News has just been released that André Cassagnes, inventor of the Etch A Sketch, died near Paris on January 16, 2013, at the age of 86.
Launched in 1960 by Ohio Art, the Etch A Sketch was the first high tech-looking toy of its time. The magic and mechanics behind the small, TV-like box were really quite simple: Users manipulated two knobs which internally moved a stylus that created sketches on a grey, powder-coated underside of a screen. Sketches could be magically erased by turning the screen upside down and shaking it. But what was most interesting about the toy was how Cassagnes came up with the idea in the first place.
In the late 1950s, Cassagnes was working as an electrical technician in a French factory which manufactured embossed wall coverings. The factory used metallic powders in its process and the inventor noticed how the powder clung to the back of a plastic decal he had peeled off a light switch. He ran his pencil through the clinging powder and saw that it made a design which appeared on the opposite side of the decal. That chance discovery gave Cassanges the idea to develop a toy which he called “L’Ecran Magique” (The Magic Screen).
He took his idea to the Nuremburg Toy Fair in 1959, where Ohio Art saw it, bought the rights for $25,000, and worked with the creator to refine it. In 1960, Ohio Art launched the final product as the Etch A Sketch. It quickly became the hottest selling toy that year, and has since continued to enjoy a steady popularity even in the face of electronic video games and gadgets. Over 100 million have sold worldwide.
In 1998, Etch A Sketch was inducted into the National ToyHall of Fame in Rochester, New York. It has also been named by the Toy Industry Association as one of the hundred best toys of the 20th century.