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The History of Pens and Writing Instruments

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"The History of Pens and Writing Instruments"
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The History of Pens and Writing Instruments:

Which of us doesn't have an ink pen lying in sight or within immediate reach? Most of us have jars, drawers, boxes, and trays entirely devoted to our collections of ink pens; those purchased, given as gifts, found, and the free pens taken as advertisement gimmicks. They line our shirt pockets, purse-bottoms, glove compartments, and still we collect more. We just can't seem to get enough of the wonderful ink pen.

The first time prehistoric man swiped a stick through the dirt to convey an event or idea, the writing assistant was then invented. Each time marks were chiseled in stone or wood, and a bone was dabbed into extract dyes to paint on cave walls, our primeval ancestors demonstrated the value of writing as a means of communication, and the importance of having a good writing instrument. For at least 30,000 years mankind has studied to communicate his experiences and express his visions through a lasting medium that could be shared among many and passed down through time.

Bones were later refined as writing assistants by filing a sharp tip at one end, and for aesthetics, intricate patterns were carved at the other, forming the first recognizable styli. Metal stylus were widely used in Egypt and through the Mediterranean regions to write on wax and clay tablets; in Asia, even the earliest forms of writing were done with a brush fashioned from bird feathers or animal hair and dipped into dyes. With the introduction of inks and early forms of paper, the first dip pens were made from reeds, tips of bird feathers, and metal quills.

The first reservoir ink pen was invented in the 1st century AD, and over the following century, man would continue his quest for the perfect ink pen. A reservoir pen is a writing instrument with a metal tip, or quill, and an attached container that holds a supply of ink and feeds it to the tip upon use. Though reservoir pens changed and improved over the next thousand years, the one dilemma that continually dogged perfection was leakage. Reliable ink flow supplied to the tip was often a problem, but it was the messiness of ink leaking on hands, clothes, and the document itself that proposed the greatest challenge. As a result, a great many people preferred the dip pens. Though writing was slower, as the quill had to be dipped in ink every few words or so, but one did not have the worry of ink suddenly pouring over the page just written. Though pencils as we known them today were invented in the 16th century, mankind has always longed for the perfect ink pen. Yet, relying solely on gravity to deliver ink to the tip, a reliable reservoir pen remained elusive. Creating and perfecting a pen that delivered a consistent flow of ink on demand and did not leak took longer than any other single invention in history. However, by the late 1800's, fountain pens had become the most viable cartridge pen and continued to be through the 1950's.

Ball point pens were invented in the early part of the 20th century, but the first of their kind were too expensive and at that time, more unreliable than the current fountain pens. They were prone to leak and irregular ink flow remained a problem until the principle of air pressure within the cartridge was understood. Once this final problem was understood and addressed, the ball point pen was at last perfected in the 1960's, making it the most reliable, cleanest flowing, and affordable pen on the market. They were mass produced to be disposable, easily bringing the ball point pen into the hands and homes of every American. Where fountain pens were, and still are, the more elite ink pen, the disposable ball point is the inexpensive every-man's pen, making it the preferred writing tool over fountain pens and pencils almost overnight.

More than any other single invention, the ball point pen has changed the way we live and do business. The ink pen, in its many fashions, has led revolutions, started and ended wars, written constitutions, lead us to love, signed proposals (including marriages), merged businesses, ended businesses, made and lost billions, and still we chew on them, throw them across the room when angry, and give them as gifts when we don't know what else to give. Ink pens have single-handedly propelled us into the fast-paced modern world of corporate business deals that make America what it is today. Ink pens have been a part of our daily lives throughout the 20th century and even with the computer age leading us into the 21st century, our ink-filled friends won't be leaving us anytime soon. We need them!

More about this author: Gayla Pledger

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