By GERRY BARKER
(Originally published July, 2009)
Odds are good you have never heard the name "StarText" and have no idea what it is, or was.
That's not surprising. A little like "Star Wars," it all happened a long time ago (in Internet years) in a cyber-galaxy far, far away (as cyber-galaxies go, at least.)
Think of StarText as a mini-version of the Internet, more than a decade before the World Wide Web made the scene. It was known under many names: One of the first online newspapers; a BBS (Bulletin Board Service); the "instant news that doesn't rub off on your hands" and as one StarText customer termed it, "the best bargain since nickel parking in Cleburne." (Cleburne, Texas -- look it up.)
In the days before the Web, there were thousands of Bulletin Board Services and a handful of major online networks, like CompuServe and The Source, rushing to connect people around the world. But I would like to submit for your consideration: StarText stood apart. It was in many ways -- different. In a word ... special.
In the many years that have passed since StarText made its debut -- May 3, 1982 -- technology has moved on and so have the people who conceived, built and used StarText. But as one of those pioneers who opted to "go West" when the Internet wasn't even a twinkle in the eye of a modem, it's that "specialness" that deserves to be told.
For lifelong journalists, like myself, there's also a bit of irony. Here was a newspaper, its industry much maligned of late for its utter indifference to changing audiences and its failure to adapt, launching an online version of itself many years before there was a Net. Some of us did see it coming. We jettisoned our newsroom careers and put our hearts and minds into making it happen. But obviously it hasn't been enough -- so far. The forever echoes of what might have been ...
That's part of the story as well. And another facet to be explored.
This effort is lovingly dedicated to the workers, subscribers and followers of StarText, all the special people who made it special. And on a personal note, to my wonderful soulmate and wife, Pam, who endured more than I'll ever know while her husband followed his dream. This is for her, and all of you.
Introduction and Overview
The Story of StarText: 1981
Includes the story of BISON (Belo Information Systems Online)
The Story of StarText: 1982
Includes the story of the Viewtron agreement
The Story of StarText: 1983
StarText and Tandy part ways.
The Story of StarText: 1984
Subscribers top 1,000; new software launches.
The Story of StarText: 1985
HomeBanking, online encycloedia and more.
The Story of StarText: 1986
StarText hits profitability.
StarText and Gary Arlen
We can't wait for 1990 ... 2010 ... and 2020!
StarText joins the industry conference circuit.