by Jose Fernandez
My generation of boomers will certainly remember how we would fare way back in our grade school days – in the 50s no less – with respect to the fairly small array of writing instruments available to us for use in school or schoolwork. The first few grades saw us struggling with our pencils, which usually meant the venerable Mongol #2 with its yellow color. This pencil allowed us to express ourselves as only little kids could.
We had to bring an entire box of pencils each because we would promptly break the tips, which made the pencil sharpener a necessary tool. Those who forgot their sharpeners went to the front to make use of the class sharpener, those funny looking gadgets that had many sized openings for different types of pencils, and a rotary mechanism that worked real fine, thank you.
Then, there were the various ballpens and fountain pens that we would buy in PECO or Alemars or similar establishments. Bic ballpens were all the rage, and worked better than the cheaper brands that tended to leak ink and leave large indelible marks on our school uniforms and on our hands. Fountain pens were elegant, but often enough, we would spill the contents of the ink bottles while refilling, making a mess of ourselves and the classroom.
That is why the news of the Pininfarina designed pen that writes without ink and continues to write on and on and on – much like a supercharged Energizer bunny powered by solar energy – would be welcome news for this corner. First of all, I used to have an extensive pen collection that got stolen. Now, I have a few really good pens that people have given me over time, but which I prefer to keep in a secure place.
As a result, I make use of an array of cheap throwaway ballpens and markers, and am not surprised that almost all of them lose their ability to write properly after just a while. Gone are the days when a ballpen cartridge could maintain its writing integrity even after years in storage. Nowadays, most of them, including those of very expensive name brands, tend to harden over time and deserve to be thrown away for failure to live up to their promise – or price.
The 4.EVER Pininfarina Cambiano is a machined piece of artwork that looks like a space-aged pen, which it is, in effect. It eschews the use of a nib and traditional ink sources. Instead, it has a tip of metal that its maker says is a metal alloy they call the Ethergraph. What happens is that trace elements of the metal alloy are left behind on the paper written on. In short, the pen leaves something of itself behind, except that the metal alloy never quite runs out of itself and can go on and on and on. The mark left behind, i.e., the written text, is permanent and cannot be erased just like that.
The maker also plans to release a type of notebook using paper that they call Stone Paper…because it is made from powder from stone. This stone paper is waterproof and is a perfect companion to the inkless forever pen.
Given my travails with ordinary pens and problems with ink of whatever type or source, I would be very welcoming of this new-fangled pen. Maybe they will learn to make it write in several colors?