The best kind of pen of all time. Invented by László Bíró in Hungary in the 1930s and originally marketed in Argentina, where he and his brother emigrated in 1940 at the invitation of President Agustín Justo. There they gave the Biro pen the brand name Eversharp CA (capillary action). It was taken up and developed for the RAF as a reliable superior replacement for the ungainly fountain pen; and the apotheosis of the biro was when today's very cheap disposable version was mass marketed by Count Marcel Bich in the early 1950s, in cooperation with the brothers, under the brand-name Bic. Bíró's Eversharp pen company was finally sold to Parker in 1957 but it is Bich's simple plastic tubes that carry on Bíró's legacy of genius.

Mr Bíró of course, being Hungarian, was pronounced bee-row, not by-row as we now say it, but I think being anglicised is further honour to his name.

It must be admitted however that one John Loud had essentially the same idea in 1888 but never managed to capitalise on it. What the Bíró brothers eventually managed to achieve and market was ink of a thickness that always worked, and a capillary action instead of gravity so that it could write at any angle. But a loud isn't as good a name for an everyday object as a biro, which has entered the language like hoover and walkman and sellotape. (Some people use bic generically in the same way.)

One of the three or four seminal inventions in writing, along with the alphabet, movable type and perhaps the pencil and typewriter, because some -- such as the Bic click-top kind of biro and to a lesser extent their regular tube brand -- are totally reliable and user-friendly. Few with any sense would choose to use any other kind of pen: no mess, no fading. Extremely cheap, sturdy, the acme of democratic access to literacy.

The Biro is a curious creature... for indeed it is a sentient lifeform that has been bonded into slavery since the Biro brothers discovered them on a hunting expedition.

I sense that you do not believe me... Well, I suppose that is your right, however, you may change your mind after reading this. Biros have a remarkable way of moving between space and they will use their power to make their escape.

I have the following experiment which you may wish to try, as suggested by Robert Rankin. If you take fifteen Biros, making sure that you hold onto them on your way home, such that none escape, and, upon entering the house place five of these by the phone, five in the kitchen and five on your desk, upon waiting for a week to pass, you should then try to write a note...

Do you believe me now...!

There have been many ways tried to control them, but so far none have worked, in other words, you have been warned!

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