and built the first Mobile Computer Skills Evaluation Unit. The unit is used to identify and evaluate aptitude for learning marketable computer skills and to provide computer training for severely handicapped, homebound individuals.

In 1981, he received national recognition in Johns Hopkins' first national search for personal computer application to aid the handicapped people. His entry was a regional first-place winner and national award winner.

Kishpaugh founded and chartered the Center for Computer Assistance to the Disabled in 1982. The nonprofit organization's mission is to enhance the quality of life and employment options of disabled people through modified personal computers, adaptive devices and custom software.

Until his retirement in January 1997, he administered the program from a customized wheelchair and from his bed, operating an elaborate environmental control center that allowed him to write, communicate and monitor home activities.

His entry in the Smithsonian Institution's Computer World Competition received national recognition. That entry, titled "Innovative Applications for Computer Technology," is part of the Smithsonian's American History Section.

He was the only quadriplegic certified as a personnel consultant by the National Association of Personnel Consultants, for his role in influencing employment possibilities for disabled people with large and small employers. He wrote more than 100 published articles on disability issues.

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