A Noteworthy Note
Post-it notes turned 20 in the year 2000, and the occasion was celebrated by artists creating artworks on them. One of these designs fetched around £640 ($940) (Current Value=$832.22) in an auction, making it the most expensive Post-it.
When you're working, the last thing you think about is your office supplies―until you run out and need more. That frustration and desperation as you search the corners of your drawers for just one more paper clip―what would we do without our beloved desk essentials?
Sure, gadgets come and go, and even Wite-Out is pretty much extinct in the age of computers, but the basics endure. Have you ever thought about how they came to be? So, read on to know more about the origins of our oft-ignored, though highly essential office supplies.
The first paper clip was invented in 1867, and was intended to hold tickets to fabric. It wasn't exactly the device we know today―that was created by The Gem Manufacturing Company in the mid-1870s, and was never patented, which is almost unbelievable, given the fact that the design has basically remained unchanged all this time.
The 'Gem paper clip' (its proper name) was immediately a commercial success, primarily because it didn't mark or tear the pages like its predecessor, the pin.
A successful pen required the ball and point to fit perfectly, along with ink of the perfect consistency flowing freely without flooding. The ball and point problems were solved with various updates to the design.
Take apart your pen and you'll see the spring loading to hold the ball in place, and the thin reservoir that uses capillary action to dispense the ink.
But arguably, the most important advance in pens came in 1938, when newspaper editor László Bíró and his chemist brother Gyorgy developed a new, thick ink that wouldn't flood the page, and a new ball-and-socket design that would plug up the reservoir to prevent the ink from drying, while ensuring even dispensing every time.
He joined 3M company in 1923. He was trying to develop better masking tape for auto painters, and ended up with a strong adhesive on a cellophane backing. 3M produced only sandpaper at that time.
Although it never took off in the automotive world, Scotch tape became popular among butchers, bakers, and other food purveyors, because the adhesive wasn't prone to releasing with heat or moisture, like previous tapes.
Heat-sealing came along soon after and replaced Scotch tape among this particular market, but by then, it was already a household hit among the Great Depression families because it allowed for easy, quick repairs. And the plastic handheld dispenser hit the market in 1940, nearly replacing the seven-pound cast iron desk dispenser that preceded it.
This adhesive was invented by Dr. Spencer Silver (3M) in 1968, as he was attempting to invent a 'super-strong' adhesive. If he failed in his mission, he certainly succeeded in creating an icon.
Success wasn't immediate, he had difficulty promoting the product within 3M, and multiple product releases couldn't seem to find a market. Customers couldn't understand the purpose. So in 1978, 3M gave out free samples in Boise, Idaho, and the market was found at last.
Once they tried them, customers couldn't get enough―in fact, 94% of those who received the free samples said they would definitely purchase them. Post-its were officially launched in 1980, and the rest is history.