1930s. László Bíró, a Hungarian journalist, was frustrated with the wasted time for recharging his pen and for waiting as the ink became dry on the paper. So, he decided to create a pen which would facilitate the writing activity by solving these kinds of problems. Then, in 1938, working with his brother Georg, he patented the design of a pen which used a tiny rotational sphere in its extremity. The concept is simple: as the sphere rolled with the friction on the surface of the paper, it was in contact with the ink, transferring it to that surface.
There were already purposes like that in the past -- but the Bírós' design solved many practical problems related to obstruction and ink leakage. In the 1940s, they licensed the design to several fabricants in United States and England; however, only a decade later all the problems were amended by Marcel Bich, a French fabricant who would created one of the most remarkable objects of the Occidental culture. It was the birth of an icon: BIC Cristal.
This icon of democracy -- which anyone can buy -- is also one of the first products under the cultural aegis of "use it and throw it away", allowing even several projects which was created with this object. The utilities are obviously limited only by our imagination.