The Etch A Sketch was a small box-like toy filled with aluminum powder that could be scraped off the inside surface of the glass to create a dark line on its light gray screen. Two knobs would allow you to move vertically and horizontally across the screen to create either a mess of lines, or a fantastic image. When you were done, just give it an upside down shake, and you can start allover again. Magna Doodle came later on and was a similar device, although a slider would remove the aluminum powder from the screen, to clear your way for handheld drawing with it’s special pen.
We have come a long way in technology since then, and the latest generation of Etch A Sketch-like technology is now in the form of the Boogie Board. An inevitable evolution stemming from LCD technology, and thanks to it becoming so cheap; Improv Electronics was able to make the Boogie Board and sell it for a mere $30.
The Boogie Board objective is to cut back on the amount of paper we use. By aiming to replace memo pads, sketchbooks, sticky notes, dry erase boards, and whatever else we scribble on to save more ancient forests across the planet.
Features and Design
The Boogie Board is plain Jane, aside from the screen itself, there is literally one button on it, erase. The screen is a good size, although I was expecting it to be a bit larger. The stylus that comes with it is high quality. It telescopes in length; it’s balanced nicely and slides smoothly across the screen surface. I was a bit disappointed in the brightness of the impression left on the display, the website and press photos show a bright neon green image, but in actuality it is much darker.
It is solid, very thin at only 1/8”, and light enough to be stuck to your fridge with some heavy-duty magnets. The screen itself is an LCD made of liquid crystals, just like the screen you are probably looking at now. Popular Science ran a feature on the Boogie Board’s insides, explaining the different layers and particles involved in the making of your image, and the erasing of it. Basically you are pushing the crystals around with some type of pen, finger or anything to create pressure. When the board senses pressure, tiny molecules arrange themselves into spirals, joining together to form the image that reflects light. To do this does not require any power, and this is why it can go for so long on a single 3V battery. The only time the juice is used is when you erase. At that time the spirals are broken apart and reset into darkness.
There is no backlight, so reading in the dark is not possible. Battery life is expected to last for 50,000 refreshes. That’s impressive, but being a green product I would expect the battery to be able to be changed. Perhaps the screen suffers from decay at 50,000 cycles, so Improv Electronics did not bother with making the 3V watch battery replaceable. Being one who likes to take things apart, I wanted to see if it could be replaced in some way. I managed to pry the top side open; it’s just locked in with small fragile plastic clips. The 3V battery is in the absolute center and is soldered to one of the terminals. If you are a bit crafty and completely opened it up, cut the solder link to the 3V and soldered a new one on, or just stuck it down with some good glue, I could see it being done. And if you are at the point where your battery is already dead, you really have nothing to lose.
Priced at only $30, the Boogie Board is quite the deal for quick notes and other doodles you may not need for longer than a day. The erase button is setup in such a way that you wouldn’t have to worry about accidentally pressing it, and erasing your directions for example. It’s very well designed, lightweight, and a good way to save some trees. I think Improv Electronics could perhaps get a bit more green on their production methods. The LCD is made in the USA, then shipped to China to be completed with the China made PCB, case and stylus, then shipped back to USA to be sold. I’m sure it could all be made in the USA, but then it wouldn’t be $30 now would it. Only a small price to pay for saving the forest.
Company Website: MyBoogieBoard