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'Etcher' turns iPad into Etch A Sketch -- real knobs and all

This Kickstarter project for the iPad isn't your usual digital-only app re-creation of a phenomenon from yesteryear. It's a remarkable facsimile.

OK, there's an Etch A Sketch. But what's "Etcher"? Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

When we first landed on the Kickstarter page for "Etcher," a project that bills itself as "Etch A Sketch for iPad," we looked at the initial frame of the not-yet-playing promo video and thought, "OK, there's the Etch A Sketch, but what's Etcher? Just some silly app that pops a virtual Etch A Sketch onto your touch screen and lets you twiddle the dials with your fingertips? Show us the product."

D'oh (and wow): we were looking right at it.

Etcher's not some sort of digital-only re-creation. As you'll see once you hit Play on the video (embedded below), Etcher gobbles up the iPad and converts it into the classic Ohio Arts dial-and-draw toy, real knobs and all. But it also takes advantage of the iPad's 21st century technological magic to bring features to the Etch A Sketch that were pretty much unimaginable with the original toy.

You can save your drawings (we wonder how many Etch A Sketch masterpieces have been lost over the years). You can e-mail your drawings to your pals. You can even create Etch A Sketch-style animations. Jeepers. If we'd had one of these when we were young, we'd be rich and famous by now.

And never fear: you can still shake the toy to make your drawing disappear.

Of course, all this comes at a price. We don't remember offhand exactly how much the Etch A Sketch was back in the day (we have a vague feeling it was a bit more expensive than the usual toy). But surely it didn't cost the equivalent of $60 (seems you can get one for 13 bucks now).

Still, there are worse things you can spend your money on than high-tech toys that encourage the creative impulse. And if you contribute early, you can get the gadget for a special discount of $45. These days that's the price of a few Avengers action figures.

Now if we could just find a Kickstarter project that converts Google glasses into a View-Master, or a Segway into a Big Wheel...