In 1995, Jim Bourke, a computer programmer working as a defense contractor, learned about a thing called "hypertext". During the course of 1995, Jim became involved with the "World Wide Web" of computer systems.
Jim found these things interesting and decided to take his career in a new direction. He left Nebraska behind and accepted a series of contract positions on the east coast, and elsewhere. This taught him more about the internet and about making web pages.
Jim was an active R/C modeler who specialized in electric powered aircraft. He found it very hard to find information and began reading everything he could and condensing into a few simple rules of thumb. Jim didn't need to reinvent everything but he did find he needed to gather all the information.
Eventually, it dawned on Jim that a lot of other people were in the same boat. After seeing the same questions asked over and over, Jim realized that he could help out by collecting all the questions and answers into a document, and "hosting" it on the world wide web.
Jim wrote the "Electric Flight FAQ" at about this time. He was very much assisted by posts on rec.models.rc, in particular those by Doug Ingraham and Dennis Weatherly.
After writing the FAQ, Jim decided to create a mailing list of people who were interested in electric airplanes, like him.
Once the mailing list was running, it got very popular very fast. There were hundreds of people signing up for. So Jim set up a website where he could keep the FAQ and the mailing list instructions.
He didn't know what to name the website, and felt it probably wasn't important, so he just called it "The E Zone". The "E" stood for "Electric Flight". At the time, it was very expensive and time-consuming to get a domain name of your own. The site was hosted at http://world.std.com/~jbourke/ezone.html. By today's standards, that was a mouthful, but in 1996 is was standard for web pages to have long URLs like that.
Throughout 1996, Jim worked on a series of programs, written mostly in the perl programming language, that would help him publish new web pages. At that time, there wasn't any software available, so he had to do everything himself.
Eventually Jim decided to put the money together to buy a proper domain name, but found that ezone.com was taken. He went with ezonemag.com instead. He registered this domain in January. The E Zone still runs under that domain name today.
Meanwhile, Jim was attending fly-ins and trade shows. At the time, the R/C industry hadn't really heard about electric power systems or the internet yet. It was a very tough sell. Jim can be obnoxious sometimes, and he used that to his advantage.
Jim started adding new features to his web site, sold a bunch of t-shirts, gave out buttons and stickers like crazy, and talked nonstop about what he was trying to do.
Jim's vision for the site in those days was to make it like a print magazine, where it would publish articles every month. Jim worked with a lot of people and did a whole bunch of work to get the "magazine" published on time every month. Most of the time it was late, but nobody was getting paid and nobody had to pay anything, so nobody really cared.
The E Zone started selling model aircraft plans, since so many people were getting interested in electric-powered airplanes, and there weren't very many places selling them.
Jim began seeing interest from sponsors at this time. Astroflight, Aveox, New Creations R/C, and Hobby-Lobby were early sponsors.
Jim added a discussion forum to The E Zone in 1998. The forum software wasn't very good, and he had to purge the system pretty regularly. Sometimes the forums would be down for days. Still, it began to catch on and become a big contributor to the site's traffic.
The E Zone featured regular contributions from a bunch of people, including Steve Kranitz, Robert Wagoner, Wayne Hadkins, Chris True, and Jim Frolik.
During this year, Jim found some financial fortune in other areas, and decided to keep running The E Zone, even though it was starting to cost significant amounts of time and money.
Jim did find some advertisers this year, including: Northeast Sailplanes, Cavasos Sailplane Designs, Zagi, and RC Cad.
Flying Wings, like the Zagi, were on the rise this year, and electric flight was doing well.
Jim's consulting business was booming. He was now travelling every week to New York, DC, and other big cities. Sometimes he'd be on a plane 5 or 6 times in one week. He decided it would be better for the organization if someone else took over the publication duties.
In April, Steve Horney came onboard to run the webzine. Steve strengthened our relationship with many companies and worked very hard for very little pay.
Meanwhile, Jim started paying attention to the forums. He noticed how popular they were and began working with some of the users to expand them. A few of the users started complaining about how they were down all the time, and Jim started to do a better job of paying attention to this part of the site. A fellow named Andy Willetts joined the discussion forums this year and began helping out with the moderation.
The E Zone was now reaching more people than any print magazine ever could. Jim went to trade shows and fly-ins and mentioned this fact to everyone who would listen, and to some people who wouldn't.
People on the forums started talking a lot about using sheets of foam from the hardware store to make cheap little airplanes. They started calling these "foamies".
Eventually, Jim realized that there was no reason to publish on the 1st of the month. Articles could be published as they came in. So he rewrote his software to make that job a lot easier. Jim spent some time trying to refactor the software and turn it into a marketable product of its own, but eventually decided it was better to focus on the site's development.
Steve kept running the webzine. He focused on getting review products through the pipeline so new content would come in throughout the month.
Andy Willetts helped make sure the forums were running smoothly. The forums were really growing now and accounted for most of the site traffic.
In 2001 Jim's life changed a lot. His new daughter had a brain tumor and needed a lot of operations. Jim decided to stop travelling. Steve took a new direction this year and Jim brought in Dave Lilley to take over for him.
Jim started spending more time working on the site and improved the software quite a bit.
Electric flight was starting to become mainstream, and Jim worried that the name "E Zone" was too restrictive to survive the changes in the hobby industry, so he registered a new domain name and refounded the company as "RCGroups.com". Jim doodled a little transmitter with a smiley face and the new logo was born.
The old forum software (UBB) was discarded and a new product (vBulletin) was put in place. This new product worked a lot better and the site started to grow tremendously.
Jim hired Mike Kolesnikov to work on the software and the servers, which meant that Jim was no longer doing any of the programming.
Dave Lilley left
2 million posts
Forums upgraded from vBulletin 2 to vBulletin 3.0
4 millon posts
Moved from co-located hosting at ThePlanet to the leased servers at Softlayer.
5 million posts
New forum search engine based on Sphinx search fixed recurring search problems forever.
Jim T. Graham comes on board to run RCGroups.com and future RC companies for Jim Bourke.
8 million posts
The term "BS" is voted as acceptable.
Added YouTube embedding
Purchased Russian Thunder
Purchased Flying Giants
9 and 10 million posts
Jim B. featured on TV
Forums upgraded to vBulletin 3.8
Broke 13 million posts, over 1 million threads, over a million unique visitors in month.