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Brøderbund Software, Inc. collection

 Collection — Box: 1-14
Identifier: 114.892
This collection contains a sample of corporate records from Brøderbund Software, Inc. Document types in the first series include correspondence, meeting minutes, publicity materials, memos, sales reports, financial information, product development notes, news articles, software diskettes, artwork, photographs, conference programs, internal newsletters, and other reference materials. Two large bound scrapbooks of publicity and product information are also part of this collection. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1980 and 1998, the duration of Brøderbund’s existence under Doug Carlston. The second series in this collection showcases Carlston’s involvement in the early years of the Software Publishers Association (SPA). Additional scope and content information can be found in the “Contents List” section of this finding aid.

The Brøderbund Software, Inc. collection is arranged into two series, both of which have been further divided into subseries. The collection is housed in fourteen archival document boxes.


  • 1979 - 2002
  • Majority of material found within 1980 - 1998


Conditions Governing Access

At this time, digital files in this collection are limited to on-site researchers only. It is possible that certain formats may be inaccessible or restricted.

Please see The Strong's Digital Games Files Access Policy here .

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


8 Linear Feet (14 boxes)


The Brøderbund Software, Inc. collection is a compilation of Brøderbund business records and information on the Software Publishers Association (SPA). The majority of the materials are dated between 1980 and 1998.

Historical Note

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.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Brøderbund corporate records, 1979-2002

Subseries A: Historical information
Subseries B: Correspondence
Subseries C: Financial information
Subseries D: Product development
Subseries E: Sales and marketing
Subseries F: Personnel information
Subseries G: Internal newsletters
Subseries H: News clippings and publicity
Subseries I: Box/packaging art clippings
Subseries J: Miscellaneous papers and diskettes

Series II: Software Publishers Association (SPA), 1984-1991

Subseries A: Board and membership
Subseries B: Correspondence
Subseries C: Newsletters
Subseries D: Conference information
Subseries E: Other documentation

Custodial History

The Brøderbund Software, Inc. collection was donated to The Strong in January 2014 as a gift from Douglas Carlston. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 114.892. The papers were received from Carlston in 5 boxes, along with a donation of Brøderbund software products and related corporate ephemera.

Related Materials

Various Brøderbund product catalogs, strategy guides, and choose-your-own-adventure books are housed in the library stacks of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong.

Hundreds of software titles from Brøderbund, as well as their accompanying manuals, are held in The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG). The majority of these materials were donated to the museum by Doug Carlston in the same accession lot.



Finding Aid to the Brøderbund Software, Inc. Collection
Julia Novakovic
26 February 2014
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)