After a series of design failures, Laszlo Biro made the ballpoint pen commercially viable in 1950 by installing a free-moving ball on an ink tip, thus creating an effortlessly simple writing tool which has become the most-used pen to date.
Why? Well, a biro can be picked up for as little as 10p and if they weren’t around, we’d all still be covered in ink from fiddly fountain pens. Bic sells 57 biros are sold every second, amounting to 100 billion since 1950.
A Hungarian newspaper editor, Biro was inspired by the ink used to print newspapers and wanted to create a pen that would do away with the torn pages, smudges and ink stains left by fountain pens. Using capillary action, the ink flows out and covers the ball-bearing before being transferred to paper.
After Biro perfected his design of the ball, a British company started producing the pens for the Royal Air Force. Commended by pilots and crew, biros did not suffer the same explosive tendencies as fountain pens at high altitude and therefore became a valuable tool.
It is a tool taken very much for granted, but next time you write a note, take a pause to appreciate the fact that you don’t have to tediously dip, twist and wipe every time you put pen to paper.