How You Wound Up Playing ‘The Oregon Trail’ in Computer Class

Matt Jancer:

The Oregon Trail, The Yukon Trail, Number Munchers, Word Munchers, The Secret Island of Dr. Quandary, Lemonade Stand, DinoPark Tycoon, Storybook Weaver. All games you played in school, all made by the same state-funded company—the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium. Never heard of MECC? It went hand in hand with Apple Computer Inc. in its earliest days. Steve Jobs said as much in a 1995 interview with the Smithsonian Institution: “One of the things that built Apple II’s was schools buying Apple II’s.” Apple II’s loaded with MECC games.

Minnesota was a Midwestern Silicon Valley by the early 1970s. The State of Minnesota threw huge funds to entice computer programmers to Minneapolis and Saint Paul when it created MECC in 1973. From 1978 to 1999, MECC, together with Apple, competed against private software companies to turn American children into a nation of computer-savvy early adopters and make computer class as much a part of American schooling as math and English.