Among the Irish, a wake was a tradition for saying good-bye at the passing of old friends and family. They celebrate the life of the honored guest and are an opportunity for those attending to reminisce between themselves anecdotes that marked the life of their departed friend. Illuminating the passage into legend by remembering the personal experiences shared with friends and family, an occasion to enjoy a libation and let the memories flow as well, I am sure Tom would approve of a wake in his honor. AVSIM is, after all, his home and we his friends. Join us then and raise a glass to Mr. Thomas Verne Allensworth.
We were all taken by surprise by Tom's sudden death. Personally, I never got to say “thank you." There are many volunteers, friends, and community members who worked hard with Tom through the years to advance a project we know as AVSIM Online. Those same individuals must feel much like myself, possessing a very great debt of gratitude. In the two weeks since he passed away, thousands of condolence notices have come in from the four corners of the world—except China of course (more on that later). Looking at the condolences expressed by the community was more than touching, in fact it was revealing. Winston Churchill had a way with words and it was one of his quotes that came to mind as I thought about Tom Allensworth’s contributions,“Never was so much owed by so many to so few."
It is only in retrospect that one comes to understand much of what we have come to know as the hobby of flight simulation was first imagined and developed by Tom. Since AVSIM's inception over 15 years ago, a website and an entire industry came of age. This growth was mostly through interaction between the end user and the creative souls who honed their skills by communicating and interacting through the various forums on how to develop and improve the products we enjoy today. Very few are the professional grade developers who did not first start by designing freeware. These same professionals banded together into groups and companies and formed the flight simulation industry, as we know it today.
Who was this founding father of simulation? The Tom I knew was not a Saint, nor would Tom have anyone believe thus. Tom could be counted on to exacerbate any clash of wills. What drove Tom’s passion for AVSIM and the hobby we love? I never understood Tom's motivations until he retired—AVSIM was his hobby. There was seemingly nothing he liked to play with more than AVSIM. Many of us will remember when the website was renovated and there was a period of a couple of years beginning in 2011, where we were constantly treated to new elements, formats and artwork. Staff and community members in both public and private often discussed the look and feel of AVSIM. Some ideas worked out wonderfully, although they did take some time to find their final form. However, other ideas were not meant to be. Does anybody remember the new library that was to be launched within the forum environment? Thought not. However, taken as a whole, the training and open communication necessary for implementation of this new library and all the other ideas brought Tom and the AVSIM Staff closer together.
We all have our bugbears; Tom’s was spam. He took spamming personally. In retrospect, our Board of Director's email traffic was often buzzing about attacks from various countries—on a few occasions the topics were about individuals who had a bone to pick with AVSIM. Most annoying to Tom was when multiple accounts were being used to riddle the forums with personal drama and private messages with taunts and challenges to do something about it. To never see a battle won by the miscreants, Tom needed to sift through the IP addresses of all new members. As a result of the actions of a few bad sticks, we now have wait periods and other software to keep AVSIM spam free. However, for years that was a mission, often thankless. Until last week the entire country of China could not sign in because it was from China the majority of spam attacks were delivered upon AVSIM .
Where was the community going before Tom's premature departure is a question being asked now that he isn't here any longer to guide us. AVSIM's intention was to make room for all of the platforms for flight simulation and promote their releases and practices. Each simulator is created by man and thus equally flawed. It's our mission as a community to find the issues, offer the solutions, provide a place where dialog can broach distances in an instant and provide a place where ideas can flourish in common cause. It's a noble endeavor and required years of effort to achieve what Tom accomplished by creating AVSIM.
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning," –Winston Churchill
It's up to us now; Tom was AVSIM in more ways than we can appreciate. One truly discovers the depth of Tom's commitment by seeing and knowing AVSIM for what we have done, who we are, and where we as the community are going. Keeping AVSIM going will take a community. It is our earnest hope his legacy can continue. It isn't going to be easy and we are counting on the membership to be more involved than ever.
In closing and maintaining the tradition of a wake, it would be appreciated if the members would consider posting an anecdote or reminiscence that illuminates the man himself. Tom left a good many emails and even more memories, he left no one indifferent to himself or his hobby, AVSIM.