Winky Dink and You was a children’s television program first airing from 1953 to 1957 on Saturday mornings, and the history of being the first interactive application of electronic screens with their viewers. Think of it. Computer screens with the Graphical User Interface (GUI). The use of a mouse. Interactive webpages. Video games. Virtual Reality. These all can trace their roots back to a 1953 kids show that this writer remembers vividly from having been a fan.
New York ad executive Harry Pritchett gets credit for coming up with the idea when his client, Benrus Watches, drew viewer criticism for not selling their product for $39.95 as advertised on Your Show of Shows. The TV screen was supposed to say “$39.95 and up”, but many early television screens clipped off the “…and up”. Pritchett tasked his staff to watch the show at their homes and report back what they saw. For his part, Harry Pritchett used a grease pencil and a plastic sheet over his own screen to demonstrate where those words had actually appeared.
Lightbulb moment! Pritchett made the leap of recognizing that children might enjoy writing things on a TV screen that would help advance some story line. Hence, drawing a bridge over a raging river to aid an escape. Connecting the dots to depict a mystery character, or in spelling out the letters of a word. The resulting show featured a wild-haired cartoon character dubbed Winky Dink, voiced by Mae Questel. Winky Dink and You was hosted by Jack Barry and also featured voice actor, Dayton Allen, as Mr. Bungle.
With the cooperation of parents, children could send 50 cents and get a set of crayon and “Magic Windows” back from CBS. The “Magic Windows” amounted to plastic overlays which could adhere to the real screens using static electricity generated by rubbing the sheet with a cloth immediately before draping the plastic on the screen itself.
Even though Winky Dink and You remained popular, the show went off the air in 1957 for two reasons. First, children sat very close to the cathode ray tubes of the day when interacting. Concern was expressed of there being a potential hazardous exposure to x-rays. This concern was magnified with the introduction of color TV screens. Second, many parents, who didn’t spring for the 50 cents paid to CBS to get the screen overlay and the crayons, found their kids marking the real screens anyway with whatever they could get their hands on!
- Year Started: 1953
- Year Ended: 1957
- Origin Of Name: Fabricated catchy TV name
- Location Sales: North America
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: CBS Television
- Owner While In Use: CBS Television
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: 1969
- What’s Popular Today: Minecraft
- Naics Code: 512110
- Location Headquarters: New York, New York, United States