Winky Dink: The First Interactive TV show

Have you ever heard of the show Winky Dink and You? Neither did I—until my father-in-law told me how much he loved the show when he was a kid in the 50s.

For those of you who don’t know about it, Winky Dink and You was a children’s television show that played from 1953 to 1957 on CBS. The concept of the show was the use of a “magic drawing screen,” a piece of plastic that stuck to the television screen by static electricity. A kit containing the screen and crayons could be purchased for 50 cents. Wow, so cheap! At the main point of every show, Winky would arrive on a scene that contained a connect-the-dots picture that could be navigated only with the help of viewers. Winky then would prompt the children at home to complete the picture, and the finished result would help him continue the story. Examples include drawing a bridge to cross a river, using an axe to chop down a tree, or a creating a cage to trap a dangerous lion.

Another use of the interactive screen was to decode messages. An image would be displayed, showing only the vertical lines of the letters of the secret message. Viewers then quickly would trace onto their magic screen, and a second image would display the horizontal lines, completing the text.

A final use of the screen was to create the outline of a character with whom the narrator would have a conversation.

The program was successful because of its pioneering interactive marketing, and Winky became one of television’s most popular characters of the 1950s. However, its production was stopped despite its popularity because of radiation concerns from TV picture tubes and parents’ complaints that kids who didn’t have the interactive screen were drawing directly on the TV screen. A pricey item to have ruined!

The whole show concept reminds me of modern digital tablets and how many interactive games like this are now used by children (and adults) of all ages. With the use of an Apple Pencil or just your finger, you can draw digital masterpieces, or play a video game. It’s amazing to see how much interactive technology has evolved in 70 years. Just imagine another 70 years from now. We may be able to draw anywhere and on anything in our own virtual worlds. Maybe even Winky Dink will join us.

For a video (albeit poor quality one), check out the show here:

Taylor Design Blog

By Steve

Senior Art Director