The humble pencil is pretty much a perfect invention, and hasn’t changed a whole lot since it’s invention in the 1500′s. In those days graphite was wrapped in string to stop it breaking, but in the mid 1600′s the first mass produced pencial was created, which encased the graphite in wood, much as we still do today. History lesson out of the way, these days we still basically have only three types of pencil (excepting what’s used as the actual writing material itself). The standard wooden pencil, the propelling pencil, and the Pop-A-Point pencil!
Pop-A-Point pencils were an attempt at making a pencil that was affordable and didn’t require you to carry a pencil sharpener around with you in case the pencil broke. It consists of a plastic tube into which several little plastic sections could be stored. Each of these sections had a pointy piece of graphite embedded in one end, whilst the other end was hollow. The pencil point from one section could be pushed into the hollow end of another section, allowing them to fit snuggly together. Voila! A self sharpening pencil! When your current “point” was finished with, you simply “popped” it out of the pencil, and put it back in the other end, thus pushing the next “point” through to be written with.
Of course, most of the time you couldn’t wait to finish the current point before popping through the next one, so most Pop-A-Point pencils ended up being a collection of various length blunt pieces of graphite. It was also a problem if you happened to lose one of the plastic point sections, as the pencil then became useless as the point would just keep disappearing back into the pencil as it was no longer held firmly in place.
The Pop-A-Point was not limited to just boring old graphite. It was also possible to get coloured pencil versions, with each section holding a different colour. Not particularly useful if you did a lot of colouring in with a particular colour, but handy to have on stand by as you had all the colours of the rainbow available in just a single pencil.
The Pop-A-Point pencil is still available today, although it’s never quite managed to knock the good old wooden pencil with the lump of eraser of the end of it’s pedestal. Speaking of which, why is it that the erasers of most wooden pencils never work properly, and instead of wiping away your mistake cleanly instead smudge it all over the page?