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The Learning Company
Company typePublic
Founded1980; 44 years ago (1980) (as The Learning Co.)
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
Defunct1995; 29 years ago (1995)
FateAcquired by SoftKey
Key people
Warren Robinett (co-founder)
ProductsEducational games

The Learning Company (TLC) was an educational software company founded in 1980 in Palo Alto, California and headquartered in Fremont, California. The company produced a grade-based line of learning software, edutainment games, and productivity tools. Its titles included the flagship series Reader Rabbit, for preschoolers through second graders, and The ClueFinders, for more advanced students. The company was also known for publishing licensed educational titles featuring characters such as Arthur, Scooby-Doo, Zoboomafoo, and Caillou.

In 1995, the company was acquired by SoftKey in a hostile takeover bid, at which point SoftKey assumed the Learning Company name and brand.


The Learning Company was founded in 1980 by Ann McCormick; Leslie Grimm; Teri Perl; and Warren Robinett, a former Atari employee who had programmed the popular game Adventure.[2] They saw the Apple II as an opportunity to teach young children concepts of math, reading, science, problem-solving, and thinking skills. Part of the original funding for the company came from a National Science Foundation grant.

TLC produced launch titles for the PCjr, announced in late 1983.[3] From 1980 through 1984, it created a line of 15 widely acclaimed children's educational software products, which were sold through the U.S. retail and school computer software channels.

In the first half of 1985, the board hired as CEO Bill Dinsmore. Shortly thereafter, Reece Duca, a founding Partner of the Investment Group of Santa Barbara (IGSB), became a member of the board of directors and purchased shares from several founders and original venture firms. In late 1986, Duca was elected chairman of the board. At that time, IGSB became The Learning Company's largest shareholder.

Between 1985 and 1995, TLC's revenues grew at a 36% compounded rate from $2.4M to $53.2M and profitability increased from breakeven in 1985 to a 20% pre-tax margin. The leading families of products were the Reader Rabbit series for ages 2–8, the Treasure Mountain Reading-Math-Science series for ages 5–9, the Super Solver series for ages 7–12, the Student Writing & Publishing Center for ages 7-adult, and the Foreign Language Learning series for ages 15-adult.

TLC went public on April 28, 1992, in an IPO led by Morgan Stanley and Robertson, Stephens & Co. From 1992 to 1995, TLC achieved 16 consecutive quarters of revenues and profits growth, never experiencing a down quarter or year. TLC's early struggles, followed by 10 consecutive years of outstanding performance, were the subject of case studies at both Harvard and Stanford universities.

SoftKey acquisition

Main article: The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey)

On December 8, 1995, TLC was acquired by SoftKey for $606M[4] in a hostile takeover bid, and a large percentage of the staff was fired. After the acquisition was complete, SoftKey changed its name to The Learning Company and continued to use its brand. The Learning Company née SoftKey was subsequently acquired by Mattel in 1999.


Note: When The Learning Company purchased Broderbund Software and MECC, they gained the rights to the long-running Carmen Sandiego and Trail series, respectively. Only those games created during the ownership of The Learning Company are included here.

Carmen Sandiego series

Main article: Carmen Sandiego (video game series)

The ClueFinders series

Main article: The ClueFinders

Fisher-Price series

Main article: Fisher-Price

Created and published by Davidson & Associates / Knowledge Adventure and re-released by The Learning Company.

Reader Rabbit series

Main article: Reader Rabbit

StarFlyers series

Main article: Starflyers

Super Seekers games

Super Solvers series

Trail series

See also: The Oregon Trail (series)

Zoombinis series

Main article: Zoombinis

Other games


  1. ^ "Short Take: The Learning Company moves from Nasdaq". CNET.
  2. ^ "Conversation with Warren Robinett Hosted by Andrew Ervin and Frank Lee Warren". Digital Studies Center, Rutgers University-Camden. Retrieved June 23, 2023.
  3. ^ Wiswell, Phil (January 24, 1984). "Coming Soon: Games For The PCjr". PC. pp. 142–145. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  4. ^ "Softkey Reaches Agreement to Buy Learning Company". The New York Times. December 8, 1995. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  5. ^ "Explore Yellowstone - Macintosh Garden".