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Featuring Jim Maxey
Jim Maxey in one of his offices in Lake Oswego about 1992

Jim Maxey is arguably one of the best known names during the BBS era (1978 to 1995). He operated one of the world's largest and certainly the most successful Bulletin Board System, Event Horizons BBS from 1983 to 1996.

Event Horizons was not the first BBS, but without doubt it was the best known and by far the most financially successful BBS and also one of the most creative and innovative BBS's world-wide.

According to the UK publication, The Economist, Event Horizons Inc annual sales reached 3.2 million dollars in the early 1990's, four years before the World Wide Web.

Jim Maxey

Jim Maxey founded Event Horizons in 1983. and has been featured on a number of television programs, including "A Current Affair", "BBC Television", "ABC Newswatch", "Science Digest", "The Computer Chronicles", "Nova", "The Science Channel", and "The Discovery Channel". Some of the information published here was taken from those programs and are now in print for the first time.

He has talked about being awarded custody of his toddler daughter and struggled to make ends meet. Before becoming so successful, Maxey was a university English teacher, TV Broadcast Engineer in late 1978 but said he preferred working as a television journalist. Early on, he was a disc jockey, then a television news reporter (Texas?) sometime in the mid 1980's. He also worked for the Army Research Institute at Fort Hood, Texas where he helped create training videos about the Army M1 tank using enlisted personnel to identify the enemy using Thermal Imaging.

In one interview, Maxey indicated his graphics career began from experiments with US army tank models using graphics to replace or simulate moving targets. On The Science Channel and in an interview published on The Boston Sun, Maxey talked about moving back to Oregon in 1987. Event Horizons had already existed for a few years. Later in life Maxey lecured on various subjects including Socialism, Utopia, History, and Photography, a rather wide list of topics.

He settled down with his daughter (where he was apparently the local Girl Scout Leader in Lake Oswego, Oregon), a lowly book editor, an animal rights activist, and began to develop ways to make Event Horizons more profitable.

Jim Maxey's accomplishments include:

  1. Created the first computerized "Movie" on a PC. The movie was a succession of frames from a NASA launch, available to download on Event Horizons BBS or by mail on floppy disc.
  2. Created the very first PC color images with the new EGA format, which preceded the VGA format.
  3. In 1987 Maxey coined the term "SuperVGA" with the first high-resolution images profiled on PC Magazine's "After Hours".
  4. Created the first online Dating Service in 1983 as advertised in a local newspaper.
  5. Authored the award winning "Voyager III", an educational adventure into space, that actually taught Astronomy and even used as educational instruction in some classrooms around the United States. The adventure was profiled on the cover of Boardwatch magazine.
  6. Created the clever, original, and incredibly popular online game, "The Black Hole" where users would blindly travel hidden areas on the BBS to be challenged intellectually and emotionally.
  7. Teamed with Compuserve for access to Even Horizons and offered many 800 lines for paid access to the BBS, a first of its kind and dramatic for its scope so early.
  8. Created a surprisingly intelligent online AI (artificial intelligence) program where users would spend hours asking questions and interacting with a computerized game with a female personality. Some users reported as being shocked at the accuracy and precision of the AI responses, long before its time. In an interview with ABC Newswatch, Maxey said he spent hundreds of hours personally programming the AI game.
  9. One of of the original contributors or creators of the video game, "DOOM" and "QUAKE" of which the online experimental "WALLS" was the forerunner.
  10. Authored the first graphics oriented online game, "Escape From Languor" using RIP Graphics. The player had to traverse 5 levels on a prison spaceship attempting to take command after all levels had been conquered. The program was noted by its stunning graphics, humorous gameplay, and intelligent design. Maxey later released the program as freeware, releasing all rights to the public.
  11. Originator and creator of MaxiPic images. Read article about the MaxiPic EGA creation process.
  12. Helped Create the GIF Image Format (.gif aka "graphics interchange format") with seven other developers on CompuServe Information Service (CIS). In an interview with Andrew Sedgemeir (sp), Maxey indicated he was not the brains behind the GIF development, only one of eight men invited by CompuServe to develop the format. Today, the gif and jpg image formats are used almost exclusively on the internet. It should be noted that CompuServe never compensated any of the developers for their work in creating the gif format.
  13. Founded one of the first commercial online businesses. In 1983, he founded Event Horizons Inc and operated Event Horizons BBS as CEO and president.
  14. World's most profitable BBS (Bulletin Board System), and the first BBS to accept credit cards for online access with a merchant account.

BACKGROUND: Event Horizons BBS began in 1983 but it was years before success allowed Jim Maxey to consider serious advertising, mostly it seems with PC-Magazine. Apparently, Event Horizons BBS had no competition in the entire BBS market for more than two years. Maxey's company used interesting ad concepts, which seemed imaginative for the time and probably wouldn't work today. But then again ....

One headline ad claimed, "WORLDS MOST EXPENSIVE BBS. LET US SHOW YOU WHY".

However, others have claimed this may not have worked as well as Maxey had thought. But something worked. Maxey climbed as high as one could reach in the BBS market, shoulders above anyone else. Many BBS operators admired Maxey and what he had achieved. I personally witnessed successful BBS businessmen asking for Maxey for his autograph at more than one BBS convention.

I had never seen anything like it. People would line up to get his signature as he walked to the podium to give a speech or lecture.

Jim Maxey was one of the first BBS system operators (sysops) to run the commercial BBS package, The Bread Board System (TBBS) created by Phil Becker. For the 13 year history of Event Horizons Jim Maxey continued to use TBBS software to run his BBS, creating online games and entertainment areas.

In 1992 Playboy Enterprises sued Event Horizons for copyright infringement. Apparently Event Horizons BBS was offering lingerie images of nude women first published and owned by Playboy. The exact details of the lawsuit has not been made public but a segment on ABC NEWSWATCH in 1993 stated that Maxey settled out of court with Playboy, and wrote a check for a half million dollars to Playboy as compensation.

An article in Boardwatch magazine then urged those who ran Playboy Magazine, to use Maxey's BBS design to create Playboy's own online service.

Rumor indicates Jim Maxey retired from the BBS world in or around 1996 to write or lecture or creating business packages for the corporate world. Maxey also known for his lectures on the environment and "utopia'.

Amazingly, we learned that Maxey created an English teaching business for profit in Vietnam but charging only a minimal fee for students. More information is required to substantiate the extent and structure of Maxey's venture into Vietnam.


Jim Maxey at his office in Lake Oswego about 1993
The above and following photos have been graciously granted to us by permission from The Archives BBS where apparently Maxey signed an agreement to display some of these historical images from the early days. We publish these images now with permission.

NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ABOUT JIM MAXEY

  Article written about Jim Maxey in the Oregonian newspaper.
Event Horizons laboratory where servers and computer processing equipment was operated with stored videos, images, and where online games were created.
 
Event Horizons laboratory where servers and computer processing equipment was operated with stored videos, images, and where online games were created.


Our appreciation and credit is also given to Greg Simmons, Gloria Fevornio, Bob Fisher, Larry White, Arnie Kolonski, Bill Fritz, and Michael Zont for sharing information and imagery.