AOL began as Quantum Computer Services which was founded by William von Meister. Its sole product was an online service called Gameline for the Atari 2600 video game console after von Meister’s idea of buying music on demand was rejected by Warner Brothers. Subscribers bought a modem from the company for $49.95 and paid a one-time $15 setup fee. Gameline permitted subscribers to temporarily download games and keep track of high scores, at a cost of approximately $1 per hour.
In 1983, the company nearly went bankrupt, and an investor in Control Video, Frank Caufield, had a friend of his, Jim Kimsey, brought in as a manufacturing consultant. That same year, Steve Case joined the company as a full-time marketing employee upon the joint recommendations of von Meister and Kimsey. Kimsey went on to become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the newly renamed Quantum Computer Services in 1985, after von Meister was quietly ‘let go’ from the company.
Kimsey changed the company’s strategy, and in 1985 launched a sort of mega-BBS for Commodore 64 and 128 computers, originally called Quantum Link, “Q-Link” for short. The Quantum Link software was licensed from PlayNet, Inc. In May 1988, Quantum and Apple launched AppleLink Personal Edition for Apple II and Macintosh computers. After the two companies parted ways in October 1989, Quantum changed the service’s name to America Online. In August 1988, Quantum launched PC Link, a service for IBM-compatible PCs developed in a joint venture with the Tandy Corporation.
Case soon became CEO of AOL, chaneged directions for the comnay and started to offer a flat rate access to the internet.