But, try as I might, I was unable to locate a reliable, rock-solid citation for that quote.
Was is it real -- had Gates ever actually uttered the words? Or was it merely some tall tale, repeated person-to-person by would-be believers?
I contacted the Microsoft corporate offices to ask if they could verify, for the sake of posterity, that Gates had, in fact, once sung the praises of Winky Dink. I had some false starts and hit some dead ends.
But then, paydirt.
I was able to get in touch with a man by the name of John Pinette, who once worked for Microsoft and who now is a spokesman for Gates himself. Pinette said he had a distinct recollection of having been present at the key moment:
"I remember the Winky Dink speech -- but don't remember when Bill gave it (or where -- or to whom). It was a brief example of 'here's an early example of interactive TV' before he went on to a bigger presentation of Microsoft's TV efforts.
"He had one of the plastic film sheets -- and the Winky Dink box, if I remember correctly."
So there it is. Gates was born in 1955, so it is unlikely that he remembers watching in first-run the original version of "Winky Dink and You." Perhaps he saw the subsequent attempts to bring the show back; perhaps, like so many young Americans of the time, he simply found himself awash in the echoes of Winky's legend.
Every creative genius is influenced by someone.
Plato was influenced by Socrates.
Beethoven was influenced by Mozart.
William Faulkner was influenced by Mark Twain.
In some future century, a new Mount Rushmore may be carved, to celebrate the figures of our own era who changed the course of the world as dramatically as any presidents or statesmen.
It will be only fitting and right if the three faces on the side of the mountain are those of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Winky Dink.
Not necessarily in that order.
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