Alvin Toffler, William F. Von Meister, Steve Case discussed on Ridiculous History


I'm an executive producer with Howstuffworks and I heart radio and I love all things Tech. And once a planetarium gather round Children. There was a company that was so closely tied to the idea of connecting to the Internet that for some people, it was synonymous with the Internet itself. Talking about America Online or a O. L. Which is still around. But we're talking about the early days and a well grew into a giant force of a company. It was part of a merger that many people have described in the wake of that merger as being the worst deal in the history of tech mergers. So we're gonna look at the history of this company and where things are today, so this episode will look specifically at how that company came to be and how it grew in the early years. Our story concerns several co founders frequently. If you look at stories about a A well they'll talk about one of these co founders over all the others, but they are very Important each and every one of them. So first we have William F. Von Meister, who's founded a startup that would give birth to a O. L he would not be part of a well itself. But a o. L would grow out of a company that maester had built. And the co founders would include three men who worked for this start up. The startup was called Control Video Corporation. Those three men were Steve Case, Mark Saref and Jim Kimsey. William F. Von Meister was born in New York City. He his father had worked for the Zeppelin company, infamous. For being the company that would build the Hindenburg airship, the one that burst into flame and gave birth to the Oh, the humanity line. Von Meister was born on February 22nd 1942. He attended private schools, and he went to Georgetown University, but he never graduated. Despite that he was able to enroll in the master's degree program for business over at American University. And, upon graduating, he founded many startups and one of those was a tech company called Control Video Corporation, which I'll get to in just a moment. But first, let's talk about some of these other founders. James Verlyn Kimsey was born on September 15th 1939 that would make him the oldest of the co founders who would create a ol. He also attended but did not graduate from Georgetown University. So He and my sister had that in common. He completed his education at West Point Academy, however, he became an airborne Ranger. In fact, a decorated one he served three combat tours, two of which were in Vietnam. And after the war, he began purchasing or opening bars and restaurants in the Washington D. C area became a very successful businessman. And he was brought over to control Video corporation to serve as a manufacturing consultant during some troubled times. Control Video Corporation did not have a long history, but it certainly had a colorful one. Mark Sarah, who was one of the other co founders, He was born on May 5th 1948 in Austin, Texas. He attended the University of Texas at Austin. He earned degrees and computer science and mathematics. And then he would go on to enroll in graduate studies at M I T and he earned a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 1974. He took a job at Telenet Communications Corporation, which in 1975 would become the first packet switched network available to the general public. You could think of. It is one of the early backbones of the Internet. So he was in early early on on the days of the Internet before most people even knew what such a thing was. Decades before they knew about it. In fact, and this was in the era when the protocols for data transmission across the Internet were still being hammered out. Sarah would work for several tech companies over the next few years, eventually moving over to control video corporation. Steve Case was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1958, Steve and his brother, Dan, We're entrepreneurially minded, even at a young age. Their stories about him on his brother, operating a little juice stand in Hawaii or selling greeting cards or seeds door to doors, Children. Steve would attend Williams College in the late seventies and early eighties, he would graduate 1981 with a degree in political science. After graduation, Steve worked in the marketing department of Procter and Gamble, and he later went and worked for Pepsico, specifically working as a head of marketing over at Pizza Hut or least unexamined of of marketing over at pizza. But after that his brother Dan introduced him to the founders of Control Video Corporation over at C. E s. Steve landed a gig with Control Video Corporation, which was doing something really interesting. A really interesting business model that would actually set the stage for America Online many years later. Now, another element I need to mention before I get into what Control video corporation was doing was a book that Steve Case had red when he was a college student. He thinks it was sometime around 1979. The book that was written by a guy named Alvin Toffler, and it's called the Third Wave. In that book, Toffler describes a world in which computers would form a new communication platform, a new revolution, a technological revolution akin to the Industrial revolution. And it would allow for new, digitally oriented communities. Essentially, he was talking about the sort of thing we would see in various Internet communities like forums, things like that. Case did not have an engineering background or a programming background. But he thought this idea was really compelling and it would become an important part of his vision. Once he joined This company, So we now know are major players, which really comes down to Steve Case, Jim Kimsey and Mark Saref. Von Meister is important, but he was not part of the trio that would go on to found the company that becomes a well So what the heck did this control Video Corporation do? Well, I didn't know very much about this when I started my research for this, which is funny to me because I've talked about Atari. Lot and their their business was deeply tied to Atari. And yet somehow I had never come across this or if I had I had forgotten about it Control Video corporation. Had created a product called Game Line for the Atari 2600. And again I had never heard of this thing game line. Was a cartridge of very large, misshapen cartridge. It didn't look like the video game cartridges you would typically get if you want to play a game of Pac Man or pitfall. But you would plug this cartridge into Atari 2600, and it would extend far out of it because it was so big. And it had a port in it in which you could plug a phone line and old, hard lined phone connection to sew. This cartridge was part modem and parts storage device. Uh, so you and plug it through the normal cartridge port. It also had a battery that you had to plug in. They had to put a nine volt battery into this game line cartridge itself. And then, uh, plug it into your phone line..

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