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Featuring Jim Maxey

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 center with Army M1 Tank crew
Jim Maxey in center. Circa 1985

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 internationally successful, Maxey was a TV Broadcast Engineer in late 1978 but said he preferred working as a reporter. 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.

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:

  • Created the first computerized "Movie" on a PC. The movie was a succession of frames from a NASA launch, was available to download on Event Horizons BBS.
  • Created the very first PC color images with the new EGA format, which preceded the VGA format.
  • In 1987 coined the term "SuperVGA" with the first high-resolution images profiled on PC Magazine's "After Hours".
  • Created the first online Dating Service in 1983 as advertized in a local newspaper.
  • Authored the award winning "Voyager III", an educational adventure into space, that actually taught Astronomy. The adventure was profiled on the cover of Boardwatch magazine.
  • Authored the first graphics oriented online game, "Escape From Languor".
  • Originator and creator of MaxiPic images. Read article about the MaxiPic EGA creation process.
  • Helped Create the GIF Image Format With seven other developers on CompuServe Information Service. 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.
  • Founded one of the first commercial online businesses. In 1983, he founded Event Horizons Inc and operated Event Horizons BBS as CEO and president.
  • World's most profitable BBS (Bulletin Board System), the first BBS to accept credit cards for online access with a merchant account.


BACKGROUND:

Jim Maxey at his office in Lake Oswego about 1993

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.

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's autograph at more than one BBS convention.

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. Other reports have him retiring in obscurity.

The following are a few images 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.

  Jim Maxey with office staff at Event Horizons BBS in 1992 Event Horizons BBS equipment
   
 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.