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Edu-Ware Services, Inc. was an educational and entertainment software publisher established in 1979 by Sherwin Steffin and Steven Pederson. It was known for its adventure games, role-playing video games, and flight simulators for the Apple II family of computers.
Edu-Ware founders Sherwin Steffin and Steven Pederson met at UCLA, where Steffin was working as a faculty advisor to the campus radio station where Pederson worked as a student. When Steffin was laid off in the spring of 1979, he and Pederson decided to form a software publishing company specializing in educational software for the Apple II. In particular, Steffin, who held degrees in experimental psychology and instructional technology, wanted to create computer aided instruction that encouraged divergent thinking, in contrast to current school curriculum, which he believed encouraged convergent thinking.
Working out of his Woodland Hills, California apartment, Steffin programmed educational software, while Pederson favored games the games he created while completing his studies at UCLA. Edu-Ware's first products were Perception, followed by Compu-Read, which Steffin had begun programming before starting Edu-Ware, with the intention of selling it to Programma International. Software store Rainbow Computing, enticed by Pederson's concept for a new role-playing video game called Space, gave him his first Apple II computer, which he used to also write the strategy game Terrorist and the educational program Compu-Spell, for which Pederson wrote the first version of Edu-Ware's EWS graphics engine for generating text on the Apple's high-resolution graphics screen.
The company expanded beyond the two founders when it hired Mike Lieberman, who had also worked at the student radio station, as sales manager, and contracted game developer David Mullich, who met Steffin while working at Rainbow Computing. After writing several games for Edu-Ware as a freelancer, he joined Edu-Ware after completing his own studies at California State University, Northridge in 1980, and as his first assignment created the ground-breaking adventure game The Prisoner, the product for which Edu-Ware is best remembered today. The game was also a financial success for the company, which moved into actual officespace, at 22222 Sherman Way in Canoga Park, California, by the year's end. Sometime later, the company relocated to larger facilities overlooking the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, California.
Edu-Ware may be most noted for what it failed to publish rather than what it did publish: Ken Williams originally shopped the first graphical adventure, Mystery House to Eduware in 1980. Unhappy with how the negotiations were proceeding, he formed On-line Systems to publish the game. On-line Systems became Sierra On-line and Sierra became extremely successful, based largely on their reputation in the graphic adventure genre.
While The Prisoner remained Edu-Ware's best-selling individual product during its first two years of business, educational software remained its primary focus. The Compu-Math series, consisting of three programs designed by Steffin and programmed by Mullich for teaching elementary mathematics, unveiled Edu-Ware's vision of teaching by objectives and measuring learning through pretesting and posttesting. The company's educational approach was perfected in 1981 with the release of the first in the Algebra series, in which learners choose the cognitive approach by which they want to learn. The Algebra series greatly surpassed The Prisoner in sales and became Edu-Ware's greatest source of revenue.
Despite the company's successes, by 1982 it was obvious that to Steffin and Pederson that they could not continue running the company themselves. Rapidly climbing marketing costs and heavier competition from rivals like Davidson & Associates and Spinnaker Software were taking their toll. For the 1.5 million dollar software company to survive, Edu-Ware needed more management strength and expertise. In July 1983 Management Sciences America, then the world's largest independent software manufacturer, announced that it was purchasing Edu-Ware for a combination of cash and MSA stock, valued at $1.5 million, plus a percentage of future earnings. Having previously specialized in mainframe computer software, MSA saw the purchase as its entry into educational software, which it saw as a future growth market.
However, the relationship soon soured as Edu-Ware's marketing was taken over by MSA's Peachtree Software accounting software division, and the Edu-Ware brand identity was slowly extinguished. The final straw came when Personal Computing hit the newsstands in October 1984. The issue featured a well-publicized peach-scented insert that unfolded into eight pages, 32-inches wide, displaying a shelf of 67 Peachtree Software products, all in identical packaging. This included 45 Edu-Ware products that were virtually indistinguishable from the accounting software packaging, the only difference being that the Edu-Ware products had the word 'Education' on the box, even for the Edu-Ware games like Prisoner 2.
Steffin's protests over how MSA was handling Edu-Ware caused him to be fired in August 1984. The next month, he filed a lawsuit against MSA, claiming the company had violated securities laws in making fraudulent representations to Edu-Ware’s stockholders in order to buy the latter’s stock and for the promise of future payments not materialized. Steffin further claimed he was to be employed by Edu-Ware for four years after the sale, and charged that MSA undercut Edu-Ware sales to diminish the payments it had promised. He said MSA sabotaged the company by holding some products off the market, eliminating advertising and discontinuing use of the Edu-Ware name.
Two months after Steffin filed his lawsuit, MSA announced plans to sell its retail microcomputer software group of Peachtree Software, DesignWare, and Eduware, which together lost $2 million that year. MSA cited the millions of dollars Peachtree Software had spent on advertising and promotion, including the expensive peach-scented insert, as a reason for selling off the group. In March 1985 Encyclopædia Britannica announced that it had purchased Designware and Edu-Ware from MSA for an undisclosed sum. The EduWare development team was to be disbanded, and DesignWare would handle both development and marketing of Edu-Ware and Designware products.
Steffin started another software publishing company, BrainPower, along with sales manager Lieberman, while Pederson, who had left Edu-Ware several months earlier, went on to other ventures. Mullich and a few other remaining Edu-Ware employees acquired two of the computer games in development, an adventure game called Wilderness: A Survival Adventure and a space flight simulator called Tranquility Base, and formed their own game company, Electric Transit.
Besides Mullich, another notable Edu-Ware alumni include former Apple Computer evangelist Guy Kawasaki, who was Director of Marketing at the company, and NASA official Wesley Huntress, who developed Rendezvous: A Spaceflight Simulator.