“You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead”*…
The pencil’s journey into your hand has been a 500-year process of discovery and invention. It began in the countryside of northern England, but a one-eyed balloonist from Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, one of America’s most famous philosophers, and some of the world’s most successful scientists and industrialists all have had a hand in the creation and refinement of this humble writing implement…
The story of everyone’s go-to writing implement: “The Write Stuff- How the Humble Pencil Conquered the World.”
* Stan Laurel
As we keep our erasers handy, we might spare a memorial thought for Hugo Gernsback, a Luxemborgian-American inventor, broadcast pioneer, writer, and publisher; he died on this date in 1967 at the age of 83.
Gernsback held 80 patents at the time of his death; he founded radio station WRNY, was involved in the first television broadcasts and is considered a pioneer in amateur radio. But it was a writer and publisher that he probably left his most lasting mark: In 1926, as owner/publisher of the magazine Modern Electrics, he filled a blank spot in his publication by dashing off the first chapter of a series called “Ralph 124C 41+.” The twelve installments of “Ralph” were filled with inventions unknown in 1926, including “television” (Gernsback is credited with introducing the word), fluorescent lighting, juke boxes, solar energy, television, microfilm, vending machines, and the device we now call radar.
The “Ralph” series was an astounding success with readers; and later that year Gernsback founded the first magazine devoted to science fiction, Amazing Stories. Believing that the perfect sci-fi story is “75 percent literature interwoven with 25 percent science,” he coined the term “science fiction.”
Gernsback was a “careful” businessman, who was tight with the fees that he paid his writers– so tight that H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith referred to him as “Hugo the Rat.”
Still, his contributions to the genre as publisher were so significant that, along with H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, he is sometimes called “The Father of Science Fiction”; in his honor, the annual Science Fiction Achievement awards are called the “Hugos.”
(Coincidentally, today is also the birthday– in 1906– of Philo T. Farnsworth, the man who actually did invent television… and was thus the inspiration for the brand name “Philco.”)