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When Did Ballpoint Pens Become Popular? – Ballpoint Pens History

Written by Robert S. Brown / Fact checked by Helen B. Harris

when did ballpoint pens become popular

The birth of ballpoint pens revealed a major shift in the fascinating history of pens. From reed pens to quill pens and fountain pens, this innovation unfolded a phase where a simple writing tool evolved into an iconic symbol of expression.

But when did ballpoint pens become popular?

If we look back to the long record of pen history, ballpoint pens become popular in the 1950s to 1960s. The game-changing moment arrived with Parker’s groundbreaking release of the Jotter in 1954. This instant hit sold millions within months, revitalizing the industry.

Let us dig deeper into these detailed events.

The History of the Ballpoint Pen

1. The Earliest Origins of the Ballpoint Pen


The history of ballpoint pen can be traced back to 1888 when John J. Loud, an ingenious inventor and lawyer, obtained the first patent for a ballpoint pen.

Thus, John J. Loud created the very first ballpoint pen in the world.

He envisioned a writing tool capable of marking on diverse surfaces, and his initial design laid the groundwork for future innovations in the pen industry.

2. A Revolutionary Breakthrough


It was the Hungarian inventor László Bíró who revolutionized the ballpoint pen in the mid-20th century.

Combining the ball socket mechanism with quick-drying newspaper ink, Bíró’s breakthrough allowed the pen’s ball to rotate freely, transferring ink from the reservoir to the writing surface without smudging.

With the assistance of his chemist brother, György, the Bíró brothers fled Germany during World War II and established their pen business in Argentina.

Inspired by John J. Loud’s vision, the innovative ballpoint pen design garnered immense popularity worldwide and bore the Bíró name as a household synonym for the writing instrument.

The Rise of the Ballpoint Pen

Since ballpoint pens highlight practical features for a more comfortable writing experience, many prefer using ballpoint pens over the traditional fountain pen.

But did ballpoint pens replace fountain pens?

Well, even though fountain pens had long dominated the massive world of writing tools, they required skill and careful handling.

This is why some thought of them as less convenient for the growing pace of modern life and increasing literacy rates.

1. A Game-Changing Writing Instrument


The ballpoint pen had become a game-changing invention. Utilizing a small rotating metal ball clutched in a socket, Bíró’s design relied on a smooth-rolling ball bearing, resulting in the modern ballpoint pen.

Interestingly, this innovation incorporated instant-drying ink, which makes writing reliable and hassle-free even at high altitudes.

Contrary to the traditional fountain pen, ballpoint pens do not require frequent refills.

2. The Ballpoint Pen’s Rise to Prominence

Although initially faced with tough market competition and declining consumer interest during the 1950s, the demand for ballpoint pens bounced back with Parker’s successful release of the Jotter in 1954.

In the 1950s, Marcel Bich also brought ballpoint pens to the American market under the brand Bic, based on Argentine designs licensed from Bíró.

The company initially faced challenges but gained popularity with the iconic “Writes First Time, Every Time!” slogan in the 1960s.

The ensuing high competition drove down prices and solidified the ballpoint pen’s status as the preferred writing instrument, ultimately replacing fountain pens in everyday use.

The First Commercially Successful Ballpoint Pen


Intrigued by the quick-drying ink utilized in newspaper printing, Lázló Biró envisioned a writing tool that could replicate its smudge-free performance.

Together with his brother Georg, a chemist, Biró embarked on a collaborative journey, culminating in the creation of a groundbreaking tip – a tiny ball, freely rotating in a socket, capable of picking up ink from a cartridge as it turned and depositing it smoothly on paper.

Debuting at the Budapest International Fair in 1931 and later patented in Paris in 1938, this visionary invention marked the advent of the first commercially successful ballpoint pen, now famously known as the “Biro Pen” in England.

  • Unlike its predecessors, this pen ingeniously utilized pressurized ink columns and capillary action for flawless ink delivery, overcoming the flow-related challenges of earlier designs.

The Popularity of Ballpoint Pens

1. Ballpoint Pens in the Technological Era


The popularity of ballpoint pens coincided with the rise of computers with CPUs, marking a pivotal moment in the history of writing instruments.

As early as the 1960s, discussions about declining handwriting emerged, predating the home computer era by a decade.

But when did ballpoint pens become common?

2. The Ballpoint Pen’s Soaring Popularity

Notably, the production of Bic Cristal pens since the 1950s has surpassed 100 billion units sold.

Hence, it would be safe to claim that the 1950s and 1960s witnessed the increasing prevalence of ballpoint pens.

Furthermore, the advent of these pens sparked a genuine revolution in both the writing and artistic fields. With the power of penmanship delivered into your hands, you can write anytime, anywhere.

The timing was perfect for this innovative breakthrough as education and literacy rates constantly increased in the early 20th century.

As the world became more literate, everyone wanted their personal writing tool.

The ballpoint pen stood as a conduit for satisfying our writing desires, boasting budget-friendliness and ease of use, all while offering versatility and universal accessibility.

The Impact of Ballpoint Pens Invention


Just think about how the ballpoint pen invention revolutionized our day-to-day life in education – gone are the days when we needed to keep refilling ink and deal with smudged pages from writing too fast.

Furthermore, the invention of ballpoint pens allowed everyone to jot down their thoughts anytime and anywhere without fear of forgetting ideas. Thanks to this handy tool, note-taking during lectures just got a lot smoother.

You can always rely on these ballpoint pens for any climate, situation, or environment. There is simply no beating the all-around adeptness of this writing tool.

Despite tech developments that are continuously taking the world by storm, these ballpoint pens remain an essential part of our lives.


When did ballpoint pens become popular? As we delved into its history, ballpoint pens skyrocketed to their fame during the 1950s and 1960s.

The ballpoint pen’s ability to offer seamless writing experiences, portability, and accessibility made it a well-known tool in classrooms, offices, and many more.

There’s no denying that ballpoint pens brought an immeasurable impact that shaped the world as we know it today.

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