Ballpoint pen

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The first ballpoint was invented by American inventor John Loud. He wanted to invent a pen which could write on coarse surfaces such as leather and wood. Loud’s pen had a small rotating steel ball, held in place by a socket. He patented the pen in 1888, but he failed to turn it into a commercial product and so his patent expired.

Ballpoint pen was reinvented by László József Bíró who was a journalist from Hungary. He  was frustrated with fountain pens as they required constant refilling and also caused smudges on paper. Once while visiting a newspaper printing press, he was inspired by the quick-drying ink and roller used. He took up the idea and applied the same principle to pens.

The quick-drying newspaper ink used in the fountain pen was too thick and took time to reach the tip of the nib. So he created a ballpoint nib which was coated with a thin film of ink from the cartridge as it made contact with paper and spun in its socket. Biro took the help of his brother György, a chemist, to create ink of the right viscosity. They named their invention ‘Biro’ and patented it in 1938

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The pen was licensed by the British, who produced them for the Royal Air Force. The pen could work at high altitudes unlike fountain pens which were prone to leakage. A number of pens were ordered during the Second World War. After the war it entered commercial production. The pen is still called a biro in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Italy. It is known as a ballpoint pen in US.

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