June 10th is considered to be National Ballpoint Pen Day, one of the most popular advertising media of today. Although we can no longer imagine everyday life without the ballpoint pen, it was not so long ago that it was not customary to carry a ballpoint pen with us. In this article, we will reveal to you how the writing instrument was invented and why it is the most important promotional gift of our time.
National Ballpoint Pen Day – History of Ballpoint Pen
ladislao josé biro is considered to be the inventor of the writing instrument with a ball
Among the various innovations that Leonardo Da Vinci imagined in the course of his life there could also be the ballpoint pen that we use every day. According to some sketches in the Codex Atlanticus , he was the first to think and use what he renamed “writing ingenuity”, the ancestor of the modern ballpoint pen: his prototype consisted of a simple tube that narrowed towards the final part with species of grooves. It was these that allowed the passage of the ink towards the sphere that closed the tube, in order to be able to write.
In order for innovation to reach the general public, it is necessary to take a leap of more than 400 years, when on October 29, 1945, in the New York branch of the Gimbels department store , a new type of writing utensil was marketed for $ 12.5. The ballpoint pens produced by the American company Reynolds International Pen Company were a big step forward compared to the elegant but uncomfortable fountain pens popular up to that time, which allowed a clean and smudge-free writing, but were not cheap at all.
Entrepreneur Milton Reynolds had brought the innovation to the United States (with minimal changes) from Argentina, where he met the real father of the ballpoint pen, László Bíró. The Hungarian naturalized Argentine Bíró in turn had actually limited himself to improving the idea of another American, John J. Loud, who in 1888 had patented his own prototype.However, Loud’s invention had one major flaw: he wrote well on wood and other hard surfaces, but not on paper. For this reason it was never put into production and the creator himself soon disinterested in it, to the point of not caring about the expiry of the patent. The ballpoint pen remained a good intuition never really developed until the 1930s, when it was rescued by László Bíró who, being a journalist,
The anecdote has it that one day László accidentally found himself watching a game of marbles between children. Observing the spheres he noticed that, after passing through a puddle, they left a uniform and regular trace on the ground. The episode prompted him to try what Loud had tried to do without too much success before him: insert a small ball into the tip of the pen that would allow to obtain the same effect as the marble, making the ink come out evenly and quickly. Unlike his predecessor, Bíró realized however that this alone would not be enough and involved his brother Győrgy, a dentist who was also a talented chemist, in the enterprise. The Bíró brothers knew that it was necessary to work not only on how to get the ink out,
Győrgy solved the problem by developing an ink more similar to that used for printing and the ballpoint pen really seemed to become a potential alternative to fountain pens. László Bíró patented the invention in Great Britain and Hungary in 1938 but World War II upset their plans to commercialize it. As Jews, László and György were in fact forced to leave Europe and the attempt to sell the ballpoint pen in Argentina did not have the great success that the two brothers would have expected.
Biro Meyne Biro and in 1945 marketed the Eterpen and Stratopen, which later became birome,name by which the ballpoint pen is still called today in South America. The product offered for sale, however, remained a luxury item due to the high production costs, and never made the economic fortune of the company and Bíró. The man consoled himself over the years by working on another hundred inventions, until his death in 1985 in Buenos Aires, the capital of the country where the Día del Inventor of 29 September, the day of his birth , has been dedicated to him since 1990 .
It was in the Argentine capital, forty years earlier, that Bíró had met the owner of the Reynolds International Pen Company. Reynolds immediately understood the potential of the ballpoint pen and did not hesitate to try to export innovation to the United States as well. The entrepreneur, to circumvent the patent filed in Argentina, made minimal changes in the design of the original ballpoint pen making it even cheaper to produce. As a result, Gimbels department stores ordered 50,000 of the new pens, selling 30,000 in the week of launch alone.
Soon, however, Reynolds’ ballpoint pen also ceased to guarantee substantial profits: it was made of metal and, once purchased, it was enough to refill it when the ink ran out. People, after facing the most demanding first shopping, limited themselves to buying refills. To change things was an Italian industrialist transplanted to France, Marcel Bich. Bich was born in Turin in 1914 to a family of fallen nobles who, when he was only sixteen, had moved to France. Unlike what Reynolds did, Marcel bought the license directly from Bíró in 1953 with the clear idea of permanently transforming the ballpoint pen into the consumer product we know today.
Thanks to Bich and his new company, Société Bic(deprived for simplicity of the final letter of the founder’s surname), the biro ceased to be a product with a commercially fluctuating destiny: in December 1950, Bic Cristalwith its transparent plastic body it was sold for the first time in France for only 50 cents francs. In 2005, the company announced that it had sold over one hundred billion units worldwide in half a century. Bic combined functionality and affordability like never before and forever changed the world’s approach to writing. Canadian journalist David Sax went so far as to argue that its impact on humanity was equal to that of the smartphone in recent times: “Before that, writing was a stationary act that had to be performed in a certain environment, on a certain type of desk, with a whole series of objects at hand that made it possible ”.
When Bich died in 1994, the British newspaper The Independent paid tribute to him by writing that “No one understood better than Marcel Bich that powerful alchemy of high volume and low cost that characterized the twentieth century. To this formula he added the magical catalyst of availability. He did not invent anything, but he understood the mass market almost perfectly. ”Ten years later, the Municipality of Turin had a plaque posted on the facade of the building in Corso Re Umberto 60 where the entrepreneur was born. “This is where Marcel Bich was born. He simplified the everyday life of writing”.
In a world where the keyboard is increasingly preferred to pen writing, there would seem to be no more room for Bíró’s invention, but this is probably not really the case. As Sax also points out, none of the big names in the world of technology have ever talked about ballpoint pens as something obsolete or close to retirement. Even Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk never give up having one on hand to jot down a thought or intuition on the fly. The feeling is that the ballpoint pen will still find its space on our desks and in our everyday life for a long time.
How the ballpoint pen works
In practice, Laszlo thought of inserting a small sphere into the tip of a pen that would reproduce the same effect as the marble, making the ink come out quickly and uniformly. He entrusted his chemist brother with the task of creating an ink with the right viscosity, so that it could slide easily on the sphere and, in parallel, dry quickly. The brother was inspired by the inks used in newspaper printing, which dried quickly without leaving smudges.
Ballpoint pens as a promotional item: why we value writing implements so much
Ballpoint pens are popular writing implements that are widely used in marketing. They are provided with an individual advertising print, such as the company logo, the advertising slogan or other advertising text. The companies add refills or use exclusive gift packaging for business partners, employees and regular customers.
These are the reasons that speak in favor of ballpoint pens as a promotional item:
- Practically everyone can use the writing tool in everyday professional and private life.
- Thanks to the broad target group, ballpoint pens can be used as giveaways and giveaways at trade fairs and other professional events.
- The pens can be personalized, such as with a logo or slogan.
- Ballpoint pens can be given away perfectly in combination with other office supplies, such as notebooks.
- With refills as a replacement, the ballpoint pens can be used for a particularly long time, which guarantees you a high advertising impact.
Since ballpoint pens are practical everyday helpers that can be used by almost everyone, you are addressing a broad mass of people and effectively drawing attention to your products and services.
The advantages of writing implements in everyday professional and private life
Many people associate many practical properties with ballpoint pens. The advantages of ballpoint pens include the following points:
- Pens can be used quickly and easily and are always close at hand.
- The ballpoint pens allow you to quickly take notes without the writing subsequently becoming blurred.
- Thanks to various accessories, writing implements can be used flexibly, for example with a holder to attach the pen or with a flashlight to glow in the dark.
- The pens can be used for a long time, as the refills can be easily replaced.
- Thanks to the compact shape, ballpoint pens can be taken anywhere and become a loyal companion when traveling.