Even those of us who live for new technology and the wonders it brings cannot escape the power of nostalgia. Being reminded of a toy that fascinated us as children can snap us back to those heady days when stress meant not getting everything you asked for from Santa. This is the feeling that the people behind Etcher are hoping to capitalize on - it's an Etch A Sketch for the iPad.
The Apple iPad is a versatile device. It fits snugly between smartphones and laptops in terms of form factor, and is perfect for use in many different situations. Of course many tablets boast versatility and usability, but thanks to its popularity a large number of innovations are being primarily designed for the iPad.
So it is with Etcher, which is essentially Etch A Sketch for the Apple tablet. Etcher is actually an iPad case, with the 9.75-inch tablet fitting snugly inside, protected from bumps and scrapes. But it's also a fully-functioning version of the classic child's toy Etch A Sketch, which was introduced in 1960 and has been a staple in kids' bedrooms ever since.
The original Etch A Sketch featured a glass screen coated on the inside with aluminum powder. By moving the two plastic knobs - one controlling horizontal movement, the other vertical movement - a stylus was moved, scraping away the powder as it went. The picture was erased by shaking the Etch A Sketch, thereby coating the inside with the powder once more to create a blank canvas ... and making a mistake meant starting again from scratch.
Etcher works in much the same way, with the same plastic knobs creating the same patterns on the screen. The difference is this is a digital image rather than a physical image. While shaking still deletes what is on screen, the advantage of Etcher is that the image doesn't need to disappear forever. Instead it can be saved to the iPad or shared online. There is even the option to create a time-lapse video showing your drawing coming to life one knob-twiddle at a time.
Apart from having a tablet on board, Etcher is an accurate recreation of the original Etch A Sketch right down to the bright red-colored case. What isn't comparable is the price. Etcher is set to cost US$60 compared to a real Etch A Sketch that can be bought for around $13. That's on top of actually needing an iPad in the first place.
Etcher is currently a Kickstarter project, with Ari Krupnik and his team of designers and engineers seeking $75,000 to go into production. Etcher is licensed by Ohio Art, the company that has been manufacturing Etch A Sketch for the past 50 years. A brief introduction to the product can be seen in the video below.
Etch A Sketch is a classic toy with timeless appeal and this 21st Century take is likely to interest those who had the original growing up. If you never quite got the hang of Etch A Sketch, Etcher represents a second chance to concoct a wonderful creation. And even if you get bored of drawing - which does require time, patience, and a particular skill-set to get right - you still have a head-turning iPad case.