Brøderbund Software, Inc. was founded in 1980 by brothers Douglas and Gary Carlston in Eugene, Oregon. The name “Brøderbund” was reportedly a portmanteau of the Scandinavian “brøder” (meaning “brother”) and the German “bund” (meaning “alliance”).
Douglas (“Doug”) Carlston, a lawyer and computer programmer, coded a series of games called the Galactic Saga, which achieved modest commercial success via outside software publishers. In 1979, Doug and Gary Carlston decided to start their own software company. Thanks to an early investment from family and friends, the Carlston brothers marketed the Galactic Saga directly to retailers. They formed a distribution deal with Japanese software company StarCraft to sell additional home entertainment software stateside. The Carlstons’ sister, Cathy, joined Brøderbund in 1981, the same year in which the company was incorporated in California.
Brøderbund soon expanded its operations to include in-house game designers and programmers creating both entertainment and educational software across a variety of home computer platforms. Some of Brøderbund’s most popular titles in the early 1980s included Choplifter (1982), Lode Runner (1983), and desktop publisher Print Shop (1984). In 1985, Brøderbund developed the sensationally popular Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, a geography- and history-based educational game. Additional software titles in the Carmen Sandiego series were published over the years, and the massive success of the series spawned television shows and choose-your-own-adventure books.
Brøderbund continued to grow in both wealth and status in the software industry, shifting its production from floppy disks to CD-ROMs in the early 1990s. Critics hailed Myst, created by Cyan and published by Brøderbund in 1993, as a groundbreaking 3-D graphic adventure game. During the mid-1990s, Brøderbund actively sought out mergers and acquisitions. The diverse computer platforms available to consumers resulted in the production of more Brøderbund software titles and versions than ever before.
In 1998, The Learning Company purchased Brøderbund and immediately terminated more than 500 former Brøderbund employees. Mattel acquired The Learning Company a year later, and subsequent transactions effectively rendered the original Brøderbund defunct. As of 2014, Encore Software, Inc. licenses the Broderbund (with a standard letter “o” instead of the Danish symbol “ø”) line of products.