Sunday, December 7, 2014


For writing on paper, we all must have used pens in our daily routine. There are a variety of pens available in the market and we choose among them to have a beautiful handwriting. But have we ever think what kind of mechanism is there inside the pen and what was its history and how its evolution gave us such a beautiful creation of minds. Lets have a look.

Around 4000 BC , moist Clay tablets were used for writing by scratching with bronze or tools made of bones.

Around 3000 BC, Eygptians painted hieroglyphics with brushes made from marsh reeds, a form of writing with pictures. Thin reed brushes or reed pens were used for writing on papyrus scrolls scribes. The Sumerians used wedge-shaped reed pens to cut pictorial shapes into clay tablets and the ancient Chinese wrote with brushes of stiff hair. Ancient Greeks and Romans sharpened stiff reeds to a point, resulting in chirography that was taut and precise.

The Romans developed new form of writing. They scribed into thin sheets of wax (on wooden tablets). Romans used a metal stylus. They rubbed it out with the flat end of stylus.  In Asia scribes used a bronze stylus.  

During 600-1800 AD ,Writing on parchment with a quill pen altered the style of Europeans writing. People used to make pens from the wing feathers of birds such as geese and swans. The shaft of the feathers was hardened, and the writing tip was shaped and slit to make writing easy. These feather pens were known as quill pens. The quill pen was favoured by writers for over 1,000 years. The soft quill was honed to a point, split at the tip to permit ink to flow freely, and constantly resharpened.

During 1800-1850, a metal pen point has been patented in 1803 but patent was not commercially exploited. Joseph Gillott's invention of the steel pen nib came into common use in the 1830s which required no sharpening and could be separated from the pen body and changed as needed. By the 19th century metal nibs had replaced quill pens. By 1850 quill pen usage was fading and the quality of the steel nibs had been improved by tipping them with hard alloys of Iridium, Rhodium and Osmium. Still, the writer constantly dipped pen into ink, hoping to avoid drips. 

Lewis Edson Waterman, insurance broker, invented the first proper fountain pen in 1884.  

 Fountain pens store ink inside a reservoir within the pen, the nib thus supplied with a constant stream of ink. Alonzo Cross featured a "stylographic pen" with an ink-depositing needle point in the late 1860s, but blots and smears were still common.
The first patent for this invention was issued on October 30, 1888, to a man named John J. Loud. Loud’s invention featured a reservoir of ink and a roller ball that applied the thick ink to leather hides. While this invention worked, it was not well suited for paper because of the ink. If the ink was thin, the pens leaked, and if it was too thick, they clogged. Depending on the temperature, the pen would sometimes do both.

The first man to actually develop and launch a ball-point pen was the Hungarian Laszlo Jozsef Biro from Budapest, who in 1938 invented a ball-point pen with a pressurized ink cartridge. He is considered as the inventor of today's ball-point pen.,

While working as a journalist, he was frustrated by the amount of time wasting in filling fountain pens and cleaning up ink smudges.  Besides that, the sharp tip of his fountain pen often scratched or tore through the newsprint (paper).

Biro noticed that the ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge-free. He got the idea to use the same type of ink for writing instruments. Since the thicker ink would not flow from a regular pen nib, he fitted his pen with a tiny ball bearing in its tip. Moving along the paper, the ball rotates picking up ink from the ink cartridge and leaving it on the paper.

At the very end of 1938, just one day before anti-Jewish laws became active in Hungary, Bíro fled to Paris before emigrating to Argentina. Augustine Justo, who happened to be the president of Argentina, urged them to set up a factory in Argentina.  When World War II broke out in Europe, a few years later, the Biros fled to Argentina, stopping in Paris along the way to patent their pen.

He gave him his signed card which should allow Bíro to obtain a hard to get visa for the South American country; In 1943 Bíró obtained a new patent in Argentina and became the country's leading producer of ball-point pens. He had set up a manufacturing plant.
The Biro pen depended on gravity for the ink to flow to the roller ball. This meant that the pens worked only when they were held more or less straight up, and even then the ink flow was sometimes too heavy, leaving smudgy globs on the paper. 
The Biro brothers returned to their laboratory and invented a new design, which relied on "capillary action" rather than gravity to feed the ink.  The rough "ball" at the end of the pen acted like a metal sponge, and with this improvement ink flows more smoothly to the ball, and the pen could be held at a slant rather than straight up. 

The British government bought the patent as the pen's functioning was not affected by high altitude air pressure and would thus be of use to navigators in airplanes. In 1944, a pen under the brand name ‘Biro’ was produced.

In an attempt to corner the market, the Eberhard Faber Company paid the Biro brothers $500,000 for the rights to manufacture their ballpoint pen in the United States. Eberhard Faber later sold its rights to the Eversharp Company, but neither was quick about putting a ballpoint pen on the market. There were still too many bugs in the Biro design.

Shortly afterwards in 1945, the Chicago businessman Milton Reynolds brought some of Biro's pens from Argentina to the US. It was Reynolds who made the deal with Gimbels to be the first retail store in America to sell ballpoint pens.  He set up a makeshift factory with 300 workers who began stamping out pens. In the months that followed, Reynolds made millions of pens and became fairly wealthy, as did many other manufacturers who decided to cash in on the new interest.

In September 1945, Julian Levy, Milton Reynolds' son-in-law, had asked Paul C. Fisher to help improve their pen not yet launched. After two days of testing, Fisher declined the offer because he came to the conclusion that "the basic principle is not sound".

In 1953 Fisher invented the "Universal Refill" which could be used in most pens. It was a good seller since store owners could reduce their stock of assorted refills. Fisher continued to improve his refill and
In 1953, the French Baron, Bich, developed the industrial process for manufacturing ball point pens that lowered the unit cost dramatically (BIC, Co.) 

However, in 1954, Parker Pens introduced its first ballpoint pen called’ The Jotter’ which became a success.
In 1960s, Papermate's Flair, the first pen with a retractable ballpoint tip with no-smear ink. was among the first felt-tip pens to hit the U.S. market in the 1960s, and it has been the leader ever since. Following their initial success with felt-tips, manufacturers branched out with a variety of fiber-tipped instruments, including newly popular highlighters.

In 1966, Fisher came up with a perfect solution using thixotropic ink. It remains semisolid until the shearing action of the rolling ball liquefies it. The ink flows only when needed. The cartridge is pressurized with nitrogen so that it does not rely on gravity to make it work. It writes in freezing cold, desert heat, underwater and upside down.

In 1980s-1990s, the introduction of the roller ball pen have been made. Unlike the thick ink used in a conventional ball point, roller ball pens employ a mobile ball and liquid ink to produce a smoother line. Technological advances achieved during the late 1980s and early 1990s have greatly improved the roller ball's overall performance. 

 In 1990s, Rubberized writing instruments are commonly used by the companies to reduce the grip. In 1997, Ring Pens' mass production (GRANDEE Corporation).  These pens designed to write without gripping the pens with 3 fingers. 



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