Today is Biro’s 117th birthday, and like a handful of us who have used fountain pens, he wasn’t very happy with all the blotting and smudging. According to the Telegraph, Biro stumbled upon the idea to make a ball pen on a visit to a newspaper printing press which used quick-drying ink and a roller.
Born in 1899, Biro was apparently not the first person to come up with the idea of using a rollerball system that delivers ink to the nib of a pen. John Loud, an American inventor, is widely believed to have invented and patented the first ballpoint pen back in 1888, but because of his failure to turn it into a commercial product for the masses, his patent lapsed.
Before the modern ballpoint pen was invented relatively recently, all pens used a nib and a dark, watery ink, reportedly called India ink. While quill pens are known to have been around since around 600 AD, the lead pencil was created in 1795.
Though, the ball point pen is just a humble creation, what many do not know is that the pen has an interesting connection with World War II. Reportedly Biro, who was a Jew maintained his name as László József Bíró to escape the Nazi, until he invented the pen in 1940. He fled the Nazi occupation and reached Argentina where he made the biro (which was what the pen was known as) into a commercial product.
Of course, if you’re a fan of the film 3 Idiots, ‘Prof. Virus’ played by the inimitable Boman Irani has a rather touching story to share with Aamir’s character about ball-point pens in space. So, had Biro not decided that he’d had enough of the blotting and the smudging and the leaking of fountain pens, imagine what our spacemen would write with!