Ballpoint pen

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Ballpoint pen, taken apart (top) and put together (bottom)

A ballpoint pen (also called a biro - pronounced "BY-roe" - in British English after its inventor László Bíró), is a modern kind of pen for writing. They use oil-based ink of high viscosity. The ink is inside a long, thin unit inside the pen. When a person writes with it, the ink comes onto the small, ball-shaped tip of the unit. The ink dries almost as soon as it is on the paper. Rollerball pens are ballpoints that use water-based ink of low viscosity.

Before the ballpoint pen was invented people usually wrote with pens which were dipped into ink, or fountain pens which were filled with ink. When the ballpoint pen was invented, many people thought they were inferior to use because the user's handwriting was not as good. Children in school continued to use the old dip pens. However, ballpoint pens were improved, and they are much easier to use than pens that need to be dipped in ink. This has made them one of the most used writing utensils today.

Galileo was working on a draft for an invention similar to the ballpoint pen in the early 1600s.

The inventor László Bíró registered his invention of the ballpoint pen in 1938.

There are two kinds of ballpoint pens:

  1. Disposable pens (ones that can be thrown away) are extremely cheap. They are made almost entirely of plastic. They can be thrown away once all the ink is used up.
  2. Refillable pens are of better quality and cost more. The unit which has the ink in it, and includes the ball-shaped tip, can be replaced fairly cheaply.