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William von Meister

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William von Meister
A picture of William in 1989
Born(1942-02-21)February 21, 1942
New York City, United States
DiedMay 18, 1995(1995-05-18) (aged 53)
Great Falls, Virginia, United States
IssueFrederick von Meister
FatherF.W. von Meister
MotherEleanora Colloredo-Mannsfeld

William F. von Meister (February 21, 1942 – May 18, 1995) was an American entrepreneur who founded and participated in a number of startup ventures in the Washington, D.C., area. These included The Source, an early online service and CompuServe competitor, and Control Video Corporation, a predecessor company to AOL.

Early years

William Ferdinand von Meister was born of noble German descent[1] on February 21, 1942 in New York City, to F. W. von Meister and Eleanora Colloredo-Mannsfeld.[2] His father, F. W. von Meister, was the godson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and his mother was a countess.[3]

William von Meister attended high school at Middlesex Academy in Massachusetts, and a finishing school in Switzerland. He then attended Georgetown University. Though he never completed his undergraduate education, he persuaded nearby American University to enroll him in its master's program for business.[3][4]


After leaving Georgetown in 1973, von Meister started a wholesale liquor company, but found it "boring" and decided to move into consulting.[5] After creating a database for Litton Bionetics, he was hired by Western Union to create a computerized billing system.[5]

In 1978, Meister founded The Source,[6] the first popular online services company. The Source was eventually sold to Reader's Digest and later acquired by rivals CompuServe.[7][6]

In 1983, Control Video Corporation was founded by Meister. The company originally ran the GameLine dial-up service for the Atari 2600,[6] which Meister claimed to be able to handle up to 100,000 users.[8]

Personal life and death

Meister has at least one brother, Peter.[3] Bill von Meister died of cancer in Great Falls, Virginia, at the age of 53,[7] leaving behind his son, Frederick William von Meister.


As a descendent of Prussian nobility, William had the honour of carrying von in his last name.[1]


  1. ^ a b dGenealogisches Handbuch des Adels (in German).
  2. ^ Klein 2004, p. 9.
  3. ^ a b c Swisher 1998.
  4. ^ "The source of it all: William F. von Meister". Goliath. 1 March 2007. Archived from the original on 20 February 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ a b "Hooked on Startups, He Invented Infocast". Radio World. 2019-07-17. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  6. ^ a b c Needle 1983, p. 8.
  7. ^ a b Smith, Esther (25 May 1995). "Obituary: Bill von Meister". Washington Technology.
  8. ^ Needle 1983, p. 9.


Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 10 February 2023, at 22:53
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