Throwback Thursday

Remember this?


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From ebay a picture of what I think is a vintage Etch A Sketch. These were introduced in 1960 by the Ohio Art Company.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this toy, or even if you’re not, twisting the knobs moves a stylus that displaces aluminum powder on the back of the screen, leaving a solid line. The left control moves the stylus horizontally and the right one moves it vertically. Moving both knobs simultaneously gives the stylus more range of motion. In the hands and mind of someone with artistic talent amazing images could be produced. For the first ten years of production the screen was actually made of glass, but after numerous protests by safety groups the screen was changed to plastic.

I think a version of the Etch A Sketch is still being manufactured. In 1998, it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association named Etch A Sketch to its Century of Toys List, a roll call commemorating the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century.

Did I ever have one? Yes, but I am severely lacking in artistic talent and quickly grew tired of my Etch A Sketch.


By 1960 about 80% of American households owned at least one automobile; that number was barely 60% in 1940. Remember that World War II halted automobile production for more than three years during that period.

The Plymouth Valiant, which began production for model year 1960, was the first American car to be equipped with an alternator instead of a generator. Alternators charge the battery AND power the electrical system of a car when the engine is running. From (a blog that appears to be inactive) a picture of a 1960 Valiant:


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From the Wikipedia article about automotive alternators:


“Alternators have several advantages over direct-current generators (dynamos). They are lighter, cheaper, more rugged, and can provide useful charge at idle speed. [emphasis mine] They use slip rings having greatly extended brush life over a commutator. The brushes in an alternator carry only DC excitation current, a small fraction of the current carried by the brushes of a DC generator, which carry the generator’s entire output. A set of rectifiers (diode bridge) is required to convert AC to DC. To provide direct current with low ripple, a polyphase winding is used and the pole-pieces of the rotor are shaped (claw-pole). Automotive alternators are usually belt-driven at 5-10 times crankshaft speed, much faster than a generator. The alternator runs at various RPM (which varies the frequency) since it is driven by the engine. This is not a problem because the alternating current is rectified to direct current.”

“Alternator regulators are also simpler than those for generators. Generator regulators require a cutout relay to isolate the output coils (the armature) from the battery at low speed; that isolation is provided by the alternator rectifier diodes. Also, most generator regulators include a current limiter; alternators are inherently current-limited.”


By the mid-1960s all American cars were equipped with alternators. From (.com?) a picture of an automobile alternator:



One reason I favor a 1960s car over one from the ’50s as my Z06 companion is the alternator. I know, of course, that I could have a car’s electrical system upgraded, but that’s just one more expense.







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