(Roughly) Daily

Earlier early adopters…

As readers pack their lunches to queue for the new 3G iPhone, Wired reminds us that standing in line and paying a premium for the first consumer editions of technologies that don’t yet work perfectly is nothing new…

Consider the case of the ballpoint pen. Patented by the brothers Biro in 1943, the ball-point pen was first used by the US Air Force and the RAF (whose altitudinous needs precluded using fountain pens, which had been around since 1884). In fact earlier versions of the ballpoint date back to 1888, but it was the Biros’ canny adaptation of quick-drying newspaper ink pushed their version over the line.

It was after the war that the fun began; as the Wired entry reports:

When the pens went into commercial production in 1945, they were a sensation. In the United States, the Reynolds Pen sold for $12.50 (about $150 in today’s money). Yet people swarmed a New York department store to buy 8,000 of them on the first day of sale.

What? People lining up to be the first to buy new technology? Where have we heard that before? You mean, it happened in the old days, too?

Some of the earliest versions of commercial ballpoints leaked and smudged, but manufacturers eventually worked the bugs out. What? A technology brought to market before it’s quite ready? How could that be?

As we click our Bics, we might recall that it was on this date that Dr. Samuel Johnson’s “Dictionary”– the first in the English language, went on sale on this date in 1755.

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
– Samuel Johnson

Dr. Johnson's Dictionary

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 14, 2008 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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