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The cheap pen that changed writing forever

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201028-history-of-the-ballpoint-pen

bbc.com

The cheap pen that changed writing forever
Fountain pens were a stylish statement but messy and impractical. Their replacement was a stroke of design genius perfectly in time for the era of mass production.

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A replacement for fountain pens

A replacement for fountain pens

Fountain pens, although stylish, were messy and impractical.

In 1945, Gimbels started to sell a new kind of ink pen, made by the Reynolds International Pen Company. With its quick-dry ink and a rolling ball in the nib, it promised a steady stream of ink with no leaks, smudges, or pooling inkblots.

The pen was not the first ballpoint pen. But its evolution is an example of a game-changing design waiting for the right outside factors to achieve its full potential - in this case, the increase of plastics, mass-production infrastructure, and a brilliant marketeer.

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Combining functionality with affordability

The first generation of ballpoint pens cost around 55 shillings (£82.50/$107.50 in 2020 prices). It was in the same style as fountain pens. They were made of metal and intended to be refilled with ink. But with so many companies selling it, the market became saturated, buying refills, but not more pens.

Italian-born French industrialist Michel Bich added the catalyst of disposability. He understood the concept of the mass market and created his new company, Societe Bic. His pen only cost a shilling.

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The ballpoint pen transforming societies

The ballpoint pen was the equivalent of today's smartphone. Before the ballpoint pen, writing was a stationary act that had to be done on a certain kind of desk, with all the other things at hand that allowed you to write.

The ballpoint pen turned writing into something that could happen anywhere. Plastic mass production allowed the pens to become even cheaper, allowing for the transformation of societies.

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