The basic idea of a defect model of photoconversion by an oxygen impurity in semi-insulating GaAs, proposed in an earlier paper, is described in a systematic way. All experiments related to this defect, including high-resolution spectroscopic measurements, piezospectroscopic study, and recent measurements on electronic energy levels, are explained on the basis of this defect model. The predictions of the model are in good agreement with the experiments. A special negative-U mechanism in this defect is discussed in detail with an emphasis on the stability of the charge states. The theoretical basis of using a self-consistent bond-orbital model in the calculation is also given.