This marvelous Magic Window was, as Bill Gates says …

“the first interactive TV show”

For many of us, it was our first experience of making the TV do what we wanted it to do.

For those who didn’t experience Winky Dink back in the mid-50’s, I could try to explain it, but we could also use those newfangled hyperlinks to conjure up some oral history at TV Party. (There are 3 pages – Check it out)

… and, of course, there’s always Wikipedia

The central gimmick of the show … was the use of a “magic drawing screen,” a piece of vinyl plastic that stuck to the television screen via static electricity. A kit containing the screen and various Winky Dink crayons could be purchased for 50 cents.

At a climactic scene in every Winky Dink short film, Winky would arrive on a scene that contained a connect-the-dots picture that could be navigated only with the help of viewers. Winky Dink then would prompt the children at home to complete the picture, and the finished result would help him continue the story.

Examples included drawing a bridge to cross a river, using an axe to chop down a tree, or 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 would then quickly 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 host Jack Barry would have a conversation. It would seem meaningless to viewers without the screen, further encouraging its purchase.

  • oooooh … “dark patterns”

The images here are from my very own beat-up Winky Dink Kit:

  • the green “magic window” screen (to be placed over the tv screen)
  • special “magic crayons”
  • and erasing cloth

It offers a simple, but very accessible User Interface, don’t you think?

Note:  The crayons have little dots on them (in the white band).  When stored in the box, the dots line up to give Winky Dink “crazy eyes”… Nice touch.

“How To”

This Winky Dink kit was a “career appropriate” graduation gift (from the Interactive Telecommunications Program) by my buddy, Anne McKay who worked with me on the Bryant Park Redesign Project.

Ahhhh… memories…



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