Franklin, my dear…

Thursday, 17 July 2003 — 10:16am | Scrabble

Now available for ordering at NSA Word Gear and Amazon is the Franklin Scrabble Companion, basically an electronic version of The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, Third Edition (OSPD3) that was published in the mid-1990s. Though it was before my time, the Franklin for the OSPD2 had a stellar reputation in its day for being the ultimate portable anagramming companion – cheap, pocket-sized, and feature-rich.

The new Franklin is of questionable utility, however. At 5″ on each side, it is a considerably larger model, only slightly smaller than a compact disc. It includes the one-line definitions of the OSPD3, but its use of that dictionary as a hard-wired word source is its greatest drawback. It is unsuitable for tournament play, as it omits the same 167 playable “offensive words” as the OSPD3, which are included in the actual tournament word source. Furthermore, word is that the next round of changes to the Tournament Word List is slated for as early as 2005.

As a product geared towards the casual living room player, the Franklin does show some promise. It eliminates the need to physically flip through the dictionary for challenges and definitions, even if this simultaneously removes one’s ability to scan the dictionary casually looking for neat words. In doing so, it removes the nuisance of the print version’s pseudo-alphabetical sorting and grouping of inflections. Whether or not this is worth $49.99 USD is a different question entirely. One has to wonder about the marketing strategy behind it: do people who don’t play at clubs and tournaments actually study words rigorously? Is there really a market for this? There might be – after all, some tournament gurus still lug an OSPD3 around for the definitions alone, and the book seems to sell rather well; as of this writing, its Amazon.com sales rank is a whopping 351.

But as far as electronic Scrabble aids go, the consensus among competitive players is that Paul Sidorsky’s freeware LAMPWords for Palm OS is far superior. Using a display that is not confined to one line, and filled with LeXpert-esque lookup and list creation features, the only overhead is that you need a Palm device to run it, and the only drawback is the lack of definitions. But LAMPWords is most prominently superior because of its versatility, in using downloadable software-based dictionary files. It’s adaptable to future revisions and lexica used outside North America (I refer specifically to SOWPODS here), and any errors are easily patched.

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