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Magna Doodle

Posted by Big Boo on September 4th, 2009

magnadoodleMagna Doodle was one of the best drawing toys available during the 1980’s.  Unlike the classic Etch-A-Sketch you could draw directly onto a panel rather than twisting little knobs to move a pen horizontally or vertically.  Probably it’s closest rival for ease of use were the old Magic Drawing Slates, which may have been much cheaper but were much easier to damage than the Magna Doodle.

Once you had finished drawing your masterpiece you simply had to pull a little lever across to erase the screen completely and start drawing something else.  I seem to recall you also got a couple of magnetic shapes which could be used like stamps, or could be dragged around the panel to make a big thick line.

But how did it work?  Well, the pen was obviously magnetic, and looked as if it had been pinched straight from a Wooly Willy face drawing toy.  The drawing panel was made up of hundreds of little hexagonal cells, which contained a mixture of magnetic particles and a thick gloopy liquid.  Rubbing the pen over the surface of the panel attracted the magnetic particles upwards, and they then stayed in place thanks to the liquid stopping gravity pulling them back down again.  Simple really, but still very clever.

The Magna Doodle was of course designed as a child’s toy, but it has also proved very useful to scuba divers, who use it to write messages to each other when under water.  The Magna Doodle was obviously never designed to do this so it does wear out and start to go rusty, but I think it’s a great use of the toy.  They’re also incredibly useful should you ever lose your voice!

Technology marches on though and those clever scientist types have even managed to find a way of creating multi-coloured Magna Doodles now!  I’m assuming that the different colours must be possible due to different magnetic poles attracting different coloured magnetic particles, but to be quite honest I don’t know and it all seems a bit magical, especially when you look at something like the Tomy Colour Doodle which can draw in three different colours.  Last time I checked magnets only had two polarities…

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