I clutched my glass of cold milk in my tiny hand as I sat in front of our black and white TV, waiting for Engineer Bill to cry out either “red light”, or “green light.” Depending upon what he chose to say, I would either glup down the milk in my glass or unflinchingly keep the glass in front of me.

These were the early days of gamification. Along with my two brothers, we competed for first place milk drinker, emptying our glass of milk in response to Engineer Bill’s unpredictable prompts.

These were also the early days of content for new formats, in this case, television. Only half of the households in the US had a TV by the mid-1950s, and only a few of those offered color. The first programs on TV were for kids, experimenting with easy-to-please audiences, like the three of us in 1955. We were gleefully entertained with cartoons, puppets, and cheery TV hosts, such as Sheriff John, Kaptain Kangaroo, and Buffalo Bob.

The Howdy Doody show was one of these early shows and was hosted by Buffalo Bob who was joined by his sidekicks Clarabell, Thunderdud, and Phineus T. Bluster, among others. The first shows were low-budget, clunky, with advertisers often providing content until The Mickey Mouse Club appeared and swept us away with a torrent of delightful cartoons and films.

I wonder if we’re following the same path today with new, promising technologies that are far ahead of content.

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