Laszlo Biro Ballpoint pen patent art (FineartAmerica)

The Ballpoint Pen

Personal Selection (What are some reasons you selected this tool?)

With a fascination in calligraphy, which is more ornamental than writing today, it is interesting to me to see the decline in this style as the ballpoint pen emerged. They are so convenient and available to us now; so we do not think twice about them being around. In fact, in my own household, we have so many of them that we must throw them away. They have become so essential to daily life that now people have preferences; favorite brand, color, or style of pen. I still love the delicate nature of fountain or dip pen, but when it comes to convenience, I always reach for the ballpoint.

History

Prior to the ballpoint pen, people who had to write a message, had to dip their pen into a jar of ink continuously as they wrote. As time went on, there were fountain pens, which gave the same appearance as a dip pen; however, these had ink cartridges internally so the ink would flow out without the writer having to dip every few words. As time went on, this idea of continuous ink flow grew. In 1944, Laszlo Biro, an inventor from Hungary, created the first ballpoint pen. This pen was a huge break-through for that time. Biro got his first inspiration while observing a newspaper, and how the ink was printed on there, smudge free, as soon as it came off the printing press. His new invention used a ball on the point rather than the typical fountain pen or nib (pointed end of a dip pen), it had ink that would dry as it hit the page and would be able to write for up to six months without drying out. The ability to have something write smoothly on the page was revolutionary. With a fountain pen, the ink takes much longer to dry, and the sharp tip sometimes catches the paper, if you do not write with it correctly. He decided to use the ball at the end to keep the thick ink from clogging, and it would work as a cap, keeping the ink fresh.

Function/Purpose

The primary function of the ballpoint pen is to write as smoothly and effortlessly as possible. Similarly, the purpose is that the person writing with a ballpoint pen does not encounter any inconvenience while putting their content on paper — whether you are writing a doctor’s note or signing on to your favorite basketball team!

User

The great thing about the ballpoint pen is that anyone, at any age, boy or girl, can use it.

Materials + Production

The materials to make a ballpoint pen are brass (for the ball and in some cases, a spring), plastics, other metals and/or wood. As far as production, many ballpoint pens are mass produced for specific companies. There are, on occasion, pens that are engraved to give an individual touch or custom made so that it seems nicer.

Affordance

Due to the size and the already known tools of a pencil and fountain pen, the ballpoint pen should be easily recognizable, and therefore easy to use. In the case of a ballpoint pen that you have to click (retractable pen) to get access, the end would be a signifier to using it.

Close up of a ballpoint pen.
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