inside an etch a sketch

Screengrab via What's Inside?/YouTube

Who would’ve thunk it?

One of childhood’s mysterious wonders is how exactly an Etch A Sketch works.

To a 7-year-old, it’s practically magic. And while you may grow up and become a little more skeptical about supernatural powers creating whatever you doodle on that red rectangle, it’s still not entirely clear how an Etch A Sketch does what it does.

Thankfully, a couple of guys opened up the toy-chest staple to give us some answers.

YouTubers Grant Thompson, aka “The King of Random,” and What’s Inside deconstructed an Etch A Sketch down to its nuts and bolts. The video runs more than eight minutes, but if you can’t sit through something on YouTube that long, skip forward to the three-minute mark when they finally get down to work by sawing the edge of the contraption off.

It turns out there’s a bunch of aluminum powder inside. It’s the substance that coats the screen. The two knobs on the toy control strings that move around a metal pointer, which scratches those metal shavings off of the screen. And voila—doodles.

Of course, the Etch A Sketch Wikipedia page explains how everything works too, but it’s much more fun watching these dudes crack open the toy. Now, if only cleaning up that mess was as easy as shaking an Etch A Sketch to start all over.

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