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 article about DO YOU KNOW THIS?

This article belongs to Sweet Grace column.

Do you know, till some 80-90 years back, people used  a quill pen for writing? The quill was taken from the back of a porcupine.  I wonder how they managed to pluck it away from this animal.;  probably after killing the poor thing. The quill was a colourful looking stem, about 7 inches long and   sharp at one end which acted as the writing nib.


           I remember seeing a quill pen paired with an ink bottle on my father's table sometime in the 1920's


           Some people used the feather of a big bird for the same purpose. This must have been far cheaper than a quill and within reach  of many users. Unlike the quill,  the writing  portion in feather was much shorter and wore out faster as well.


           Then came a metal nib which was  fixed at one end of a 6 inch long wooden pencil like rod.  The metal nib was a definite improvement  over the quill and feather varieties.


           Their successor was the fountain pen.  The FP threw the quill,  the feather and the metal nib pen, clean out of our writing table.  The FP made its appearance initially in Europe during the 30's.  It was hailed as a breakthrough in the writing world because you didn't need to keep an ink-pot ready at hand.  It was a prestige symbol too for a gentleman to sport a fountain pen in his front pocket.  Ladies loved to give  an FP as a gift to men for any kind of occasion.


            The FP,  which incidentally was considered the mobile version of an ink-pot and quill/feather/nib combination,  ruled the day for some  30  odd years.


             The novelty angle however, began to wear  out slowly. An FP , which was usually imported  from England and Germany,  was easily available in the markets of all countries of the world.  I too owned one  named ‘Black bird' around 1936-37.  Black bird was the best one going then.  If my memory is correct I think it used to cost some 37 Indian paise (roughly equal to 2 US cents).  37 paise was a lot of money those days especially for school boys.


             Even  in  the fountain pen era, you had to keep an ink bottle in your inventory.  But it remained at home.  You filled the reservoir  once every 2 days or so. If you had to write pages after pages,  like inside   an examination hall, you carried the ink bottle with you along with a rubber filler.  The ink filling exercise had its inherent danger;  a little movement here and there and the darned stuff fell on your shirt or trousers especially if you poured the ink directly from the bottle without using the filler. The kind of ink used in those days was an indelible type such that could not be washed away easily.  The ink stain stuck on the cloth for ages.  I had got thrashed many a time for ‘inking' my shirt or shorts so very frequently.


            Thus we boys went head over heels when the self filling model came into the market.  It was a real boon for everyone.  Parker 51 was a famous model in this category and continues to be so even now. All you did was, put the pen into the ink bottle and pumped the button a couple of times and the ink was filled in the reservoir.


          We didn't know in the 50's that a greater boon was waiting round the corner.


           Around 1960, the famous Ball Point pen made its entry in royal style and captured every heart and just like that as well.  It had combined in it all the plus points of  all its predecessors  and  some inbuilt remedies for all the negative points.


           But then, some people never took a liking to the BPP at all.  In fact they detested its very sight.  They did everything possible to keep it out of circulation.  One of the major antagonists were the Bankers;  they refused to accept a cheque written with a BPP.  But soon better sense dawned on them and they too took  to it like astronauts to space.  Nowadays all work in a  bank or in any office for that matter , is done with BPP only.


           The other opponents were the schools, where they insisted that the children use FP and FP only.  Their  reason? The handwriting would go bad if the children used  BPP.


           All that's gone now.  Some people take very long to accept new things. BPP is very much an item in all school bags nowadays.


           BPP has been in our midst now for well over 45 years, longer than any of its ancestors.


           Is any scientist or engineer working on a replacement for the  BPP?  I take a bet, a BPP is an irreplaceable invention.  New deluxe  models may come but basically they would be BPP.




                                                                                Israel Jayakaran [Sweetgrace]

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