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Etch A Sketch inventor dies at 86 

Image: Etch A Sketch
A man plays with an Etch-A-Sketch screenKaren Bleier / AFP - Getty Images

The inventor of the beloved Etch A Sketch toy, Andre Cassagnes, has died at age 86, the toy’s manufacturer confirms to NBC News. Cassagnes died Jan. 16 in France.

“Etch A Sketch has brought much success to the Ohio Art Company, and we will be eternally grateful to Andre for that,” said Larry Killgallon, president of The Ohio Art Company. “His invention brought joy to so many over such a long period of time.”

Cassagnes, a French electrician, created the product in the late 1950s when he “stumbled upon the idea of creating a drawing toy with a joystick, glass and aluminum powder,” the Ohio Art Company says on its website. Cassagnes originally called the item the Telecran, and it went into production in Bryan, Ohio in 1950. Owners create art by turning dials that scrape off the alumninum powder that coats the screen, leaving dark lines to outline the picture desired.

The pictures can be erased by shaking the Etch A Sketch, a process which helped the toy make headlines in March 2012. That’s when Eric Fehrnstrom, communications director for then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, compared the toy to Romney’s opinions before and after the fall.

“Everything changes,” Fehrnstrom said of the candidate’s positions. “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

The toy also plays a role in Pixar’s “Toy Story” movies, and holds a place on the Toy Industry Association’s Century of Toys list.

The toy is still made today. A color version was launched in 1993 and now has versions for mobile phones and tablet computers.

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