Quill, Fountain Pen, Biro, USB Pen – That’s Some History

The Quill pen was reputedly first used as a writing instrument early in the seventh century, typically shaped from a “donated” goose feather. Quills whilst not that easy to use were relatively easy to shape with a penknife and once a nib or writing tip was fashioned you simply dipped the Quill tip into ink you had a trusty writing instrument that remained popular for centuries.

Although popular the Quill had a habit of wearing out quickly and needed constant re-working so it was no doubt a relief to all concerned when in the early 19th century the first metal writing tips were introduced. These were manufactured from sheet metal, they had holes punched into them to help retain/store ink, they were cheap and they guaranteed a uniformity of shape that could not be matched by Quills. Although the metal tips addressed several shortcomings in the Quill pen it was still necessary to travel with a separate supply of ink. This issue was ultimately addressed in 1884 by Lewis Waterman who invented the first proper fountain pen with its own integral ink supply.


Waterman’s invention was an instant hit and spawned many competitors many of whom are still household names today; Sheaffer, Parker and Montblanc to name but a few. But, fountain pens were relatively expensive and still a little fussy and messy to use so the market was left open for a Hungarian journalist named Ladislo Biro who in 1930’s introduced what we today know and call “the biro”

The biro revolutionised the writing instrument market because it was easy to use, inexpensive, and disposable! It needed no separate ink well or ink store and rather than refilling it when it was empty its low cost meant you simply threw it away and purchased a new one. Today hundreds on millions of biros are purchased every year and every person in the western world will use one.

USB Pens USB Pens

So where next for the ubiquitous pen? Well, one new development is the combination of the biro with digital storage. The USB Pen is a standard biro with a USB flash stick built into the body of the pen. The barrel of the body discretely hides the USB connector and the USB flash memory giving the user not only the ability to write with the pen but store thousands of documents on the integral flash memory.

Available in a range of styles and colours these USB pens make excellent gifts for busy executives or fabulous promotional products for companies targeting high net worth clients.

It’s far to say that the humble pen has certainly seen significant development over the centuries and despite the growing dominance of electronic gadgets, mobile phones, PDA. Laptops etc. it looks like its going to be with us for many years to come.

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