The Bic Pen
After the Second World War, two Frenchmen, Marcel Bich and Edourd Burrard, founded Société PPA. Porte-plume, Porte-mines et Accessoires, or PPA, is French for pen, mechanical pencil and accessories. Bich had seen a ballpoint pen from Argentina and was inspired. The Décolletage Plastique (plastic turning) team at Société PPA spent six years developing the Bic Cristal from Bich’s discovery.
The Bich name was shortened to Bic because it was easier to remember, and the founders invested heavily in advertising. In 1959, Bich brought the pen to America with the slogan “Writes first time every time,” virtually changing the world from fountain pens to ballpoint pens. Today, the Bic Cristal is the largest selling pen in the world. The 100 billionth Bic Cristal pen was sold in September 2006.
The first patent for ball point pens was issued in 1888. After World War II many companies tried to develop a ballpoint pen. It took the vision of Marcel Bich to bring it to market. However, the most important aspect of the Bic pen is not that it changed the world from using quill and fountain pens, but that Bic developed and successfully introduced disposable pens into the market. Throughout France in the 1950s and 1960s, the Bic pen was called the “Atomic pen.”
The Atomic Bomb
The atomic bomb was developed shortly before the Bic Cristal pen. The concept of creating a large amount of energy from a small mass had been patent in 1934 by Leó Szilárd. Szilárd had fled Germany to London in 1933 to avoid Nazi persecution. The Allies were convinced that Nazi Germany was developing an atomic bomb. A bomb so powerful that as little as one ton of matter could produce 1.2 million tons of destructive energy.
Under the Manhattan Project, America, Canada, and Great Britain, brought together the top scientific minds of the day. Spreading across thirty sites and two countries, this was the largest industrial enterprise in the world.
The ethics of nuclear weapons is still being debated today. The world has not been the same since.
Shortly after the introduction of the Bic pen in France, Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, in Anaheim, California. It is the only Disney theme park developed and constructed under the supervision of Walt Disney.
The opening day of Disneyland was a legendary fiasco. Of the 28,000 in attendance for the opening day, half used counterfeit tickets. Guests tripped over the television cable strung out to televise the event. The water fountains didn’t work and the press reported this as an unethical way to sell sodas. Women who wore high heels, sunk into the asphalt that had been freshly poured that morning. The second day at Disneyland went much better.
And the theme park world would never be the same.
What do all three of these stories have in common?
The Bic pen, atomic bomb, and Disneyland are all disruptive innovations.
What did it take?
Today all three of these stories makes sense; but at the time, they were all incredibly different.