ETCH A SKETCH AUTOPSY REPORT What's inside an Etch A Sketch, how it works, and where they come from.

The Etch A Sketch toy was invented in 1960 by William and Bill Killgallon. It was first produced in Bryan Ohio by their company Ohio Art. Since 2001 Etch A Sketches have been produced by Kin Ki Industrial in the town of Da Kang, outside of Hong Kong in China.

Prying off the cover reveals a sealed container with a glass faceplate.

Forcing the glass plate off shows the inner workings.

The pace is filled with a small amount of very fine aluminum powder mixed with small plastic beads.

The aluminum powder sticks to anything it comes in contact with, like powdered graphite. The beads prevent the powder from caking and help spread it evenly over the face of the glass plate when the Etch A Sketch is turned upside down and shaken.

The drawing mechanism consists of a pointed plastic stylus that presses against the glass plate. As the knobs are turned, wires along the sides push and pull two metal rods up and down, back and forth. The stylus is mounted on a sliding union where the two rods cross. As the stylus moves, it scrapes off a line of the aluminum powder creating what looks like a black line. In actuality it's clear and if there was a light behind it the line would appear bright.

Etch A Sketches originally sold for $3.99 in 1960. Today they can be found for $9.99. If inflation were the only thing influencing their price then by all rights they should cost $23.69 (the product of the original price and how much the consumer price index has increased over the 43 years since they were introduced.) Reverse engineering the inflation factor indicates that based on today's price they would only have cost $1.68 in 1960. This shows the power of improved efficiency and low labor costs in China.


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