Part 3: Featuring: Jim Maxey by Bob Talmadge
contact: [email protected]

 

Meeting Jim Maxey

I put my notepad away and walked around for about an hour. It was getting loud. I was tired sitting on a chair but it was great to actually find an empty place to sit. I spread my things over my small table in an effort to better claim the space as mine. I watched people pass then closed my eyes just listening.

“Hi”, a voice forced my eyes open. “Mind if I sit here with you?

It was Jim Maxey. He was alone. I must say I was surprised, even a bit dazed.

I looked around then back at Maxey. I remember from my notes I wrote later that I kind of stuttered something like, “Yes. I mean no. I mean yes sit down. I stood up then sat down like a dork. He smiled.

Jim Maxey pulled a small stool and sat next to me and studied me with an easy, confident smile. “I've been looking for you. I’m Jim. I apologize for not shaking your hand earlier.” He said. “My daughter came with me from Oregon and I had to attend to her. She’s just 12. How old are you Bob, may I ask?“

"What?" I asked. I had to ask, “I'm 18 - but how did you know my name?

His smile was friendly, “Says so right on your name tag - 'Bob Talmadge'.”

Not sure if my embarrassment showed but I tried not to show it. I remember Maxey told me his first name when he approached because it was obvious I knew who he was. “Oh,  I understand,” I managed to get out and change the subject.  You were busy - Is she okay?

“Oh, my daughter? Yeah. I hired a woman from an agency who flew here with us to take care of Mariah when I was busy. We solved the problem - I hope." He stopped, seemed to be considering his words. "I hired the wrong person. My fault. Anyway, they're happy now. I gave them lots more money to eat and buy things as they want.”

In addition to Event Horizons, Inc, Maxey was also the CEO of another corporation, James Monroe Investigations, a private detective agency, the largest in Oregon at the time. The 1995 photo below shows a different more subdued Maxey, different from the standard private-eye seen in movies. Maxey's company was respected because it was professional and kept a low profile. Maxey's official records show he had an Oregon concealed weopons permit and carried a Sig Sauer 9mm gun (Vietnam users may need vpn to view Oregon corporation records.)
James Monroe Investigations, Inc

I had read about Maxey taking care of his daughter but this was the first I knew her name and later the spelling.

"Is her mother here?" I asked carefully then wished I had not.

Maxey shrugged. "Her mother and I are not married. I have full custody." I felt he wanted to change the subject.

"You must be so busy with all that and finding time to ..."

"Hi Jim," someone yelled from a small group. Maxey waved and turned back to me showing diplomacy and tact to not interrupt a second time. It was then I think I felt personal as well as professional admiration for him.

With some effort, I said what I felt, "I wish we had all day to talk about your work, about Event Horizons, anything." I felt foolish but he had been honest with me and I had to be sincere with my thoughts but I was just one guy wanting to be part of what I had been experiencing the last few years. To actually sit with Jim Maxey is what made coming here worthwhile.

"Me too", Maxey said earnestly. "Really. If nothing else I'm a good judge of people and I think you're on a good start. What kind of work do you want to do?

"I just got out of high school and want to go to college soon." I was feeling pretty good with his words.

I could not lose an opportunity again: “I want to teach after I get out of college. Maybe history or science. I’ve admired you for a long time and, you know, wanted to meet you.” I said, or something to that effect, feeling a lot like a Groupie again.  I wanted to let him hear my words before he took off again. “I live right here in Colorado Springs a few blocks away.” Then I remembered I had not given my name. “I’m Bob. Robert Talmadge.“ I said pointing to my name tag.

“Well, that’s pretty damn convenient, Bob. Good for you. I admire you as well.”  He actually said that or close to it. Admired me?  For what possible reason?

“Well Bob, do you have a BBS?”.  He looked calm and commanding, much different from my original estimation. How can that be? I mean, my God, how things can change from one minute to the next.

“No, I said honestly. “I mean I did but I got out of such silly things …”  I actually said that!. Stupid.

Jim Maxey laughed a wonderful big laugh that surprised me. He wiped away tears then I laughed at the dorkish thing I said. “It can be childish at times, a BBS that is. I mean often I feel like a big kid still growing up trying to find my way.“

I wondered if he was joking but I did not ask. I think he was not but being honest with the truth not many men will admit.

“I know, yeah, some but not yours.” I was trying to backtrack my words a few seconds earlier. “Believe me; your Black Hole game is wonderful. I played for days, hour after hour.” I was blabbering as Jim seemed to listen to me intently. I was amazed that he seemed interested in this teenager. Me. “But just the free hour each day cause I don’t get money here.”

“I really enjoy talking to people who have played my online games." Maxey said. "Honestly. Especially fresh honest people like you.”

Like me?  Maxey was making my day and he seemed real. “I'd like to know more about you and how you did all the things you did,”  I blurted out. My head was buzzing and I tried to say something so he would stay longer. But I think I failed.

More people were showing up looking at us. Damn them!

I had to ask, "Can I get a picture of us together?"

"Absolutely Sure thing," he said with no hesitation. We stood together as I took a quick handheld photo with my Konica.

Robert Talmadge and Jim Maxey meet each other

“Bob, let’s keep in contact. I mean it,” he said with sincerity. “Contact me in messages on the BBS and let’s exchange info, okay? And send me a copy of the photo.“ 

He stood extending his hand. I jumped up and shook took it. I was happy I did not ask for an autograph. As he turned to leave I said, “Yeah, I sure will. I’ll let you know what I think and thanks for talking with me, Jim.”

Then he left and quickly walked out of sight into the crowd of computer people.

A couple guys sat down at the table in kind of a rude manner and nearly upset my drink. “Hey, was that Jim Maxey, do you know him?

“Of course I know him”, I said, leaning into one guy with “The Danger Zone BBS” stenciled on his T-Shirt.

"He’s my dad."

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I mention in much more detail what I know of Jim Maxey in greater detail than usual because it was a pivotal moment in my life where I dimly examined my feelings and motives a bit bewildered at my own reaction when seeing Jim Maxey in the flesh that I felt less independent, just a BBS Groupie. I admit, Maxey was my first celebrity. Duh again. I was still excited but not exhilarated, not euphoric. I was here at the heart of the BBS world. Maxey was the best at it - at least financially, success worldwide. But not just the amount of money he made but what he did or how he did it.

I was young and must have been hoping for someone like Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis. There was no Facebook then; I had only seen Maxey in newspapers, magazines, or TV. Here he looked like an ordinary guy. Okay, I decided to move on. I checked the exhibit hall for someone I could meet but there was just a crowd of busy people also looking abound.

If I had known more about Maxey at the time, my reaction would have been different. I later learned that Maxey is not always magically diplomatic like Mahoney. I read that he speaks his mind regardless of the circumstances and that can annoy some people - the naked truth. I’ve talked to several people who don't like Jim Maxey even though from what I understand, they never met him but claim he believes he’s always right, too abrupt and if you cross him twice, you’re out of his life and that he doesn't really care for anyone but himself. Even now as I know him, he could use more diplomacy and tact. Okay. Me too.

There are others who deserve just as much, maybe more for their contribution to the BBS world. I try to be fair and write about what I know. It takes time. It's history and that's what I love

No surprise that there’s another side to Maxey some don’t see. Even Steve Jobs had people who hated him for his sudden anger and abrupt manner. But Jim Maxey has never been on the same level as Jobs, not even in the same universe. But both seem to have somewhat similar complex and demanding personalities.

A good example of a diplomatic BBS Sysop is Bob Mahoney. Now he was also very successful but his personality is diplomatic and professional. While as far as I can tell, Maxey seems professional most of the time but it is said that he takes chances and lets the chips fall … I didn’t know this at the time but after talking with Jim Maxey through the years, reading his 12 year Facebook history (as of 2023), I learned a few things. There may be more about this later. But I have to finish this first and move on. The problem is that there are so many interesting chapters his life that he writes about on Facebook or videos he's made on Youtube.

(right) The second floor office above contains another 484 and acts as interface for CompuServe and 800 lines into the BBS network.

 

Indeed, Maxey is a perfectionist. It's obvious in his videos, his writing on Facebook. That doesn't mean he's a genius. Okay Jim? I've learned from reading his words what he is. After all, he taught English and ran a very successful newspaper as editor for 21 years and created the most successful business. He writes about spending far too much time on something small so that the overall package, software, story, or whatever, will add to something much better than the individual parts. I believe that's called synergy. Most people settle for medeocrity: mediocre, just good enough for most people.

Maxey working as a Television Broadcast Engineer in South Carolina .

The problem with a perfectionist is they are demanding and often rub people the wrong way and lose friends one way or another. But I believe most people who respect achievers who may also be perfectionists understand that diplomacy and perfect often oppose one another.

There is a Facebook page about Event Horizons BBS and whoever runs it keeps copying what I write. That's flattering but a bit annoying. But there are also other things I did not know until I read and verified as best I could. It's not that I'm too shy to ask Maxey about anything - it's just that I want to save contacting him for big reasons. I am not sure how he would react to my update on this article, far more in-depth that previously.

In this kind of famous photo, Jim Maxey standing in the above photo at his main Event Horizons Inc office in Lake Oswego. I believe this was his main Event Horizons reception office. A caption from his "Lab" says that the computer equipment in the background is a 486 Pentium with a stack of Hayes modems to the left and under the table.

Am I biased in writing so much about Jim Maxey? I guess so. Yes. But I only met Bob Mahoney and other SysOps very briefly. None of them are as publicly open as Jim Maxey. But people like Maxey and Mahoney are the reasons I registered and operate this website, bbsdays.com and for the many other BBS operators who should be recognized but have faded away through the years. Maxey has lots to write about and lots written about him, good and not so good.

As you can see I write about others here. I’ve been doing this for those SysOps for 18 years. You can see the history of bbsdays.com on the WayBack Machine, archive.org as well as Maxey's former oregonherald.com newspaper now turned into what looks like a gambling site!

Expensive “digiboards” allows the main computer (a 486) to time-share the computer’s two com ports instead of using 64 computers. However, 64 telephone lines were still required.
Jim Maxey Event Horizons BBS in Lake Oswego, Oregon

(right) Expensive “digiboards” allows the main computer (a 486) to time-share the computer’s two com ports instead of using 64 computers. However, 64 telephone lines were still required.
Jim Maxey Event Horizons BBS in Lake Oswego, Oregon

I try to get others to talk but it’s extremely difficult to find them. Many have just faded away, died, or don’t want to be contacted or written about. Honestly, I don't get it. Even Maxey is reluctant and if it wasn't for his Facebook page, I'd not have that much. But because it is public, it's fair game. So I publish what I can when I have time. But there are many other BBS SysOps as well as others involved in the industry that did not run a BBS who deserve credit for their contribution to the online world and more to write about these Pioneers.

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There are others whose fame was based more on pure BBS concepts of sharing files and messages. A few held it against Maxey that he charged and made so much. There are BBS sysops who in some ways outshine Maxey in the truest sense of the original BBS idea and I’d like to have their autograph but they’d probably laugh. Maxey is just one Sysop who has lots of public information and has done so much, so many "firsts".

It's common knowledge that Jim Maxey retired from the BBS world in or around 1996 to write or lecture or creating business packages for the corporate world. Maxey seems to also be known for lectures on the environment and “utopia’. I don't know much about this and can't find much.

Prison Ship Languor from Event Horizons BBS

Once inside Event Horizons through the years would find different welcoming screens.

In the early days from 1983 the welcome screen of Event Horizons used colorful ANSI graphics.

A more sophisticated use of extended graphics allowed a creative login interface: as seen above:

Once you logged into the BBS, this Main Menu uses more sophisticated ANSI graphics to allow users to use their keyboard to move around the BBS. Event Horizons used TBBS (The Bread Board System) as the main software interface to phone lines and options to populate the world within the BBS. Once the user had logged into the BBS, they would be presented with a menu created by Maxey.

Escape From Languor was an online game by Event Horizons BBS game depicting a high resolution prison ship. Find your way from the lowest level in the ship to the uppermost 5th level then take control of the ship and move off to a galaxy far far away.

Jeff Butsch and Jim Maxey working in the main building programming and graphics office.

Maxey wrote and directed the game. Trusted Event Horizons programmer and graphics expert Jeff Butsch carved out the graphics and code to Maxey's direction.

Inside the game you fight strange monsters, such as John Boy Walton holding the head of JFK saying, “Ask Not…” It was hilarious, campy, strange. There’s that absurd Maxey sense of humor. The online game was far ahead of its time anywhere.

Event Horizons was not the first BBS, but without doubt the BBS was one of the best known and certainly the most financially successful BBS as well as one of the most creative and innovative Bulletin Board Systems world-wide.

According to the UK publication “The Economist” and “Boardwatch Magazine”, and WikiPedia.com, Event Horizons Inc’s annual sales reached 3.2 million dollars (US) in the early 1990’s, four years before the World Wide Web.

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The Event Horizons Lab

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.

Before becoming successful, Maxey was a university English teacher; TV Broadcast Engineer in late 1978 after studying for many years he finally passed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Radoiotelephone First Class License which allowed Maxey to work and control TV stations as an Electronics Broadcast Engineer. He worked as a TV Broadcast Engineer at Rock Hill TV station WNSC-TV which was part of the South Carolina Educational Television Network.

Jim Maxey worked as a television broadcast engineer at WNSC TV.

In an interview, Maxey said he always loved Electronics from an early age but preferred teaching or if not that then working as a television journalist and writing as his solid pastime.

But before WNSC-TV, Maxey worked at various radio stations on a discjocky and online personality.

Listening to Maxey on Youtube, it’s clear he has an excellent speaking voice and articulates well. Then at some point, he worked as a television news reporter for KWTX TV in Texas sometime in the early or mid 1980's.

In an interview Maxey also talked about working for the Army Research Institute at Fort Hood, Texas where he helped create training military videos involving the Army M1 tank using enlisted personnel as actors in his films to identify the enemy using Thermal Imaging.

Maxey with camera working for the Army Research Institute at Fort Hood, Texas.

Jim Maxey at Fort Hood Texas making training films.

In one interview, Maxey indicated his graphics career sprung from experiments with US army tank models using graphics to replace or simulate moving targets. Jim accepted a "media director" position with the US Army to create and operate a top secret military media laboratory. His films and videos trained soldiers operating the Abrams M1 fighting tank to identify the enemy using thermal imaging night vision sites. He was not hired because of an expertise with army tanks (he admits he had no such experience) but was hired because of his solid electronic engineering background and United States FCC 1st class license as a Television Broadcast Engineer.

Later, Maxey lectured 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 Girl Scout Leader in Lake Oswego, Oregon), an animal rights activist, and began to develop ways to make Event Horizons more profitable.

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Jim Maxey’s notable works and accomplishments for which he is famous:

  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. (MaxiPic)

  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 December 1983 as advertised in an Oregon 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. In 1984 created the clever, original, and 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 Event 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. 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.

  10. Originator and creator of MaxiPic images.

  11. 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.

  12. World’s most profitable BBS (Bulletin Board System) and the first BBS to accept credit cards for online access with a merchant account. (continues part 4)