This is an archived website which has not been updated since 2002.
Some information may be inaccurate or out of date.

Strange Tales
Some Slightly Risqué

Early interactivity

At, the following can be found under the heading "Winky Dink and You": "Broadcast in glorious black and white beginning in 1953, this program featured the adventures of a cartoon lad named Winky-Dink and his dog Woofer, interspersed with the in-studio antics of a host and an audience of kids. The gimmick was that the boys and girls at home were asked to help Winky-Dink out of a jam by drawing a ladder or a rope on the TV screen. This was done with the aid of a Winky-Dink Kit which was sold by mail for fifty cents. 'We sold millions of those kits' the show's host Jack Barry commented, 'It was well thought out.'

"You could place the clear piece of plastic that came in the kit over the television screen and connect the dots to create a bridge for Winky Dink to cross to safety, and trace the letters to read the secret messages broadcast towards the end of the show. Which I guess makes Winky-Dink the world's first interactive video game. Of course, it goes without saying that scores of kids without the kits drew on the television screen itself, ruining many a family's first television sets.

"Winky-Dink and You originally ran Saturday mornings at 10:00 am, from October 10, 1953 until April 27, 1957 on the CBS network. Along with host Jack Barry was Dayton Allen as Mr. Bungle, his assistant that never gets anything right. You may recognize the name 'Mr. Bungle' as the name of a very popular alternative band of the early nineties.

"In 1956, Jack Barry began hosting a wildly popular prime-time game show he also produced called Twenty-One, and Winky-Dink was canceled the next year. Barry said at the time, 'It strictly didn't rate that well. It was on for almost four and a half years, but it never got the kind of audience the straight cartoon shows started pulling.' Twenty-One, on the other hand, was riding the crest of popularity that game shows were enjoying on the Fifties prime-time schedule.

"In the fall of 1958, Twenty-One (and almost every other game show) was driven off the air when it was revealed that $129,000 winner Charles Van Doren was given some of the answers in advance. (The story was told in the movie 'Quiz Show'.) Jack Barry, as host and producer of the show that broke the industry-wide practice of prompting some contestants, took the brunt of the bad publicity. Because of the immense scandal that ensued, it was another ten years before Jack Barry worked on television again.

"In 1969, Winky-Dink was revived by Barry, this time as a five minute cartoon feature, complete with a new Winky-Dink kit for kids to send off for. Consumer groups argued that kids shouldn't be playing with their eyes so close to the TV set, and the character was quickly retired.

"Modern audiences will remember Jack Barry as the host of the long running CBS game show 'The Joker's Wild', a show he hosted from 1972 until his death in 1984. Barry also hosted a children's version of the 'The Joker's Wild' called 'Joker, Joker, Joker' from 1979 until 1981, bringing his career full circle." 

A firelight tale

One of our informants works at Central Television in Birmingham and wishes to remain anonymous. That's fine by us, probably wise even. Anyway, he has been chatting to some of the oldtimers who worked at the Alpha Studios (owned jointly by ATV and ABC Television). Normally late shifts are not very popular with staff but the exception can sometimes prove the rule ...

The reason was this, an incident which occurred on a number of occasions around 1961 or 1962. From the transmission area it was possible to look out of the window and see across the street through the window and into the bedroom of an adjacent flat. There was a young lady who lived there with her father but on Friday nights he tended to go out for the night. That was the supposition for on Friday nights it was observed she would be joined in the bedroom by someone who was presumably her boyfriend. They had a regular schedule and could always be seen to 'get down to business' on the rug in front of the fire.

More often than not they would turn off the light in the room but thoughtfully they did leave the television switched on, and by the light of its glow the proceedings could still be observed. by all the telecine and VTR engineers who were peering through the window and trying to see what was going on. The timing of this evening's diversion coincided with the showing of the late night film on ATV and as often as not, this was the programme the couple were watching (or probably not watching very much). This could be proved scientifically by lifting the black level of the film being transmitted and gradually the engineers would raise the black level in an attempt to make the TV screen brighter and hence get a better view in the room.

They had to be quite careful for occasionally when doing this, the equipment in the Post Office circuits between the studios and the transmitters didn't like the increased level and would occasionally drop out, causing a fault and loss of programme for everyone viewing!

The telecine equipment, by the way, used a three-way optical multiplex for 16mm and 35mm film plus 35mm slides, focussed on a vidicon camera. Picture quality was not exceptional and sometimes led to odd strobe effects; at least the lag in the pickup tube covered up imperfections in the film material. Later a separate mesh vidicon was used to get slightly better results. The camera was by Link, probably a Model 102, which was well liked by the BBC and ITV companies for captions and telecine work. It was fully switchable for 405/525/625 lines and employed a separate, remotely mounted, camera control unit (CCU).

Small, medium or liar?

A Rhode Island game manufacturer has delayed distribution of a new CD-ROM computer game in order to remove a scene. The Music In Me, designed for ages eight and up, has a sequence where the viewer can see a TV set in a living room. The TV shows a commercial for cereal where the announcer says "Hey kids! Don't forget the surprise in the box." A small boy reaches in and pulls out a wrapped condom. "Gee whiz," the lad says, "it's my size!"

ReadySoft, which was to distribute the game for the Tune 1000 company of Toronto, said the commercial wasn't noticed in testing because reviewers were looking only for technical problems. "We weren't looking for anything like this," the company's spokeswoman said. "This is a family-oriented... game." (Reuter)

[courtesy of This Is True]

Frugal with the truth

One of the best quotes I have ever heard came from an auctioneer when asked if an item was in working condition. His response was... "the last time it worked, it worked perfect". I about fell out of my seat when I heard that one.

Bob Wood

Beware the TV Trance

Americans spend 40 percent of our precious free time – between 15 and 18 hours a week – in front of a flickering TV screen. Why? People's lists of reasons start with "relaxation."

But they've got it only half right, says Rutgers University psychologist Robert Kubey, Ph.D., co-author of Television and the Quality of Life. Kubey and his colleagues acknowledge that their research confirms that TV-viewing increases alpha activity and other indicators of calmness. Indeed, so sedating is the tube that Kubey draws a parallel between television viewing and hypnotic states.

The catch is that after you turn off the TV, relaxation seems to vanish with the picture. Viewers report that on arising from the couch, they feel sluggish, guilty, sapped, lonely, or drained, rather than relaxed. The more TV watched, the worse the feelings of dissatisfaction.

The key to really relaxing in front of a TV set is to watch shows, not mindlessly stare at the screen. Don't turn on the set unless you've planned what you want to see. Schedule the family's favorite programs each week, watch only those, and turn the set off immediately.

Popular Mechanics (USA)

Quote of the day:

"Experience is what enables you to recognise a mistake when you make it again."

It takes time

Once colour TV was introduced in the USA, it took eight years for it to reach the minuscule 1 per cent penetration level; even after ten years this had barely reached three per cent, and it took nearly 20 years before half of American homes has colour TV sets. There’s no proof that HDTV will be any different and if the American FCC holds to its intention to switch off conventional analogue NTSC transmissions in 15 years’ time, two thirds of America’s viewers may be without any over-the-air television service.

From Broadcast Engineering magazine, February 1997.

Back to Information index