FEATURE16 December 2013

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From Winky Dink crayons to iPad companion apps, Tim Phillips traces the evolution of multi-screening, and how advertisers and content creators are adapting to a world of increasingly divided attentions.


On Saturday mornings between 1953 and 1957, a cartoon character called Winky Dink and his dog Woofer would entertain kids who tuned into the CBS network using interactive second-screen apps. Their ‘Magic Drawing Screen’ was a piece of clear plastic that kids could stick to the TV screen. Winky Dink crayons cost 50 cents, and during the broadcasts kids were encouraged to use their other ‘screen’ to complete a picture, solve a code or join the dots on screen.

Parents complained to CBS: their kids were so enthusiastic that the unlucky ones who were denied a Magic Screen and special crayons had taken directly to drawing on their family’s television.

After this exciting start, interactive television languished for half a century. Expensive innovations such as Time Warner’s Full Service Network – an interactive cable TV system that was provided to 4, 000 homes around Orlando between 1994 and 1997 – offered the opportunity to order Pizza Hut pizza from ...