Friday, July 24, 2009

The Story of StarText: 1985 - Part Two

When May, 1985 rolled around, StarText hit another milestone: It turned three on May 3.

As StarText Director Joe Donth noted in "Joe's Place" (his monthly column in StarText INK), "Amazing! Three years! ... In many respects, the past three years (and before) has been like a marriage. At least in the respect of the amount of time that I and the staff have put into this venture we call StarText."

In that same issue we asked subscribers, many who had been with us almost from the start, to reflect on the past three years. Here's a sampling of what they told us:

From Le Roy Thompson, Jr, ID 1616: "The StarText of today bears little resemblance to the StarText of April, 1983, when I first subscribed. The people of StarText were then and still are the secret of a successful operation. By successful, I mean satisfied customers. The management and staff's responsiveness to problems and suggestions is unparalleled by any other organization I know of. You continue to improve StarText and make it more interesting."

From Suzanne Stone, ID 1634: "My husband Robert was the 127th subscriber to StarText, back in December of 1982 or January of 1983. . . The 'old' StarText seems like a real dinosaur in comparison to the service we now enjoy. It seems really funny to me now that when the E-mail service was first announced I was a bit skeptical, thinking 'I don't know any other subscribers. Who in the world would I ever send a letter to?' That was several hundred letters ago. Anyway, StarText has come quite a long way from its beginnings and I really enjoy being a subscriber."

From Charles Gill, ID 1296: "As one of the earliest members of StarText, and having the honor of being the first Dallas subscriber, I want to wish a Happy Birthday (3 years) to StarText and to the people who made it happen. I recall way back when ... I fired up my little Timex computer and called long distance to Ft. Worth and my modem answered the StarText modem and I had a choice of requesting WORLD NEWS or WORLD NEWS. That's about all there was ... I guess it was a good thing too, because if there had been more to choose and read ... my phone bill would be more than I could afford. ... before I come to a close I just want to say I predict StarText has just begun to grow and someday in the not too distant future will become a giant."

By the way, every subscriber was issued an ID number and a password which they used to access StarText. A low number meant you were among the first subscribers, which became a point of pride for many. And a reason to keep renewing. If you let your subscription lapse you could loose your number. For the record, the first number on the system was Joe's -- ID 1009. Mine was the second number issued, ID 1018.

In that same issue of INK I too reflected on the previous three years, using the occasion to wax philosophical as I acknowledged the people who had made StarText possible, not the least of whom was Joe.

"I remember one conversation ... in which Joe lamented how few people would ever set foot inside the halls of the magnificent library at Harvard. All that knowledge ... that only a select few would ever share. But one day in the future, systems like StarText would change all that. We could place that knowledge within the reach of everyone. Talk about an Information Revolution!"

Less than a decade later, the World Wide Web helped us realize that dream.

The other big news that month was the announcement we were replacing the metro lines with local line service in Dallas. By locating a multiplexer and modem bank in Dallas, we could both save money and increase the number of lines serving our Dallas customer base.

Subscriber-wise, our count at mid-year stood at 1,653, a jump of almost 25% from where we ended 1984.

Editor Christine Russell was soliciting writers to pen our second chain novel, which would kick off in June. You'll recall our literary volunteers are each assigned to write a chapter, pretty much guaranteeing the narrative will move forward in totally unpredictable ways.

Another big piece of news: We hired a new programmer named Larry Groebe. You should know Larry, a recent newlywed, is my "partner in crime" for this StarText history project. He promises to show up here with more regularity in the future.

Now, what about that "big project" that was "looming on the horizon?"

Stay tuned. That's next.