Melissi was born in 2001 at the University of Hull, who commissioned it to replace the ageing analogue language labs. Existing solutions at that time required extensive cabling and custom hardware, and were very expensive. The name Melissi is an anglicised version of the Greek word for bees or beehive.
A company, Melissi Multimedia Ltd, was formed by the late Colin Richardson, who was Operations Manager at the prestigious Hull University Language Institute, and programmer and writer Jim Hawkins. Remarkably quickly, Melissi became a major player in the digital language lab market, attracting sales on a world-wide basis. Roger Frisby of Middlesex University, and then Chair of the Association of University Language Institutes, joined the Board and provided valuable insights and experience.
The ground-breaking interpreting software Black Box was developed in conjunction with Annalisa Sandrelli, an internationally-recognised expert interpreter and interpreting teacher.
When Colin Richardson retired, the original company was closed down, and the baton passed to Scene Cinema Ltd, a company owned by Dr Dean Conrad and Jim Hawkins. Development and sales continued very successfully until Dr Conrad decided to develop his career as an academic and screenwriter.
Rights in Melissi passed back to Jim Hawkins, who continues to develop and support its range of products.
From the start, to keep costs low and technological advancements high, Melissi has eschewed smart front-offices with pot-plants and glamour as its focus. Instead, Melissi uses a distributed programming model, with experts in various fields commissioned to provide modules of high-performance. As befits a software suite that is based on language-learning, Melissi uses modules from programmers in Ukraine, China, USA, Denmark, UK, Sweden, Germany and Poland. It’s a multinational co-operation that is not a multinational conglomerate.
Jim Hawkins is a highly-experienced programmer, screenwriter, dramatist, teacher and broadcaster. He was a major developer for the Commodore Amiga, and programmed the ground-breaking CDTV launch title Music Maker. Since the inception of the Melissi project he has always strived to bridge the gap between technology and the needs of teachers and learners.