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Etch A Sketch

picture of Etch A Sketch

Did you know that the Etch A Sketch is 50 years old? It was invented by a Frenchman in the late 1950's. It was licensed to the Ohio Art Company and debuted as Etch A Sketch in July 1960. I had one as a child and spent many happy, frustrating hours playing with it, but I could never produce anything astounding. If you have ever had one, were you ever able to draw amazing things or even write legibly?

According to Wikipedia:

An Etch A Sketch is a thick, flat gray screen in a plastic frame. There are two 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.

As I researched for this blog post, I was surprised that there are actual Etch A Sketch artists out there. Here are some pictures I found online of the creations I could never have done. I was unable to find attribution for some of them. If I've posted yours and you would like credit and a link, let me know.

I read that a young child did this map of the United States!

picture of Etch A Sketch artwork

Someone was able to do an optical illusion with the Etch A Sketch.

picture of Etch A Sketch artwork

Here's the Golden Gate Bridge.

picture of Etch A Sketch artwork

Here's some ancient Egyptian artistry done by Etch A Sketch artist Kevin Davis.

picture of Etch A Sketch artwork

Here's the Mona Lisa by Etch A Sketch artist Jeff Gagliardi.

picture of Etch A Sketch artwork

Here's "Starry Night" by VanGogh, and Jeff Gagliardi.

picture of Etch A Sketch artwork

This one was done by Etch A Sketch artist George Vlosich. The drawing looks too perfect to be real! This guy takes Etch A Sketch art to a whole new level!

picture of Etch A Sketch artwork

There are different products that are spin-offs of the Etch A Sketch. Here's a pocket Etch A Sketch.

picture of a pocket Etch A Sketch

Here's an Etch A Sketch pen that might offer some competition for students' attention.

picture of Etch A Sketch pen

There's an app for it...?

picture of Etch A Sketch for iPod

Now here's one I have a hard time believing.

picture of an Etch A Sketch with Windows

I'm a little nostalgic since my 40 year high school reunion was this past weekend up in Ohio. I was not able to attend, but I have heard that those who did enjoyed it. Since I'm on this nostalgia kick, I'm remembering that 10 years ago there was a lot of hype about the y2k bug. Below is a solution proposed by one company (in jest, of course).

Our goal is to remove all computers from the desktop by Jan 1, 1999. In place of the current computer, everyone will be provided with an Etch A Sketch. There are several benefits to this move:

1. No y2k problems

2. No technical glitches keeping work from being done.

3. No more wasted time reading and writing e-mails.

4. Better development of upper body strength.

In anticipation of your questions, an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) has been provided:

Q: My Etch A Sketch has all of these funny little lines all over the screen.
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I turn my Etch A Sketch off?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: What's the shortcut for Undo?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I create a New Document window?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I set the background and foreground to the same color?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: What is the proper procedure for rebooting my Etch A Sketch?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I delete a document on my Etch A Sketch?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I save my Etch A Sketch document?
A: Don't shake it.


If this has got you itching to try your hand at an Etch A Sketch, Ohio Arts offers an online virtual Etch A Sketch.

What are your memories of Etch A Sketches? Are they good ones?

I'll end this post with a comic I found online that is reminiscent of the Far Side.

picture of an Etch A Sketch comic


"At salvation your spiritual DNA changes" - Dr. Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=

The future will be sketched with what we've drawn from the past.

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14 Comments on “Etch A Sketch”

  1. #1 Dave
    on Aug 10th, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    I’ve never had the patience for the Etch a Sketch. A friend in college once reproduced each of the pieces of art in BJU’s Living Gallery for that year. As far as I know he never wiped out the 15 sketches that he made. Quite amazing.

    .-= Dave’s most recent blog post … Big Band at the Rock =-.

  2. #2 Corene
    on Aug 10th, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I remember as a kid playing with etch-a-sketch while traveling in the car during our furloughs. What we liked doing was drawing the lines so close together up and down throughout the whole screen so that the internal parts of the etch-a-sketch could be seen. This would take a long time to do and I only remember being able to get it halfway done. I think an older sibling was able to do the whole screen.

  3. #3 Rob
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 7:02 am

    @Dave – That is amazing indeed! It must take a certain knack.

    @Corene – I remember doing what you and your sibs did enough to be able to see at least some of the inner workings, but like you, I could never get it all cleared off. Thanks for making me think of that fun memory.

  4. #4 Vikki
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I must confess – all the unidentified artists are me!! No, seriously, we also spent hours playing with the thing – mostly just trying to make a straight diagonal line. Sadly we never really succeed. But we did make lots of Christmas trees trying. Circles were even more of a challenge.

    I can’t imagine how long it would take someone to actually master drawing on it. And how many Etch a Sketches did they have to go through in learning? It seemed that, within a short period of time they would start to leak around the knobs and Mom would throw it out.

  5. #5 Anonymous
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 9:32 am

    You’d probably have copyright problems posting this cartoon, but it’s my favorite.

    picture of Etch A Sketch comic

  6. #6 Rob
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 10:05 am

    @Vikki – LOL! I agree that it must have taken inordinately huge amounts of time to get good enough to do those drawings … or a huge amount of manual dexterity, skill, and patience.

    @Anonymous – I’m posting it for you since it’s clear where the comic comes from. If there’s a formal protest, I will, of course, remove it.

  7. #7 b.j.
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 10:29 am

    My brother would create amazing art using our etch a sketch as kids. I remember him drawing our whole kitchen, and it looked real! He’s still good at it, using it to design houses (blueprint style) or draw cars or whatever.

    What is the “commentLUV” at the bottom of the comment submit button? It is always checked and I have to uncheck it before submitting my comments, as I don’t know what it is.

  8. #8 Michael
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Hilarious cartoons. I don’t recall if I ever owned an etch-a-sketch. The times I remember using one was in waiting rooms either for the doctor or the dentist. They were really frustrating to me. As for the piece of the Andy Griffith characters, I have to wonder how the guy was able to create different shades of gray. Fascinating.

  9. #9 Brendon
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Wow! That’s a lot of work for something that can be erased with just a little jostle…. oh, and what if someone accidentally bumbed the knob after completion of the artwork? Yikes!

    Thanks for the virtual Etch A Sketch link!! Fun stuff! I never got into the Etch a Sketch drawing, but if I were to ever pick it up, I am sure I would be a pro! haha… not really. 🙂

  10. #10 Rob
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    @b.j. – To what do you attribute your brother’s ability to create such good Etch A Sketch art? CommentLuv is “plugin” for WordPress that captures the most recent blog post of a commenter who types in his website and leaves it checked that he wants to have a link to his most recent post displayed. It’s a way of thanking commenters by sending traffic to their blog/s.

    @Michael – I share your frustration and your amazement about the shades of gray. Glad you liked my cartoon and the one posted by Anonymous.

    @Brendon – Yes, it’s fragile art, for sure. I’m sure you would be a virtuoso at the Etch A Sketch, Brendon! 😀

  11. #11 Jenny
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Etch-a-Sketches always seemed like they should be fun, but somehow, they just ended up being more frustrating than not. You’d be doing great, and then you’d make one mistake and have to start all over again!! However, what my sister and I liked to do was start in the corner and then make consecutive rectangles all the way in to the middle. Pretty simple concept, a little harder to accomplish evenly, but at least it was possible. I don’t know about that Andy Griffith cartoon — it really looks too “real.”

  12. #12 Carrie
    on Aug 11th, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I never had good success with an Etch-a-Sketch either, but I do remember being fascinated with it.

    .-= Carrie’s most recent blog post … Dandelion Greens =-.

  13. #13 b.j.
    on Aug 13th, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I would guess he was good at it because he’s a good artist all around. And it wasn’t like we had video games and all that to take up our time. Most of our toys were from the great outdoors. Monopoly got old on rainy days, so out would come the artwork! It was a wonder, though, especially as he could never sit still for very long most of the time. Even now, at 28, he still does bike and roller blade tricks over sitting around. I was more like the others on this post, trying to get the screen completely blank so we could see how the etch-a-sketch worked!

  14. #14 Rob
    on Aug 17th, 2009 at 10:48 am

    @Jenny and Carrie – I’m with you both – the frustration vs. fun factor, not being good at such a fascinating toy, and thinking that the Andy Griffith drawing is almost too good. Maybe it’s just because I’m so horrible at Etch A Sketching?

    @b.j. – I grew up in Ohio, and we had so many days that demanded indoor activities. And as you commented, Monopoly (and even other games) got old, plus trying to find someone else in the house who was willing to play games with you! The Etch A Sketch was a good activity to do alone.