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A Brief History of the WordPal Vocabulary Builder Program

The genesis of this program dates back to May of 2004, when I was looking to purchase a handheld vocabulary program to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam. After finding none and with the GRE only a month away, dozens of vocabulary building web sites were visited. While their online quizzes and flashcards were helpful in learning new words, many were so slow to respond that you could literally use two of them at the same time. On others, I found myself constantly looking up words in the dictionary, and still others contained several errors. However, given that they were free, one could hardly complain. While some web sites did offer programs that were available for purchase, many either had a limited vocabulary of around a thousand words or cost several hundred of dollars for a complete set of words.

So after taking the GRE and qualifying for graduate school, I decided to write a vocabulary builder program for handhelds instead. Having been both a software developer and a design verification manager, and knowing how many programs get thrown together because of the lack of a good design, the first three weeks were spent writing a seventy page requirements specification. Next, to avoid infringing on the copyrights of others by using too few references, eight digital dictionaries were purchased along with over two dozen vocabulary books. Some of the older vocabulary books, which have copyrights dating back to 1945 are actually quite good, if you can find them in a used bookstore. Besides these references, in the process of creating the vocabulary database, thousands of Internet sites were checked, especially for the laborious process of creating sentences for each of the words. In fact, without the Internet, this program would have never come into being.

To make a long story short, 18 months later, in late November of 2005, the WordPal vocabulary builder was finally ready to be beta tested. It then took another three months to work out the bugs and make the improvements that were recommended by the beta testers. I’m very grateful to Doug Anderson, Rob Belton, Cindy Hadaller, Greg Hadaller, Hal Hadaller, Jim Harte, Tom Sandison, Tom Treadway, and Marty Wilson, as their suggestions made the program much more user friendly.

Now, 21 months later, after writing over 21,000 lines of code for the WordPal Vocabulary Builder program, almost 3,000 lines of code for the database creator program, and a vocabulary database this is nearly 500 pages in length, the program is finally ready for its first public release. While this was over a year later than originally planned, on the positive side the program now also runs on PCs. In hindsight, the project would have been less overwhelming had one person been devoted to creating the vocabulary database while another created the program.

Fortunately, my wife, who is a software developer herself, helped out immensely by creating the mindpal web site and the installer programs. Had she not done that, the product ship date would have slipped by at least another three months. I’m also indebted to Doug Anderson, who convinced me to stay the course and get the program released rather than work for someone else.

Lastly, a thank you to those of you who decide to purchase the program. By doing so, you are providing the funds that will allow the program and the vocabulary database to be enhanced and other innovative products to be created. It is my hope that this program will help you to rapidly improve your vocabulary and thereby assist you in reaching your goals.

Wayne Buckholdt

February 28, 2006