Smudge Free to Plan a War
Inventing the mightier Ball-point Fountain pen
Fountain pens have an aura to them. They are like a luxury and royalty symbol. Their nibs look classic and the handwriting when writing from a fountain pen looks elegant.
In the late 1930s people were bored of these pens. They wanted a smudge proof pen to plan a war.
Attempts to change the fountain pen started in 1888 when John J Loud set out to make a pen that wrote on uneven surfaces like wood and course paper.
He came up with the idea of attaching a rolling ball to a socket and using it to write.
This invention helped him write on slightly course leather but the pen was far form perfect. It was too think for letter writing.
After Mr.Loud many others tried to make the pen using a ball at its tip. None of them were successful.
Either the ink would be too think to pass or too thin that the pen would leak. Sometimes the ball would get stuck in the socket or it would be too thin to fit the socket.
Hungarian journalist László Bíró had had enough. He was sick of trying to fill the fountain pens with ink or dab the smudged paper.
Thinking for a solution, Biró saw that the ink used in the printing press to print the daily newspaper dried quickly and prevented smudging. There was one short fall- the ink was sticky despite being the correct consistency.
Biró had a chemist brother György Biró. They both decided to solve the problem of writing once and for all.
The brothers came up with a solution. It was the perfect ink that fit with the ball point socket technology. They also found a way to keep the ink from drying.
Happy with their invention, they filed a British Patent on 15 June 1938.
And then the war struck.
The Birós had to flee from Germany to Argentina with a friend, Juan Jorge Meyne in 1941. The three were in on the dream of introducing the world to their new technology which they named ‘Ball-point fountain pen.’
In 1943, they started a company called Bíró Pens of Argentina and filed a patent. Their pens were named Birome- ‘Biro’ for the brothers and ‘Me’ for Meyne.
The British didn’t want fountain pens to plan the war but they wanted the Biromes. These pens didn’t leak at high altitudes. They licensed this design and introduced them to the RAF (Royal Air Force) as Biro pens.
Everyone wanted in one the design after the war.
The mechanical pencil producer Eversharp Co. teamed up with another pencil maker Eberhard Faber to make ball-point pens. Milton Reynolds too decided to tweak the design and introduce this new technology in the USA.
Their success was short-lived.
In the 1945, Marcel Bich along with Édouard Buffard founded Société BIC also known as Bic. They bought the patent rights for the ball-point pen from Biro and set up a factory in France.
After adding their own touch and refining the pen, they introduced the Bic Cristal. Cristal was affordable and an instant hit.
Soon, the pen was allowed in schools too. Increasing number of people began shifting from the fountain pen to the Biro.
Ballpoint pens are still called Biro or Birome in Argentina. László Bíró’s birthday is celebrated as Founder’s Day there.
What happened to the Cristal Bic? It has its own display in the famous New York MET museum.
The Bic company is the second largest stationery company in the world. If you haven’t heard of it, you must have surely heard of Cello?
Bic owns Cello which is India’s largest supplier of pens.
This article is from the May Issue. To read the whole issue, please subscribe here and get your free online copy.
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