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"MECC was originally an abandoned school building where old desks were crammed together. Engineers worked in shower stalls; the water was turned off; the electricity was piped in. It was small and FUN, so exciting. We knew we were doing something completely new."
--Wayne Studer, designer Oregon Trail II


Owned and funded by the State of Minnesota, MECC, the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, was created on July 1, 1973. The state of Minnesota had the foresight to create an organization that would help schools on a statewide basis to plan for the use of computers. At the time, Minnesota was a significant center for computing--Honeywell, Control, Univac and IBM had installations in the state. MECC was designed to develop educational computing programs for Minnesota school students, but also to join joint practices between K-12 an higher education.

Before Microcomputers, MECC ran a large, centralized timeshare that schools across the state could call into via telephone network, funded by state. MECC created a central library of resources--it created the first computer program documentation so that teachers could get the background information for the program and the learning objectives. The purpose of the library was to give rural schools access to the technology--the library served thousands of teletype terminals across the state.

MECC has had the most significant impact on the history of educational computing. Three of its decisions, which have ultimately influenced the development of the industry are:

  1. MECC established the first state-wide purchase contract for computers in schools. When microcomputers appeared on market, MECC studied various brands, created a specification, accepted bids from companies. A dozen companies bid to be included in MECC's recommendation, but newly created Apple Computers was winner. MECC established a purchase contract for Apple--it became a defacto standard in state of Minnesota.
  2. In 1978, the first primitive personal computers appeared. MECC began to transfer the best of their programs from the timeshare library to diskette--all materials were programmed for the Apple.
  3. After discovering interest in accessing the software from people outside of Minnesota, copy security became an issue. MECC's solution was to ignore copyright issue and to sell site licenses (MECC membership). A school district in another state paid a flat fee for an entire year, could make as many copies as possible.

The success of titles such as The Oregon Trail were so widespread that MECC began to sell its software across the country at profit and used the money to fund the educational effort in Minnesota. In the mid-1980s, MECC and the zoo were the only organizations owed by the state, but self-preserving (not funded by the state). In the late 1980's, MECC became the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation--it was sold to a North American venture capitalist, for $5 million. Within a year, it was sold again to The Learning Company--for $250 million. The MECC offices in Minnesota were recently closed in January 1999.

--information taken from interviews with Don Rawitsch and Wayne Studer