Today’s Google Doodle honors the 117th birthday of the Hungarian inventor László József Bíró (1899-1995). From either his name or the Doodle you can guess that he invented the ballpoint pen.
Biró’s story from Wikipedia:
Bíró was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1899 into a Jewish family. He presented the first production of the ballpoint pen at the Budapest International Fair in 1931. While working as a journalist in Hungary, he noticed that the ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge-free. He tried using the same ink in a fountain pen but found that it would not flow into the tip, as it was too viscous. Working with his brother György, a chemist, he developed a new tip consisting of a ball that was free to turn in a socket, and as it turned it would pick up ink from a cartridge and then roll to deposit it on the paper. Bíró patented the invention in Paris in 1938.
In 1943 the brothers moved to Argentina. On 10 June they filed another patent, issued in the US as US Patent 2,390,636, and formed Biro Pens of Argentina (in Argentina the ballpoint pen is known as birome). This new design was licensed for production in the United Kingdom for supply to Royal Air Force aircrew, who found they worked much better than fountain pens at high altitude.
In 1945 Marcel Bich bought the patent from Bíró for the pen, which soon became the main product of his Bic company.
And from the Torygraph:
The first major buyer of the newly created pen was the Royal Air Force. During the Second World War the organisation ordered 30,000 of the tools, which would work at high altitudes unlike traditional fountain pens. After the war it entered commercial production.
Today, the Bic Cristal biro is the world’s most popular pen. In the US, the price has remarkably stayed the same since 1959 – retailing at 19 cents despite inflation.
In Europe you can still hear these pens called “biros,” but that word is virtually unknown in the U.S., where they’re called ballpoint pens. Here’s an early ad:
And here’s Biró himself:
Now I’ve never liked writing with ballpoint pens. Earlier in my life I loved fountain pens, which made the act of writing a sensuous pleasure, and I eventually worked my way up to the King of Fountain Pens, the Montblanc Meisterstück. (I still have it, but it needs to be repaired.) I also had a Parker 75 in sterling silver. Over the past few years, though, I’ve graduated to the Uni-Ball micropoint pen, a sort of hybrid between ballpoints and fountain pen. The ink dries quickly and it has a very fine point, good for drawing cats in books. I also find that I write almost nothing by hand any more, and so my handwriting has degenerated a bit.
What do you write with?