The Magic Screen


I own an original 1960’s Etch a Sketch that was my mother’s as a child. There’s no particular reason I’ve kept it – you can hardly draw on it any more – other than nostalgia and sentiment. In fact I’d completely forgotten about it until last night, when my two year brought it to me and asked me to put Peppa Pig on it. I found it pretty impossible to explain such a toy in the context of our modern technology without unwittingly making it sound like an incredibly boring and pointless object.

If you were ever inclined to relive your childhood (or force your kids to) and don’t have an Etch a Sketch lying around the house, you can still purchase one today . It’s exactly the same design you’ll remember – bright red and emblazoned with the words “Magic Screen”. I was always a little envious of people who could recreate the Mona Lisa using only those two little dials, but for the 99% of the population who couldn’t reliably do curves, it wasn’t magic at all, even at the time.

Last night’s quandary reminded me of a viral YouTube clip we were shown at CIPD14 by Carphone Warhouse of a baby (younger than my toddler) who can’t understand why a magazine doesn’t work like an iPad. Yes it’s sweet and funny, but also sad, and a warning. A young child confusing an old ‘magic screen’ with a touch screen is understandable, but a child not understanding pictures on a page is frankly, scary.

If the past is anything to go by, our predictions of what the future will be like are either cluelessly over optimistic fantasies (think flying cars) or doom mongering apocalyptic disasters. Yes we’ve become better at this as we’ve grown to understand technology more, but we still lack a realistic view. At this rate we’re risking the workforce of tomorrow being over stimulated, bored and lacking imagination.

Time to hide the touch screen devices for a while methinks…

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