Grex was created by users from the M-Net system in Ann Arbor, MI, who had grown discontent with how that system was run. The text below was "lifted" from the Coop Conference in about 1994 from an item about the history of Grex; a far more complete history can be found on Dr. Jan Wolter's personal site.

#3 of 15: by STeve Andre' (steve) on Fri, Dec 17, 1993 (10:41): Actually Tim, that isn't right. Marcus and I first starting talking about "another" conferencing system in town as early as 1987. That doesn't include other folks conversations either. So there really was thought of something other than M-Net for quite a few years before Grex happened. During the founder's meetings, it did appear that M-Net really was going to die. To state that it was kite's fault is too simple. There were a lot of factors in there, all mixed together.

#4 of 15: by Rane Curl (rcurl) on Fri, Dec 17, 1993 (22:26): Tell us the story, Steve.

#5 of 15: by TS Taylor (tsty) on Sun, Dec 19, 1993 (01:49): OH, boy .... it's almost a PhD dissertation in and of itself, which some socal "scientist" might consider ......... From the outsider's perspective, which is all I have even having listened to several varities of POV, xD there really is +no+ simple answer/story. Quoting STeve, "there wer a lot of factors in there, all mixed together," and that's almost an understatement.

#6 of 15: by Valerie Mates (popcorn) on Sun, Dec 19, 1993 (11:05): The short version is: Back when M-Net was the only conferencing system in town it was owned first by Mike Myers, then by Dave Parks. Dave had a tendency to expect the users to spontaneously send in money to keep the system running, without being asked, and he used to get upset when the bills came in and the user donations didn't. He would often decide to shut the system down, forever, on 3 hours notice or less. One angel or another always came through and saved the system from financial ruin, but the angels all wore out after rescuing the system a couple of times. Meanwhile, the threatened shutdowns left people leery of sending in $150 for a year's patronship on a system that might be shut down tomorrow. Dave Parks is a wonderful, kind, caring person (I like him a lot as a person) but his policies as a system owner tended to come across as autocratic and abrupt.

A group of a dozen users met weekly for six months, planning a new system, owned by its members and founded on slow, group decisionmaking. We ate lots of pot luck dinners together and planned lots of idealistic ideas about how Grex would work. We located the hardware and a space to put it in. We incorporated as Cyberspace Communications, Inc., and we picked out the name Grex. We hashed out plans for how the users would control the system, placing incredible care in setting up a mechanism which users could use to change any rules of the system.

I remember vividly the founders meeting on the night when the US first bombed Iraq. It was hard to concentrate on issues as mundane as a computer system.

The twelve founders were: Denise Anderson (denise), Steve Andre (steve), Misti Anslin (mta), Tom Doehne (arthur), Brian Dunkle (bad), Valerie Mates (popcorn), Marc Unangst (mju) (our token minor), John Remmers (remmers), Mary Remmers (chelsea) (or was she Mary Valdivia at the time?), Fred Sleator, Mike Smerza (morel), and Marcus Watts (mdw). Glenda Andre was present at lots of meetings, too.

We worried that users wouldn't feel a sense of ownership in the system, so we held a big "Friends of Grex ('FOG')" meeting at Island Park shortly before the system opened. Quite a number of M-Net users showed up. There were a couple of issues the founders hadn't come to any decision on, so we worked these issues out at the FOG meeting to practice group decision making face to face. The first fairwitnesses of the Agora conference were chosen: Katie Geddes and Larry Kestenbaum.

That was two and a half years ago. It's been about 3 years since the first founders meetings. Grex has grown past my wildest dreams. I'd figured it would remain no bigger than an expensive playground for the founders. Instead, today there are hundreds of users and a thriving system. I am pleased.

#7 of 15: by Dan Romanchik (danr) on Sun, Dec 19, 1993 (11:09): Here's my take on the Dave Parks controversy.

M-Net, like Grex, is fairly expensive to operate. M-Net is undoubtedly more expensive because they have more phone lines. These bills were Parks' responsibility because he owned m-net lock, stock, and barrel.

At one point, the bills got to be too much for him, and he started turning up the heat in getting people to donate. (Parks and his predecessor, Mike Myers, had always accepted donaations, but prior to this point were always pretty laid back about soliciting.) Every other day it seemed like he would threaten to pull the plug unless users started sending donations. He actually took the system off-line a couple of times as I remember.

Parks got himself into a real Catch 22 with this strategy. He wanted people to donate, and yet kept threatening to cease operation. Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this was not the smartest approach to easing his financial crisis. I, for one, was not going to send him a cent until I could be guaranteed that the system was going to be around for a while.

Parks' other problem was that he wanted to have his cake and eat it, too. He wanted people to send him money, yet he did not want to release any financial information about the system, nor did he want to give people any control over the system. It was his fiefdom, and he wanted to keep it that way, AND he wanted the users to pay for it.

These were the conditions that led to the formation of Grex and the M-Net/Arbornet groups. The users that formed the M=Net/Arbornet group purchased the system from Dave and moved it to the space where we plan to move soon. That's about all I can say about M-net/Arbornet; I never got involved with their politics.

#8 of 15: by Dan Romanchik (danr) on Sun, Dec 19, 1993 (11:11): Valerie's response slipped in. Good thing we didn't contradict one another. :)

#9 of 15: by Josh Grosse (jdg) on Sun, Dec 19, 1993 (13:50): You may need a little more information on the financial arrangement between Parks and Myers. It helps explain Dave's actions a little bit more -- at the least, it gives a motive. Dave "rescued" M-Net from Mike by paying what everyone (else) thought was a price well above market value for the equipment and software. Dave justified this to himself by thinking he'd bought a lot of goodwill and market value. This turned out not to be the case. The goodwill lasted until the first threatened shutdown, and the market value lasted only until the market found other avenues. As we all know, personality conflicts exacerbated things, too.

#10 of 15: by Patricia Snyder-Rayl (pegasus) on Sun, Dec 19, 1993 (20:27): The concept was good... a local pay BBS ... but it would seem the execution of the concept was a little less than desirable. Well, I'm just as glad to have Grex here, no matter the circumstances!

#11 of 15: by John H. Remmers (remmers) on Sun, Dec 19, 1993 (22:02): It's interesting that once Grex went on-line to the public, it was not very much longer that M-Net remained a single-owner system. I suspect that the existence of Grex was a significant factor in Dave's decision to sell M-Net for a price that someone was willing to pay. Ironically, it was about two or three months after Grex started up that M-Net was purchased by a group and re-organized as a non-profit corporation along lines similar to Grex.