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Logo of Broderbubd Software

Logo of Boarderbund

Brøderbund Software, Inc. was an American maker of video games, educational software and The Print Shop productivity tools. It was best known as the original creator and publisher of the Carmen Sandiego games. The company was founded in Eugene, Oregon, but moved to San Rafael, California, and later to Novato, California. Brøderbund was purchased by The Learning Company in 1998.

Many of Brøderbund's software titles, such as The Print Shop, PrintMaster and Mavis Beacon, are still published under the name "Broderbund" ("o" instead of "ø"). Games released by the revived Broderbund are distributed by Encore, Inc.


Brøderbund was founded by brothers Doug and Gary Carlston in 1980[1] for the purpose of marketing Galactic Empire,[2] a video game that Doug Carlston had created in 1979. Their sister, Cathy, joined the company a year later.[3] Before founding the company, Doug was a lawyer[3] and Gary had held a number of jobs, including teaching Swedish at an American college.[3] Galactic Empire had many names taken from African languages; a group of merchants was named Broederbond, Afrikaans for "association of brothers". To emphasize its family origin while avoiding a connection with the white-supremacist South African organization of the same name, the Carlstons altered the spelling when naming their company "Brøderbund".[4]

In 1984, Brøderbund took over the assets of the well-regarded but financially troubled Synapse Software. Although intending to keep it running as a business, they were unable to make money from Synapse's products, and closed it down after a year.[5][note 1]

Brøderbund's The Print Shop software produced signs and greeting cards. Brøderbund started discussions with Unison World about creating a version that would run on DOS. The two companies could not agree on a contract, but Unison World developed a DOS product with similar function and a similar user interface. Broderbund sued for infringement of their copyright. Broderbund v. Unison (1986) became a landmark case in establishing that the look and feel of a software product could be subject to copyright protection.[6]

Sierra On-Line and Brøderbund ended merger discussions in March 1991.[7] By this time Brøderbund developed most of its software, as opposed to publishing software others had developed; Doug Carlston stated the company needed "to control our own sources, to control our future". After an unsuccessful Initial Public Offering in 1987,[8] it became a public company in November 1991;[9] its NASDAQ symbol was BROD.[10] When Brøderbund went public The Print Shop comprised 33% of total revenue, and the Carmen Sandiego series 26%.[11] The company's stock price and market capitalization climbed steadily to a maximum of nearly US$80/share in late 1995, and then fell steadily in the face of continued losses for a number of years.

Brøderbund acquired PC Globe in July 1992.[12] The Learning Company purchased Brøderbund in 1998 for about US$420 million in stock.[1] Brøderbund had initially attempted to purchase the original The Learning Company in 1995,[13][14] but was outbid by Softkey, who purchased The Learning Company for $606 million in cash and then adopted its name. The Learning Company then bought Brøderbund in 1998 and in a move to rationalize costs, The Learning Company promptly terminated 500 employees at Brøderbund the same year,[15] representing 42% of the company's workforce. Then in 1999 the combined company was bought by Mattel for $3.6 billion.[16] Mattel reeled from the financial impact of this transaction, and Jill Barad, the CEO, ended up being forced out in a climate of investor outrage.[17] Mattel then gave away The Learning Company in September 2000 to Gores Technology Group, a private acquisitions firm, for a share of whatever Gores could obtain by selling the company. In 2001, Gores sold The Learning Company's entertainment holdings to Ubisoft, and most of the other holdings, including the Brøderbund name, to Irish company Riverdeep.[18] Many of Brøderbund's games, such as the Myst series, are published by Ubisoft.

Broderbund, with an "o" instead of the "ø" character, is now the brand name for Riverdeep's graphic design, productivity, and edutainment titles such as The Print Shop, Carmen Sandiego, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, the Living Books series, and Reader Rabbit titles, in addition to publishing software for other companies, notably Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm.

The Broderbund line of products is published by Encore, Inc under license from Riverdeep.[19][20] Under the terms of the agreement Encore now manages the Broderbund family of products as well as Broderbund’s direct to consumer business. In May 2010 Encore acquired the assets of Punch! Software[21]

In 2014 Doug Carlston donated a collection of Brøderbund's business records, software and a collection of games that includes Myst, Prince of Persia and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? to The Strong National Museum of Play. The Strong National Museum of Play forwarded the collection to the ICHEG museum for preservation.[22]


  1. "Synapse was owned by Broderbund for another year while we tried to sell the Electronic Novels, but the market had already changed too much to make any money, so Broderbund shut Synapse down".


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