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Penguin Software collection

 Collection — Box: 1-2
Identifier: 114.52
The Penguin Software collection contains game design materials from games produced by Penguin Software (later renamed Polarware). Document types include correspondence, notes, game descriptions, computer code printouts, draft text, development and master floppy disks, and other game design documentation. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1982 and 1986. Additional scope and content information can be found in the “Contents List” section of this finding aid.

The Penguin Software collection is arranged in one series which has been further divided into four subseries. The collection is housed in one archival document box and one records carton.


  • 1970-2013
  • Majority of material found in 1982-1986


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.


1.5 Linear Feet (2 boxes)


The Penguin Software collection is a compilation of game design documentation, correspondence, text drafts, publications, computer code printouts, and floppy disks created or used by Mark Pelczarski of Penguin Software (later Polarware). The bulk of the materials are dated between 1982 and 1986.

Historical Note

Mark Pelczarski established his first software company, MP Software, in 1978. Pelczarski, a high school teacher, had realized the graphic capabilities of the Apple II computer and developed a drawing program called Magic Paintbrush. Though the “MP” in “MP Software” could have stood for its founder’s initials or for its earliest published game, Pelczarski joked in an October 1980 issue of SoftSide magazine that it was for “Magnificent Penguin.” Pelczarski’s next graphics utilities sold under the label Micro Co-Op, which Pelczarski had started to sell Apple software by other publishers. He decided that publishing his own software would be more lucrative, however, and renamed the company Penguin Software, a callback to his earlier quip.

Pelczarski added features to his previous drawing program concept and released Complete Graphics System. Other programmers and independent game designers joined Penguin, collaborating on ideas to use vector graphics to store many images on limited disk space, which paved the way for the popular (and later industry-standard) Graphics Magician. Penguin intentionally omitted copy protection on its software, making it easier for users to back up their programs. The company’s success allowed them to expand production from graphics programs to home applications, educational games, and adventure games. According to Pelczarski, Transylvania (1984) was the first originally programmed (not ported) game released for the introduction of the Macintosh computer in 1984.

That same year, Penguin programmers storyboarded a series of educational computer games which would teach geography with the player as a spy, pursuing an evil villain around the continent; in 1986, several months ahead of Penguin’s release of The Spy’s Adventures in North America, Brøderbund Software published the first game in its Carmen Sandiego series, effectively (and erroneously) branding Penguin Software’s Spy’s Adventures series a copycat in the educational software market. Also in 1986, Penguin Software received notice from book publisher conglomerate Penguin-Viking that they would be sued for copyright infringement regarding the word “penguin” in their company name. Rather than face prolonged—and expensive—legal proceedings, Penguin Software changed its name to Polarware. Four Polarware employees soon purchased the company from Pelczarski. In 1988, Polarware was acquired by another entity and rendered defunct later that year.

As of 2015, Pelczarski lives in the greater Chicago area and is an independent software developer and consultant.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Mark Pelczarski records of Penguin Software, 1970-2013

Subseries A: Correspondence
Subseries B: Game design documentation
Subseries C: Column text drafts and publications
Subseries D: Development and master disks

Custodial History

The Penguin Software collection was donated to The Strong in February 2014 as a gift from Mark Pelczarski. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 114.52 and received from Mark Pelczarski in 2 boxes (along with a donation of published software).

Related Materials

The trade catalog collection housed in the library stacks of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong has several Penguin Software product catalogs, c. 1983-1984.

For more information on the comparison between Penguin Software’s “Spy’s Adventures around the World” series and Brøderbund’s Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, see the Brøderbund Software, Inc. collection (Box 3, Folder 6).

The International Center for the History of Electronic Games also holds dozens of Penguin Software-published games.
Finding Aid to the Penguin Software Collection, 1970-2013
Julia Novakovic
20 May 2015
Description rules

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)