Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Power of the Pen

Low-tech Skilcraft pens endure in a high-tech world: "For more than 40 years, standard black pens have cluttered the desks of thousands of federal employees, hung on a chain at post offices across the country and slipped into the pockets of countless military personnel. Yet few have realized that this government-issue pen has a history to rival that of any monument.

Blind workers assemble the pens in factories in Wisconsin and North Carolina under the brand name Skilcraft as part of a 72-year-old legislative mandate. The original 16-page specifications for the pen are still in force: It must be able to write continuously for a mile and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero."

8 comments:

Frank Loose said...

Fascinating. Who'd a thunk.

Todd Mason said...

As the son of two Feds, or a Federal Brat, I grew up with Skilkraft pens, and the retractable ballpoints could be unscrewed in the '70s and made into formidable if mostly nonlethal classroom and family room weaponry...the spring on the ink/ballpoint shaft would be used to launch the plastic lower half of the shell at your target. (Also, excellent pens, if one must.)

And Skilcraft soft-tip ink markers (in the "Magic Marker" vein) were hard to beat.

A Federal program, and Beltway non-bandit, that's hard to demonize.

Todd Mason said...

Now, having read the article, I'll note only the Evul Chillins would shoot the brass shaft at each other...that could take an eye out rather more effectively than the bottom half of the casing...which was approximately as dangerous, unless actively shot at the eye, as a paper wad...

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I have several right now, being a dedicated civil servant. They're okay pens, but if you rate them for line quality they don't measure up to a Bic.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Oh, one other thing. They make them with black or blue ink but we can't use blue ink. The Air Force color is blue, but the ink of that color is verboten. Go figure.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Oh, and yet one other thing. Some of our cleaning supplies come from the Lighthouse For the Blind. They don't work for squat.

Todd said...

That one's (Lighthouse) not a gummint-initiated company...I think you get to blame them on the Church rather than the State.

I'll have to go find some of those retail Skilcrafts and see if they're inferior to the 1970s versions...the Bics I used then and now are inferior.

Todd said...

Blue ink doesn't photocopy well. Though if that's the reason, rather than rumpolery, I known not.