It’s So “De-Pen-Dable”…


For a month with just 4 letters in it, June is sure a busy little beaver.

“Ballpoint Pen Day” falls in this month.

Ballpoint pens might be one of the most used and somewhat unappreciated things in out lives.

Although it was invented in 1938 by Hungarian journalist Laszio Biro, John Loud actually got the patent for the idea in 1888.

The Argentinians call their ballpoint pens “birami” in honor of the inventor.

The first time ballpoint pens went on sale to the public in New York City, the police had to be summoned to control the crowds.

Can you say “a great product that the public whose time had come?”

Now, the concept of pens is more than 5,000 years old, dating back to ancient Egypt when they used actual straw straws with ink made of soot or red ochre.

A typical ballpoint pen will write 45,000 words or approximately 100 pages of text.

How many ballpoint pens are sold per second around the world?

Would you believe 125?

The typical American uses/buys 4.3 pens every year.

Remember those 4-way blue and white pens with red, green, blue and black ink options?

They used to be the rage.

I always ran out of red ink first.

We used to have that traditional kitchen “junk drawer” that held dozens of pens and writing instruments, plus paper clips, tacks and such.

I have a little pen holder contraption on my desk which currently holds 8 different pens, 7 of which that actually work.

I also have a basket in the kitchen where all my “pocket stuff” gets emptied into and it holds 14 additional pens, including several rubber-tipped ballpoint pens that are great for phone-texting for guys with “gorilla fingers” like me.

Every morning, I fish out two; one that disperses black or blue ink and the other red and into my pocket they go.

Over the years, I have ruined a sizeable wardrobe by putting uncapped ballpoint pens into my pockets or leaving them in the pockets when the clothes get tossed into the washing machine.

The United States produces about 2 billion ballpoint pens annually and we import 3.4 billion.

More than half of us have a logoed or customized ballpoint pen in our possession and they are the most commonly-owned promotional product in the world.

When someone gives you a new ballpoint pen, 95% of the time the first thing you will write is your name.

So why do they call them ballpoint pens?

They have a tiny rotating ball in the end made of brass, steel or tungsten carbide that distributes/dispenses the ink while helping keep the ink from drying up.

Pens can cost anywhere from 7cents each to $730,000 (Mont Blanc ballpoint pen).

Marcel Bich gets credit for the first inexpensive pen when he came up with the BIC pen in 1949.

A typical one can draw a line about 1.25 miles long.

Retractable ballpoint pens have oil-based ink and the “clicking” helps keep them from drying out.

Nervous writers do a lot of “clicking” and it can make folks crazy.

And, think about the act of writing.

Lefties like the fast-drying ink of ballpoint pens since they can pretty much write “smear-free”.

Royal Air Force flyers used feather pens in the cockpits before getting ballpoint writing instruments.

In 1968, Paul Fisher came up with the “space pen” for a 1968 Apollo space mission.

This device worked in zero gravity, underwater, upside down and would even write on oily or greasy surfaces and at temperatures ranging from -40C to +120C.

No word on how much that “space pen” cost but I bet it’s not as pricey as the ruby and black diamond encrusted Tibaldi’s Fulgor Nocturnus fountain pen.

That one will set you back about $8,000,000!

(Wonder if I could make that leak if I left in in my trouser pocket for a trip through the laundry?)

On the Apollo 11 mission, astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong needed to fix a faulty circuit breaker which threatened a safe return to Earth.

They fixed that circuit breaker with a pen.

The world’s smallest pen is the Nanofountain Probe, used for nanoscale on-chip patterning while the biggest pen is more than 15 feet long and weighs over 81 pounds.

By the way, it also writes.

Did you know that 100 people suffocate every year on swallowed pen caps?

That’s why sometimes you’ll find holes in the tops of some pen caps.

For awhile, I developed a fondness for those “gel” pens.

I’m old enough to remember the plastic ink cartridges for the modern “fountain” pens.

I missed the inkwell and quill era.

Just a thought.

If Penn State University catches any grief from animal rights folks for being the “Nittany Lions”, I think they should adopt a a pen and be called the “Fighting BICS”.

Penn State and BICS seems like a no-brainer to me.

What say you?


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