Hack a Sketch

Sometimes we miss that old Etch a Sketch we had when we were kids. The challenge of producing a decent image using those two knobs was always fun and frustrating at the same time. This project lets us recreate this interface on our computer. The Hack a Sketch is a combination of an Etch a Sketch style input and a processing sketch to recreate the experience.  They’re using an Arduino to interpret the inputs and feed it to the computer via USB.  We really like this thing. Simplify the electronics and we could see this as a neat toy for sale somewhere like Thinkgeek.



[via hacked gadgets]


  1. monkeyslayer56 says:

    thats cool :D

  2. icewind says:

    Wouldn’t this be a lot easier to make using the 2 rollers from an antique mouse?

  3. Alastair says:

    To quote Weird Al

    Got a flat-screen monitor forty inches wide wide
    I believe that your says “Etch-A-Sketch” on the side

  4. Jeff says:

    Did anyone else grimace when he shook the powered-on laptop? Fingers crossed that he’s using a SSD.

  5. pookeye says:

    Here is an example of what *real* etch-a-sketch artists can do. With a gizmo like the one described here, they could actually save their images.


  6. minipimmer says:

    I think the code should be easily modified to used usb knobs as inputs instead of the arduino so anyone could have a etch-a-sketch emulator without having to solder anything. Definitely not a hack-a-day reader choice but still fun.

  7. oh no don’t shake it! oops bad hard drive

  8. I was thinking about it and the two wheels from an old ball mouse broken out into knobs could do this with just paint. That is a good idea.

  9. MDude says:

    A blog named Etch a Day sounds interesting.

  10. Dub says:

    Reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon

  11. 013 says:

    I wonder if it can be mounted on other devices, or used with other software? Could you control a mouse pointer with it? Etch-a-sketch-style input could be handy for some precision work, especially when aligning the pointer to a specific point or pixel is required.

  12. bzroom says:
  13. 36chambers says:

    @ Pookeye

    They do save their images, they take the etch a sketch apart,remove the dust, and spray with some type of fixant.

    @Bzroom – that’s crazy, can that be used to produce artwork similar to what people are getting paid to make? Its not like they have videos of them making them..

    Similar to how brick artists use 3d models and Lego CAD software to know how to replicate the model with legos (aka cheating)

  14. PocketBrain says:

    As far as a product goes, as alluded to in the initial post, I wouldn’t think this would warrant a stand-alone gadget. And it could be done simply with software and mouse parts; it has been done with the x + y ball-mouse rollers. If your laptop has accelerometers (some Mac laptops do, do others?), then that could be implemented to get the shake-to-erase effect. An accelerometer could be built into the USB interface as well.

  15. pookeye says:


    Actually, I had read that elsewhere, and you are absolutely right.

    I should have been more precise in my comment. What I meant was that the electronic etch-a-sketch would allow images to be “saved” in the same fashion as a word document or sound file, without having to destroy the instrument that created the image.

  16. RoboGuy says:

    For one crazy moment I thought the picture depicted a laptop that rendered screen images on an Etch-A-Sketch via motors. That would be terribly inconvenient, but awesome.

    It’d have the lowest update time ever.

  17. BigBubbaX says:

    I want one. it’d be nice if it interfaced with the desktop, make a circle around an icon to launch…

    the shake-to-erase thing is a nice touch…

  18. TheFish says:


    you beat me to it. :(

  19. TheFish says:

    “Did anyone else grimace when he shook the powered-on laptop? Fingers crossed that he’s using a SSD.”

    this was supposed to be a quote, but it didn’t work guess i did it wrong.

  20. George Stone says:

    I was pretty shocked when I saw this wasn’t a simple roller ball mouse powering it.
    I guess the shake thing wouldn’t work, but couldn’t that be done with a tilt sensor and the mouse click input?
    This makes me want to recreate it just to show how it should be done.

  21. Pouncer says:

    Meh. make an etch-a-sketch into a laptop monitor, and I’ll be impressed.

  22. Whatnot says:

    Cute but I would not shake a laptop for no reason

  23. Hitek146 says:

    ^^^^Holy cow! You guys do realize that laptop hard drives were designed to harmlessly withstand excessive shock, right? You know that many mp3 players have hard drives in them, and people go jogging with them all the time, lol… Makes me laugh imagining people being careful not to accidentally bump their laptops while they are turned on…

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