Technology and toys, two of the places creativity comes from

Elvis on an etch a sketch
By Ernie Wood   |   July 8, 2014

You’ll sometimes hear a poorly functioning tablet computer criticized as nothing more than a “glorified Etch A Sketch.” But that does a disservice to the classic toy. With more than 100 million of the silver-screen drawing devices sold since its introduction in 1960, it must be doing something right. I owned an Etch A Sketch as a child, and if I were to pick one up right now, I’d happily resume exactly where I left off— with a lot of hilarious squiggles and an occasional shape that sort of looks like something.

So I was delighted recently to see a clever online tribute to the Etch A Sketch inventor, who died last year.

And I’ve been amazed to see over time the art some grown-ups have been able to achieve with this simple toy.

I don’t know why I was surprised. In the early 1990s, I wrote a book using a Kaypro computer. Then I wrote another using a 386 PC and WordPerfect for DOS. Today, both seem as simple as an Etch A Sketch, but they took my writing farther than it had ever gone before.

Which I suppose is the point. Be sure to read the text that accompanies the Etch A Sketch art. Note that the person behind the machine is not a professional artist at all—she’s a professor of neurobiology. Which goes to show how technology, toys, and creativity can go hand in hand. Just put them to work with the right human brain and “glorified” can be a compliment after all.

by Ernie Wood




Ernie Wood

About the Author

Previous Managing Copy Director of DeLaune & Associates, Ernie is an author with more than 25 years of technology writing experience.

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