Ballpoint Pens – A History

Ballpoint is a term often used to describe the majority of pens used in daily life. Specifically, however, a ballpoint pen has an internal cartridge or reservoir for ink and a sphere at the point. Ink comes out of the cartridge and coats the sphere. As the ball-shaped point rolls along the paper, ink is deposited in the form of writing or drawing.

Origin of the Ballpoint Pen

John Loud was the first one to experiment with what would later become the modern ballpoint pen. He was a tanner who wanted to be able to write on his leather. In 1888, Loud designed a ball and socket writing instrument that worked on leather but was too rough for the paper. Since the leather-writing instrument did not meet commercial success with paper, for almost half a century people continued to experiment with fountain pens instead.

In the 1930s, a newspaper editor named Laszlo Biro decided to create a pen that used the same type of ink that was used in newspaper printing. This ink dried quickly and caused much less smudging than fountain pen ink. His brother helped him create a ball style pen to disperse the ink, which was too thick for the pens of the day. A patent was filed in Britain, and the modern ballpoint pen was born.

A Growing Trend in Pens

Over time, additional manufacturers and entrepreneurs recognized the marketability of the ballpoint pen. As pen makers figured out how to create inexpensive disposable pens, the market grew. Today, the ballpoint pen is the most used ink-writing instrument in the world. The pens can be seen in homes, businesses, hotels and school rooms. Some pens are very expensive and can be used for years with replacement cartridges. Others cost only a few cents and are made almost completely of plastic. These are thrown away once the ink runs dry.

Uses for the Ballpoint Pen

In addition to writing, the pens are used by artists to create striking pen and ink drawings. The ability to make fine lines allows artists to create cross-hatching and other shading techniques without worrying about smudging or bleeding ink.

Businesses also use ballpoint pens for marketing purposes. The affordability and versatility of the pens make it possible to order large quantities with logos or business contact information printed on the barrel. Pens can be delivered through mail-order marketing, by handing them to customers or by offering them as a convenience as is done in banks and hotels.

Regardless of how much writing you do, it is likely you see at least one ballpoint pen each day. Over the course of their history, these pens have moved from the desk of an inventive newspaper editor to the purse, pockets and drawers of the entire world.

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