27th May 2024

Biro and Biro: The ballpoint pen and its maker

Ballpoint Pen

Ballpoint Pen

The year was 1938. World War II was about to begin. A wonderful invention, which only became ubiquitous with time, happened: The ballpoint pen.

The biro, or the first ballpoint pen, was named after its inventor Ladislao José Biro (1899–1985). Biro was a Hungarian journalist and painter. On his visit to a newspaper printing press, he could not help but notice that the ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly and that the rollers used in the printers produced smudge-free content. After repeated failures in trying to implement the mechanism in fountain pains, he developed a new tip consisting of a small brass ball that could freely turn from within a socket. The ball, as it turned, would suck ink from the cartridge rendering it onto the paper. Biro patented his creation in Paris, in 1938.

Biro moved to Argentina with Gyrörgy, his brother and partner, in the year 1943. There, the duo applied for a US patent under the name Biro Pens of Argentina. Nevertheless, their biggest recognition came when the Royal Air Force, of the United kingdom, licensed production of biros for its aircrew. They found that that the pens worked much better than their predecessors, the fountain pens, at higher altitudes.

The biro is still the most popular pen in the US, and one of the most popular in the world. How the name, Biro, became an alternate name for the ballpoint pen, despite the fact that it was actually a registered trademark, speaks volumes of its popularity.

Ladislao Biro was born on 29 September, a day Argentina celebrates as Inventors’ Day, in his honour.

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