years, words and word information used at the National Spelling Bee were only found in printed form in the dictionary. It was the Hexco family and the "Spelling Sisters" who began to
make spelling more 'accessible' with their one-of-a-kind Spelling Mentor software
program developed in the 1980s. Hexco's Spelling Mentors were first used on a TRS-80,
then on Apple and Macintosh, and finally on PCs.
Spelling Mentor, which came on a floppy disk and later on a CD, was the first 'app' in the competitive spelling arena. The logic for the software was mapped out by Tom and Linda Tarrant who worked for IBM, and the first Mentors were called "Huntley's Spelling Mentor" named after Huntley who competed at the National Spelling Bee herself and used the program to study.
Hexco was the first to pioneer the idea of studying missed words, recording words missed on last attempt, requesting the next letter, and creating a way to 'mark' or 'star' words to study later—all on a computer. This same logic is still being used today in an app format in Hexco's Spelling eMentor, added in 2015.
So while the design has changed, the logic has stood the test of time. Originally, only a few purchased the software, but it grew more popular over the years as did Hexco's unique word lists. Hexco also came up with their own original copyrighted pronunciation scheme that made words easy to 'sound out,' recorded audio pronunciations for each word used in a Mentor (now eMentor), and the company even rewrote tens of thousands of unique, abbreviated definitions so as not to infringe on Merriam Webster's copyright by replacing their pronunciation scheme and definitions.
While some lesser
copycat versions of apps have since appeared, the credit for engineering the original
spelling app for National Spelling Bee contestants goes to the Tarrant family.
To date, no apps have as many professional audio recordings, and none have created their own 'dictionary' so-to-speak with rewritten definitions and easy-to-read phonetic pronunciations which make learning faster.
We thank you
for your many years of business. Spelling is our passion and we look forward to
continued successes together during your spelling journey.
CLICK HERE to shop Hexco's Spelling eMentors for National Spelling Bee study!
Original photo by Blake Patterson; edited by Hexco Academic.