The Hungarian Laszlo Biro (above), a magazine publisher, noticed, during a visit to a printer, how quickly the printer’s ink dried. It occurred to him that this fast-drying ink would work well in a fountain pen. This dense ink, however, would not flow through a pen.
Therefore, Biro decided to replace the metal writing nib of his pen with a slim ball bearing.
As the pen moved across the paper, the ball turned and suctioned ink from the reservoir, which then transferred it to the paper.
This principle of the ballpoint pen was not, however, a new one. It had been patented in the year 1888 by John J. Loud, but had not been used commercially.
Biro first patented his pen in the year 1938. In 1940 he and his brother ran away from Hungary to Argentina.
There, on the 10 June 1943, he patented his pen again. A clerk of the British government, Henry Martin, who was, by chance, at that time in Argentina, was interested in the fact that Biro’s pen wrote at any altitude above sea level, and therefore because it was not affected by air pressure or other atmospheric conditions.
It immediately occurred to him to make it available to navigators in airplanes. The British government bought the patent and in 1944 a pen under the brand name Biro was produced for the Royal Air Force.
In 1950 Marcel Bich who had acquired the rights to the pen began to sell his French pen and in 1953 he founded the BiC company (using an abbreviation of his name).
In subsequent years its subsidiaries, BIC Italy, BIC LAFREST Spain, BIC Brazil and CIRO Swan Ltd England, were founded.
By the end of the 1950s it controlled 70% of the European market and in 1960 it became the owner of the Waterman Pen Company in New York and it sold its pens on the North American markets for 29 to 69 cents per unit.
BiC completely controlled the market. Parker and other companies had to rest satisfied with a small market for fountain pens and more expensive models of ballpoints.
Today the modern version of Biro’s pen, under the brand name BiC Cristal, sells 20 million pens throughout the world every day.
via The Ballpoint Pen..