History of the World: The Demise of Fountain Pens

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biro I dunno, I kind of think it would be cool if we all still wrote with big fountain pens. Perhaps I've seen Harry Potter one too many times. At any rate, Lazlo Biro definitely disagreed with me. He and his brother Georg invented a pen that had a tip with a freely revolving ball and ink in a cartridge. They patented the idea in 1938, and in 1940, the brothers fled Europe to Argentina and opened a ballpoint pen factory. When a man vacationing there saw the pen, he decided to bring it back to the U.S... even though he didn't have the brothers' permission. The pen went on sale at Gimbels department store in New York. You could have owned one (ONE) for the low, low price of $12.50. Sounds a little pricey, but some people were impressed - Gimbels sold 10,000 in one day.

Of course, there was still room for improvement - in 1949, a couple of guys invented a pent with no-smear ink and a retractable tip. THey called it the Papermate. Then, in 1952, Marcel Bich came up with a smooth-writing pen in a plastic barrel and named it after himself, although he dropped the "H" and called it the Bic.

But, in lots of countries, ballpoint pens are still called biros, and in Argentina, Lazlo's September 29 birthday is celebrated as Inventors' Day.

Picture 4.pngIt's the greatest deal in the history of history books! Our first hardback, The Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through History's Best Bits, hits stores later this month, and we're so excited that we've teamed up with the fine folks at Amazon.com to give you a special deal. Pre-order the book before October 27th and we'll throw in 6 FREE MONTHS of mental_floss magazine! Just click here to get the deal now.

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October 15, 2008 - 5:30am
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