A brief history of the ballpoint pen
The origins of the ballpoint pen started in Massachusetts when an inventor named John J. Loud filed a patent for an ink pen that could be used on leather. Although this was technically the prototype for the first ballpoint pen, it wasn’t commercially successful, so the idea faded, and the patent was dropped.
Others came and went with modifications to the ballpoint pen invented by Loud, but the design wasn’t quite right, as inventors often encountered problems with ink flow. It wasn’t until Hungarian-Argentinian inventor László Bíró noticed that newspaper ink dried quickly that he decided to change the ink used in the ballpoint pen. He and his chemist brother György created a thicker ink that dried quickly, creating the ballpoint as we know it today. In fact, so much of the success of the ballpoint pen is attributed to the Bíró brothers that the ballpoint pen is often called a “biro” in many countries.
How ballpoint pens have impacted society
The invention of the ballpoint pen changed people’s lives, but it was also met with some controversy initially. In the 1950s, some believed that ballpoint pens were ruining education in the sense that the values of thrift and frugality were being discarded since students simply used and threw the pens away.
Up until that point, using and simply discarding a pen seemed unheard of. However, the characteristics of this new pen changed the way people wrote. In classrooms, writing became much quicker and easier. Students could write down lecture notes without having to refill or dip their pens in ink. There were no worries about smudging ink on their papers, which was especially helpful for left-handed students. It was also easier to place pages on top of one another without having to wait for pen ink to dry first.
Ballpoint pens were also so much more accessible. They could be found in places where fountain pens and fountain pen ink could not. People could quite literally write anywhere and everywhere since ballpoint pens could be purchased in most stores and were easy to carry around. People no longer needed to worry about forgetting important information or ideas as they could simply jot it down using a biro and a piece of paper. Literacy increased because of this simple but ingenious invention.
Even in today’s digital world, where we document every moment of every day, ballpoint pens are still valued and can be found almost everywhere.
The Bottom Line
Many people may consider writing tools such as fountain pens and even ballpoint pens to be obsolete in the digital age. To some extent, that may be true. But there is no denying that the ballpoint pen had a profound effect on literacy in the 20th century, and it quite literally changed the way we write in these modern times.
The next time you go about your day, pay attention to the instances where the ballpoint pen is still relevant in your life. It may be when you write down your to-do lists for the day or when you need to write down a phone number while you’re using your smartphone to take a call. You might use it to write a grocery list or simply to jot down notes for later. In many ways, the ballpoint pen is still very much an essential tool that we use, and it may be that way for many more years to come.
Written by EndlessPens Blogger Ramona Kabigting