Posted by: lrrp | July 18, 2013

The Russians Used a Pencil

There is an old joke, or urban myth if you look at it another way, that goes something like this:

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface, and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 degrees Celsius.

The Russians used a pencil.

Although this joke is not factually correct, the punchline still resonates. There is something to be said about a simple and elegant solution versus a bloated and complicated one.

One final note: I think space pens are awesome. This is not about anti-gadgetry, but rather,  to delight in the beauty of a simple design solution.


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