The first patent for a ballpoint pen was issued on 30th October 1888 to John J. Loud, who was attempting to make a writing instrument that would be able to write "on rough surfaces-such as wood, coarse wrapping-paper, and other articles" which then-common fountain pens could not. Loud's pen had a small rotating steel ball, held in place by a socket. Although it could be used to mark rough surfaces such as leather, as Loud intended, it proved to be too coarse for letter-writing. With no commercial viability, its potential went unexploited and the patent eventually lapsed.
Later, in the early part of the 20th Century, László Bíró, a Hungarian newspaper editor frustrated by the amount of time that he wasted filling up fountain pens and cleaning up smudged pages, noticed that inks used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge free. He decided to create a pen using the same type of ink. Bíró enlisted the help of his brother György, a chemist, to develop viscous ink formulae for new ballpoint designs.
Bíró's innovation successfully coupled ink-viscosity with a ball-socket mechanism which acted compatibly to prevent ink from drying inside the reservoir while allowing controlled flow. Bíró filed a British patent on 15th June 1938.
In 1941, the Bíró brothers and a friend, Juan Jorge Meyne, fled Germany and moved to Argentina, where they formed Bíró Pens of Argentina and filed a new patent in 1943. Their pen was sold in Argentina as the Birome (portmanteau of the names Bíró and Meyne), which is how ballpoint pens are still known there. This new design was licensed by the British, who produced ballpoint pens for RAF aircrew as the Biro. Ballpoint pens were found to be more versatile than fountain pens, especially at high altitudes, where fountain pens were prone to ink-leakage.
The classic Bic Cristal became a staple household item throughout the 20th centur. Its design was recognised by The Museum of Modern Art in New York City where it was included in the museum's permanent collection.
It's by far the world's most popular pen – more than one hundred billion have been sold!
This article is from our news archive. As a result pictures or videos originally associated with it may have been removed and some of the content may no longer be accurate or relevant.