Inventor of the Etch A Sketch;

Born: September 23, 1926; Died: January 16, 2013.

Andre Cassagnes, who has died aged 86, was the inventory of Etch A Sketch, the magical drawing toy every child of the last 50 years has probably played with at some point.

Loading article content

More than 150 million of the toys have been sold it and has been named one of the 100 greatest toys of the 20th century. The great beauty of it was if you messed up, you just shook it and started all over again.

Mr Cassagnes, who was born in Paris and the son of a baker, came up with the idea while working as an electrical technician. He noticed that when he peeled a translucent decal from a light switch plate, pencil marks were transferred to the opposite face.

He adapted the idea into what he called The Magic Screen and took it to a toy fair in Nuremberg in 1959, where a representative of the Ohio Toy Co saw it. They adapted the idea, replacing Cassagnes's joystick with the famous white knobs, renamed it Etch A Sketch and it hit the market in time for Christmas 1960. It was an immediate success.

Although it has since been overtaken by video games, there is still a steady market for the toy and it received a big boost in popularity when it was featured in the first two Toy Story films.

Etch A Sketches were made in Ohio until 2000, when the company moved production to China because of increasing costs.

The phrase Etch A Sketch has also entered popular culture – it was referenced in the recent presidential election when an aide to Mitt Romney likened his campaign to Etch A Sketch: "You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again." The manufacturers seized on the publicity, creating a politically themed ad campaign and manufacturing blue versions of the famous red toy.

It was probably that look – the grey screen, the red television-like box and the twirly knobs – combined with its simplicity, that has kept Etch A Sketch up among the most popular toys.

Mr Cassagnes, who went on to become a kite designer in later life, is survived by his wife, a daughter and two sons.