A recollection of his life by his parents
JAMES JESSIMAN (1971-1997)
James was our first son, born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia on 8th July 1971. From a very young age he was good company; he listened and seem to adapt to the other person's mood. He took a keen interest in mechanical things and block-building, always wanting to know how things really worked; also he enjoyed cooking, combining ingredients and getting something different at the end ' it was a chemical experiment.
When Robyn, his mother returned to some part-time work, James was minded by a neighbour for a couple of hours some days and she said of him, 'one day his head will go in the oven and not the scones', so interested was he.
At pre-school he did not participate in the games of the other children, he preferred to watch, but inside he would always go for the Lego building blocks.
James attended Turvey Park Public School for several years. He did not really like school, preferring to be home building and testing. Eventually we were called up to the school to be told to cut down on the home mental stimulation as the school could not compete. He was transferred to South Wagga Public School where his interests and talents were better catered for. At the time we were doing house renovations, and a cement-mixer was installed in the front garden. James viewed it from every angle, then disappeared upstairs and returned with a diagram of how it worked. Working Bees at Robyn's school saw James and Richard, his younger brother, helping check on the drainage systems for which there were no plans, and James learned, by peering down all the inspection holes exactly which way the water went, and knew more about the plan than any of the adults. His head was the first in place to look!
It was always easy to buy Christmas and Birthday presents for James ' Lego, Lego, Lego. At age 7 we bought him a Technic Lego car; it was made very quickly, and when James brought it downstairs, Don remarked, 'but it's a left-hand drive, James' - a few minutes later it was down again, this time as a right-hand drive car.
It was at Robyn's school too that James came into contact with some of the earliest computers and he was fascinated. Educational Lego was beginning to be introduced into the NSW School System, and an Inservice was held for teachers in the Riverina to teach them how to use this Lego in conjunction with a computer programme to operate the mechanics. Robyn asked if James could attend and he did. One activity was to use Lego parts to produce a windscreen wiper ' James made one which was totally different from anyone else's but which worked better, and the instructor took James' with him. When the computer was set up to operate a fork-lift, and assemblyline set-up in a Lego factory, the instructor showed the beginning of the operation, then asked if anyone would like to try ' James obliged; others were asked, but refused, saying they were learning better from James and could he continue!
James went on the St Michael's Regional High School for the first stage of secondary education. Although he still did not enjoy school, he did show talent in Maths and Science. During each of his High School years the Westpac Bank held Mathematics Competitions nationally, and he was awarded a Prize each Year. At the first of these he won a VZ300 computer. He also won a free place at Macquarie University, a week on Artificial Intelligence.
At the end of his secondary education he attended Charles Sturt University beginning a degree in Applied Science. He did very well in his first year there, and in the second half of the year was asked if he would like to Tutor final year external students during their Inservice Course. This he did, and when the allocated funds for this tutoring ran out, the students asked James if he would give them some more tutoring and they would pay him themselves and organize the room.
James found the university course work a bit boring; he preferred hands on and practical; he still attended extension Maths courses once a week at his old school and such things he enjoyed. He purchased Rivtron Computers, a business building and servicing computers and printers and selling hardware and software and he enjoyed himself as his own boss. He was not suited to working for someone from 9-5 and he would work flat out and at terrific speed for 3 hours and then he would have to go sound asleep for 20 minutes and get up and go again. Many a time he would be tripped over as he slept on the floor in the back of the shop, his head on a printer box or a couple of keyboard boxes. He joined the local Amateur Radio Club of which his grandfather was a member, and enjoyed going out on Field Days and communicating via wireless with the other members. He did a Technical College Course to gain his full Radio operator's licence including Morse Code, more to show an interest in his grandfather's hobby, we think, than anything else. It was often said that if James was ever lost he would be taken back to Rex, his grandfather, their natures and mannerisms were so similar. At this time he also began a TAFE course, a more technical course than the one at university. It appealed to him more and he soon was given half the class to teach while the paid teacher took the other half.
During his time running Rivtron he also began his interest in computer generated Lego building. He would try one computer language after another, but found most did not do all the things he wanted them to. Eventually he found one which did and off he went. Of course, all this was done outside normal working hours; James' routine was to come home from work about 6pm, sleep until tea-time, work on the computer until 2 or 3am and go back to sleep.
Rivtron Computers continued to flourish and so did LDraw and LEdit. By this stage, James had decided to give his creations to the world. When his father asked if this was really what he wanted, he replied 'Dad, it's a toy, not a business.' Following the posting on the NET, James thought that others would draw new parts for themselves. However, nearly everyone found it easier to ask James to draw for them. This he did gleefully with up to thirty new parts being created per day in response to emailed requests from all over the world. He was very happy when filling the requests. During this time, James often commented that he daily expected the Lego Company to intervene to halt his LDraw activities. They never did.
On 25th July 1997, James died of influenza after a very brief illness. He had just celebrated his 26th Birthday the previous month. It was an extremely sad day for many, especially his parents and his only sibling Richard. The messages of condolence provided an insight into the diversity and geographical spread of the people this young man had touched. James's parents are still sad but never angry. We still marvel at the '26 beautiful years we did enjoy.'
The amazing story does not end there. Shortly after James's death, the community of LDraw fans organised a website to encourage each other and promote and monitor the creation of new parts. To this point, this function had been fulfilled by James. This was the beginning of the LDraw explosion. A number of other programmers wrote adaptations and enhancements of LDraw. One remarkable and very pleasing fact about this phase is that all such programmers have followed James's lead in allowing free public access to their work. 'IT'S A TOY, NOT A BUSINESS.'