Although the ballpoint mechanism was first patented in 1888, it was another 40 years before Biro invented and commercialised the first popular ballpoint pen, the Bic, in 1938.
Since then, the technology has come a long way and different “biros” offer very different value for money. At least, so it would seem from this Spanish consumer report.
In the table of comparisons (on the second page of the in-depth report) it’s good to see that the Bic Cristal is still holding its own against more modern competitors, with only the Staedtler Stick offering a better price per kilometer of ink – a mere 0.06€.
What I don’t see anywhere, though, is any reference to the quality of what’s written, and I’m reminded of the 1939 comment about Biro’s invention from the The Spectator diarist:
“Nothing could be better designed to foster indiscriminate writing among the inexpert and frankly incompetent. Faced with this imminent threat the government must take immediate steps to introduce a strict licensing system, thus ensuring that pens remain strictly in the hands of those able to employ them to convivial effect.”