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The history of the ballpoint pen

The ballpoint pen origins date right back to 1888, when the first patent was registered to John J Loud who was trying to design a pen that would reliably write on things other than paper. However the design was not suitable for everyday use, and never took off.

For decades after Mr Louds design, there were several more unsuccessful attempts at the ballpoint, most of which had trouble with even distribution of ink, and clogging. It wasn’t until a Hungarian man named László Bíró came up with a new design based on quick drying newspaper ink that the ballpoint really started to gain traction. Bíró enlisted the help of his brother György who was a chemist and the pair of them (who had to flee Germany in WWII) went into business in Argentina. They licensed the design out to several different countries over the next years following the end of the war, and high sales established the Bíró name as the household synonym for a ballpoint pen today.

During the 1950s, the ballpoint market had become crowded, and consumer interest had plunged. It wasn’t until Parker released the Jotter in in 1954, which was a huge success, selling millions in less than a year that it took off again. Around this time the Bic ballpoint was also introduced, and during the 1960’s saw huge success, driving the price of ballpoint pens down with high competition.

Since then the design has been super-refined so that now a cheap ballpoint, will often write with similar quality to a more expensive option, with the latter benefiting from having removeable refills, which can come in various colours.

The ballpoint today is the most popular pen worldwide, and is the go to note taker for most people. Despite the increase in digital devices, and screen based working, we don’t see the ballpoint going away anytime soon.