bbs pioneerHome
Featuring: Jim Maxey by Bob Talmadge
contact: [email protected]
https://bbsdays.com/

Read more about other Internet Pioneers here on bbsdays.com including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

This is a true rags-to-riches story of an American man down on his luck with sole custody of his six year old daughter trying one last desperate idea that worked - and helped change the online world.

Jim Maxey and his daughter Mariah in Copperas Cove, Texas.

Jim Maxey created Event Horizons BBS in late 1983 first as a hobby not long before he began working for KWTX TV in Texas as a full-time television news reporter and before his university English teaching position where he taught ELS, (English as a Second Language) and as an associate professor teachnig IELTS for six years.

In about 1985 Maxey accepted a media lab director position with the US Army and Essex Corporation to create and operate a military media lab at Fort Hood, Texas. His videos trained soldiers operating the M1 Abrams tank to identify the enemy using thermal imaging night sites.

Maxey was not hired because of an expertise with tanks (he admits he had no such experience) but he was hired because of his electronic engineering background and FCC 1st class license as a television Broadcast Engineer at WNSC-TV in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

*** *** *** *** ***

Before the beginning of the web in late 1993, there were already millions around the world who went “online” to log into a “Bulletin Board System” (BBS) using regular telephone lines, not the internet. There was no web at that time (http). No websites. But a BBS was like a website; it was “online” and there were people around the world chatting and sharing using regular telephone lines.

This is a story about a controversial and the most successful BBS System Operator (SysOp) world-wide. I write about this subject because history and beginnings are important and there have been far too little written about the BBS Pioneers. And as a teen, I was also one of Event Horizons customers.

I believe most people would call Maxey sensible and professional but on Instagram he admits to a certain lack of imposed public restraint, forethought, or sometimes as he has admitted; foresight.

The arrow points to the 2nd floor apartment where Maxey lived in 1988 with his 5 year old daughter.

When a public figure (though fleeting as fame comes and goes) admits to such descriptions, he could also be called foolish but candid, and perhaps with some integrity - but you are the judge.

(Photo: Arrow points to the 2nd floor apartment where Maxey lived in 1988 with his 7 year old daughter.

Maxey was one of the best known during the BBS era (1978 to 1995). He operated one of the world’s largest and certainly most “financially” successful Bulletin Board System, Event Horizons BBS from 1983 to 1996. That’s all quite public history.

Event Horizons BBS was located at Event Horizons Inc in Lake Oswego, Oregon which contained Jim Maxey’s two corporate businesses in Lake Oswego, Oregon; Event Horizons and James Monroe Investigations at the Fraisier Durham Building on the 1st and 2nd floors.

I’m not a professional writer and won’t pretend to be -but truth is important so I try my best to shed light on different people in this occupation. I’m a former high school history teacher and I admire those men and women who were the first online, before the web.

 

Jim Maxey at his private Event Horizons corporate office in Lake Oswego, Oregon USA The Beginning of Online

It is amazing that most people are totally unaware of the fact that "Online" with The Internet was not the beginning to “online”. It all existed long before 1993. I’ve been maintaining a list of notable Online Pioneers for many years on bbsdays.com where you'll find others in addition to Jim Maxey and more I need to add as I find them. Lots more when I have time and when I can find info on them or get them to communicate.

You’ll find more about Jim Maxey on Google and Wikipedia.com, Youtube.com, and from his Facebook page — and that’s one of the reasons this article is so long — lots of info. The main story is below but I should give you background first.

Event Horizons BBS offices.

 

Photo: Maxey's Event Horizons Corporation operated the BBS from professional offices in Lake Oswego, Oregon USA.

Jim Maxey can be stubborn, uncompromising and from what he says in his own Facebook words “willing to take a chance at losing to prove a point.” Stubborn? You bet. Maybe something I don’t know. Some call him an innovator but admits he gets wrapped up in too much detail.

His Event Horizons Corporation operated the BBS from professional offices in Lake Oswego, Oregon USA.

I believe most people would call Jim sensible and professional but on Instagram he admits to a certain lack of imposed public restraint when it comes to people treating the poor or disabled people with disrespect. He's lectured on the subject of Global Warming and Climate Change, created some of the most popular online games of  it's kind before anyone else. Jim has appeared on many national and reginal television programs and been talked about for the last three decades.

Yet this same man abandoned the United States and moved to Vietnam (for what I am not certain). But it is certainly an enigma for a man at the top of the world then turn around and move to the other side of the earth!  However, there was some mention he felt the US was too dangerous for his Asian daughter (now an American). I know Jim fairly well. I met him but I still don't know the full answer. He returns to the US now and again but it seems his heart is in Vietnam.


When a public figure (though fleeting as fame comes and goes) admits to such descriptions, he could also be called foolish but also candid, independent, and perhaps with some integrity - but you are the judge.


Jim was one of the best known online operators during that era. He operated one of the world’s largest and certainly most “financially” successful online system. That’s all public history.

I’m not a professional writer and won’t pretend to be - but history and truth is important so I try my best to shed light on different people in this occupation. I have written about many other such pioneers including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Jim and Steve Jobs where friends of some sort in Portland, Oregon early on, and from what I can tell, they had similar personalities, albeit, Jobs vastly more successful and better known. I’m a former high school history teacher and I admire those men and women who were the first online, before the web. They should not be lost to history. If you have an interest in a different internet pioneer, please contact me.


It is amazing that most people are totally unaware of the fact that "Online" with the Internet was not the beginning to “online”. It all existed long before the web began. I’ve been maintaining a list of notable Online Pioneers for many years. Jim was by far the most notable and successful but not the only success story.


Naively, a few years ago, I hesitantly called Jim a genius on my Facebook page. That was a mistake. When someone told Jim about my Facebook page, he asked me to remove it. I refused because he was a bit too brisk and perhaps even rude the way he asked. Then he asked me to at least to remove the “genius”. I again politely refused. I was wrong. I have to think how I'd feel if I had to live up to that designation of being a genius.


Review of Maxey’s Voyager III

After he ignored me on Facebook for nearly two years, he finally convinced me he may not be a genius; as he wrote, “… if I was a genius I would have f****** registered "carinsurance.com" (which sold for $49 million US).


If you make tons of money, are globally innovative or  successful, you may be called a genius even if you’re stubborn and difficult like Steve Jobs. But if you’re broke, you’re just a fool or weirdo and in the mind of some, you’re a loser. Throughout history there have been at least a few actual geniuses who were called a lunatic or ended sitting on a street corner shouting that one day men would fly to the moon and back. There are no doubt more idiots on earth than geniuses - unless I am an idiot. 


Most extra bright people have been totally unknown to the rest of us, perhaps because they wanted it that way or they had bad circumstances. Those successful are usually in the right place at the right time, or their genius is unrecognized and never given awards for their brilliant insight or prodigy. My honest opinion is that Jim is a very bright guy yeah but like most of us, sometimes not quite wise. Most geniuses are capable of doing stupid things, like Steve Jobs refusing urgent medical help and he died like an idiot for it. To me it’s not important how smart Jim is but the history of how it all happened. That's what drives my interest. And I'll get into that, I promise.

His Facebook page is filled with poems, videos, images, ideas and detailed history of at least parts of his life, fortunate for me to write about. I don’t expect many here will be interested in all the details as I am. But if you read it all, you might be surprised.

Jim was frowned upon by a few in the early online industry; those not as successful dismissed Jim, perhaps jealous of his success, far more successful than anyone else world-wide. That can rub people wrong who struggle with their failures or don’t receive much glory or appreciation. I'll write about them if they will only contact me and agree to be freely open and be candid.

One person who worked closely with Jim gave me a personal observation.
This is what Jim's his employee told me:

"When directing a small office group of staff, including programmers and myself to write a piece of code to his liking, it could be either "great and perfect," or it was worthless or inept or both".

 

Most extra bright people have been totally unknown to the rest of us, perhaps because they wanted it that way or they had bad circumstances. Those successful are usually in the right place at the right time, or their genius is unrecognized and never given awards for their brilliant insight or prodigy. My honest opinion is that Maxey is a very bright guy yeah but like most of us, sometimes not quite wise. Most geniuses are capable of doing stupid things, like Steve Jobs refusing real medical help. To me it’s not important how smart Maxey is or was but the history of how it all happened. That's what drives my interest. And I'll get into that, I promise.

* * * * * * *

Oregon's largest newspaper wrote an article about Event Horizons BBS.

Jim Maxey has been university teacher of English and television broadcast engineer (not all at the same time) who visited Vietnam then became stranded there after meeting a totally disabled 35 year old Vietnamese woman who cannot walk at all or use her hands (except for two fingers on her left hand which (according to Maxey) she uses those two fingers to write long mature and intelligent messages and draw and color artistic landscapes). She has been confined to a wheelchair all her life without a love of her own until Maxey ‘rescued’ her. That is a true love story in itself.

Okay, I’m guessing on some of this because I too love romance and the underdog.

Maxey calls this Vietnamese woman, as he says “Emily, an intelligent, perceptive and a wonderful human being.” (Her Vietnamese name contains 'Em My'). He says she contracted polio as a child because her parents did not vaccinate her. Then she was confined to one room in her parents’ house for 32 of those horrible, lonely, sad years. Her parents never took her to the outside world. Never — except to the hospital for major bowel surgery several times.

Emily was confined for 32 years because her parents did not want her to get used to going anywhere because it was difficult to transport a person who cannot walk. This may sound cruel and it was. Beyond cruel, devastating, inhuman. But Emily made the best of it by watching and listening. It is difficult to understand how a person could survive that kind of treatment and solitude — until Maxey heard about her and flew to Ho Chi Minh City three separate times from Da Lat to meet her. They finally flew into the clouds together to Maxey’s home in Da Lat, Vietnam, to the romantic mountains as pictured below in a place called, "The Valley of Love".

Maxey wrote that now, because of the pandemic and the closure of the teaching business where he taught English, he can’t work outside their apartment as he did in Da Lat before he met Emily. It is his decision to take care of her 24/7. The problem is that at least so far no university or English teaching center will allow Emily in a class Maxey would teach.

So he gives Emily a good life because as Maxey says on Facebook, “… she’s an angel and deserves to finally have a life. She laughs now,” he says. “She finally knows happiness. I just had to take care of her. She’s so much better than me.”

There's a book here, maybe even a movie, how they met and the terrible situations of trying to get married but being ignored and even ridiculed and what they've gone through. But they keep all that to themselves, sharing only with me and a few others, ignoring journalists who only want to tell a negative story of Emily's parents. As well, I promised Jim not to write about it and I hope I've not gone too far already. I cannot write about them without drifting into melancholy.

Anyway, I’m rambling here. Let’s get back to the original article; BBS Communications and Jim Maxey, the story before the web. The public story of Jim and Emily’s is on his Facebook page. But so much more.

Maxey was frowned upon by a few in the BBS industry; those not as successful dismissed him perhaps jealous of his success, far more than anyone else world-wide. That can rub people wrong who struggle but don’t get any glory or appreciation. I'll write about them if they will only contact me and agree to freely open up and be candid. (continues part 2)

About author Bob Talmadge