Etch a Sketch day celebrates the introduction of one of the best known toys of the 20th century, which was released on July 12, 1960. It is a mechanical drawing toy invented by André Cassagnes of France and subsequently manufactured by the Ohio Art Company and now owned by Spin Master of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
An Etch A Sketch has a thick, flat gray screen in a red plastic frame. There are two white knobs on the front of the frame in the lower corners. Twisting the knobs moves a stylus that displaces aluminum powder on the back of the screen, leaving a solid line. The knobs create lineographic images. The left control moves the stylus horizontally, and the right one moves it vertically.
The toy is a kind of plotter. The inside surface of the glass screen is coated with aluminium powder, which is then scraped off by a movable stylus, leaving a dark line on the light gray screen. The stylus is controlled by the two large knobs, one of which moves it vertically and the other horizontally. Turning both knobs simultaneously makes diagonal lines. To erase the picture, the user turns the toy upside down and shakes it. Doing this causes polystyrene beads to smooth out and re-coat the inside surface of the screen with aluminum powder. The “black” line merely exposes the darkness inside the toy. Filling in large “black” areas allows enough light through to expose parts of the interior.
Make your own!
The link above motivated me to make our own Etch a Sketch, mostly to demonstrate to the kids what is happening inside the toy to make it draw. I think it’s fascinating how the pulleys work and move the stylus around. To me, this is a story of an inventor that followed his dreams and never gave up! Andre Cassagnes first brought his toy to a toy fair in Nuremberg, Germany. The Ohio Art Company saw it but had no interest in the toy. When Ohio Art saw the toy a second time, they decided to take a chance on the product.
If you don’t have an Etch a Sketch at home, you can play online. It’s no where near the same as playing with a real etch a sketch, but you can create similar artwork.