|Featuring: Jim Maxey|| by Bob Talmadge
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 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.
In about 1985 he accepted a media lab director position with the US Army 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 had no such experience) but hired because of his electronic engineering experience and FCC 1st class license as a television Broadcast Engineer at WNSC-TV in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
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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 on regular telephone lines.
This is a story about one of the most controversial but also 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.
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. He stands alone, fully exposed.
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 most “financially” successful Bulletin Board System, Event Horizons BBS from 1983 to 1996. That’s all quite public history.
Event Horizons BBS at Event Horizons Inc in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Jim Maxey’s two corporate businesses in Lake Oswego, Oregon; Event Horizons and James Monroe Investigations at the Fraisier Durham Building on the 2nd floor.
I’m not a professional writer and won’t pretend to be. But the truth is important and I try my best to shed the 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.
The Beginning of Online
It is amazing 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 will find others in addition to Jim Maxey and more I need to add. 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.
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.
Naively, a few years ago, I hesitantly called Jim Maxey a genius on my Facebook: “Jim Maxey History”. That was probably a mistake. When someone told Maxey about my Facebook page, he sent a message asking me to remove it. I refused because he was too brisk and a bit rude the way he asked. Then he asked me to at least remove the “genius”. I politely refused. I was wrong. I have to think how I'd feel if I had to live up to that designation.
Review of Maxey’s Voyager IIIAfter 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 F*ing genius I would have registered carinsurance.com" (which sold for $49 million US).
If you make tons of money, are globally innovative, 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.
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.
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.
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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