What If I Told You…
… there was a crazy entrepreneur who was the true founder of what would become America Online? He was the guy who hired Steve Case back before AOL was AOL.
What if I told you that same entrepreneur invented true, networked, online gaming—not in the era of the Xbox 360, but back in the days of the Atari 2600?
What if I then told you that same entrepreneur invented a Napster/Pandora/Spotify/Sirius-like music service, all the way back in 1981, before the compact disc was even widely available?
That Man Is William von Meister
And he is the subject of this episode. I’ve enjoyed all of the episodes we’ve done so far, but I have to say this has been the most fun. It’s exciting to shed some light on a bit of history that I think has been criminally overlooked. And to be honest, it’s just such a crazy story, about a hard drinking, heavy-smoking, women-chasing entrepreneur, seemingly from the Mad Men cloth, who was “a pathological entrepreneur” with a “reality-distortion-field” that would give Steve Jobs a run for his money. It’s a story of about a dozen harebrained businesses, none of which were really successful (excepting of course that some or all of them lent their DNA to the company that would become AOL) but all of which were way ahead of their time, and in many ways, presaged technologies we take for granted today.
Listen Right Here On Web
Listen on iTunes
Some of the articles I mentioned about the GameLine System:
And here’s a couple videos:
Also, the books mentioned as source materials:
- Kara Swisher: aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads, and Made Millions in the War for the Web
- Michael A. Banks: On the Way to the Web: The Secret History of the Internet and Its Founders
- Alec, Klein: Stealing Time: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Collapse of AOL Time Warner
[…] by west80th [link] […]
[…] since the chapters on AOL I posted last month, I’ve gotten a small but steady stream of emails asking what ever […]
I met with Bill at his home in Virginia when he briefed me on his next project. Two years latter when I tried to contact him, I was sad when I heard Bill Von Meister had died from pancreatic cancer that took his life in three months after diagnosis. When we last spoke he mentioned he had a pain in his gut and was going to see the doctor about it the following week.
At the time when we last met, he intended to secure the mega wealthy and pitch to those individuals with that wealth the concept to start the largest privately held telecom company, a company he intended to call VERIZON.
He pulled together about 60 of the wealthiest contacts he knew (utilizing some of his contacts with the Forbes group of 200 entrepreneurs that he was a member of).
VERIZON was formed shortly after his death. His last effort and idea lives on with VERIZON. Within VERIZON, only the original mega investors that started the company would know this. So here is another check-mark on Bills gun, his last.
If there are Arch Angels, and if there is existence after death, I am confident Bill is with them and pitching his next idea to them for the em-betterment of the World. You are missed Bill.
[…] course, von Meister’s master plan was for a consumer network — a system that would transmit news, weather, stock market prices, sports and other information […]
I am Bronwen Kimsey, divorced from James V Kimsey and great friend of Frank Caulfield both of whom have since died. Jim 3 years ago and
Frank on Tuesday a week ago.
I am currently reading Kara Swisher’s book, AOL.com. Quite an eye