"There were squares for double word scores, triple letter scores, everything," Hespin added. "And there were all these little wooden tiles with letters. It's almost identical."
Still, Hespin and the research team investigating the find have been unable to operate the system.
Hespin said: "We tried everything to replicate the online game. I unfolded the board and then laid some random tiles out in the same order as they would appear on Words with Friends. But when I touch the tile I want to play, and then press the corresponding square I want to place it in, nothing happens. The tile just sits there. I have no idea what to do."
Worse, sociologists discovered, the game in its present state cannot be integrated with social networks or even the Internet. Babs Crel, the lead researcher on the project, explained: "Our initial elation has turned to frustration. We can’t be sure we have all the equipment required. At this point, we feel some critical component -- something that allows the set to be uploaded to a website, perhaps -- may be missing. But then, there's no operating system we can discern, not even a rudimentary one. We've also failed to find a way to provide online players access to the application. Without a duplicate set and a group video conferencing system, which seems inefficient, linking friends into the game has become impossible."
Skip Hespin lamented that he came across the antique after his grandmother's death. "I bet she could have taught us how to use it and solved this mystery," he said.
The sociologists have asked Hespin to consider donating the artifact to a local museum for further study and an upcoming exhibit on primitive twentieth-century culture. For now, though, Hespin says he will hold onto the game for posterity and its sentimental value. "I'll keep tinkering with it, but it's more important to me as a family heirloom than a way to kill time in class."
(c) 2011. See disclaimers.