During the 1960s, a group of teachers at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education (including Dale LaFrenz) incorporated computers into classroom learning via teleprinters and mainframe computer time-sharing. Minneapolis/St. Paul-area school districts and the College of Education established Total Information for Educational Systems (TIES) to provide service, training, and software for computers, making Minnesota a leader in computer education by 1968. Following the success of TIES, the Minnesota state legislature established the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) in 1973. (Later, the company’s name changed to Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation.)
MECC originally coordinated and provided computer services to elementary and high schools in the state of Minnesota, and later, developed popular educational software for use in schools worldwide. In 1985, MECC became a public corporation, wholly owned by the State of Minnesota. The state spun off the company as a private corporation in 1991. MECC became a publicly traded company three years later, and it was acquired by SoftKey International (later The Learning Company) in 1996. MECC continued developing software but was shuttered in 1999.
MECC is best known for the successful computer program The Oregon Trail, originally developed in 1971 by three student teachers (including Don Rawitsch). Players of the game learned about the realities of 19th-century pioneer life while leading a group of settlers in covered wagons from Missouri to Oregon. The Oregon Trail remained extremely popular from the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s, releasing 15 different versions and spawning many imitations. (As the longest-published, most-successful educational game of all time, The Oregon Trail was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2016.) MECC also released other popular educational software games, such as Number Munchers, Word Munchers, Math Munchers Deluxe, The Secret Island of Dr. Quandary, Spellevator, and more.