Methods and styles of writing have routinely been subject to the vicissitudes of technology, even before the digital revolution.
Penmanship has long been the essence of personal expression. Although good penmanship has atrophied in our computer age, methods and styles have routinely been subject to the vicissitudes of technology, even before the digital revolution.Take the ballpoint pen, invented in 1938 by a Hungarian journalist named Laszlo Biro, who had observed that newspaper ink dried faster than the ink in fountain pens, keeping the paper smudge-free. He created a pen using printer's ink and changed the manner and look of written expression. The British government bought the licensing rights to Biro's invention during World War II because the Royal Air Force needed a pen that would not leak at higher altitudes. The basic concept of the ballpoint has remained fairly consistent, though styles have changed. The Bauhaus teacher Laszlo Moholy-Nagy designed a famous Parker Pen, one of the most popular of the genre, but perhaps the most popular of all ballpoints is the Bic Crystal, introduced by Marcel Bich in 1950, the first inexpensive, disposable pen. The digital pen is on the horizon, but the ballpoint will always be the sina qua non.-STEVEN HELLER