Last week, The Poly posted its issue announcement on the RPI subreddit and I went to check it out. Amongst the usual features, I found one article that truly stood out. What I found was so disgusting, so repulsive, so absolutely despicable that it makes me feel embarrassed for the unfortunate soul that wrote it. I am talking about, of course, Jack Wellhofer’s misguided and ill-informed opinion piece, “Pencils are inferior to pens”, published with the subheading “Pilot G-2 07 makes perfect linewidth, doesn’t require sharpening”. The article in question can be found at https://poly.rpi.edu/s/pens
I’m going to do you all a favor and say it straight up: the Pilot G2 is the single most overrated writing implement in the history of everything ever. Let me provide you with a little bit of history.
Around the year 1440 a German man by the name of Johannes Gutenberg created a device that would change the world forever: the movable type printing press. The printing press would be responsible for an incredible spread of knowledge throughout the world and revolutionized just about everything. But all of that pales in comparison to its original intention: to eliminate the need for the Pilot G2.
The Pilot G2 is the pen for people who don’t know any better. It takes approximately ten years to dry so if you write with any speed you’re going to smudge your work. The expected lifespan of the clip is two minutes after you put it in a pocket. It’s so uncomfortable to hold that they had to put a gel grip on it to distract you.
The truly superior writing implement is the mechanical pencil. The basic pencil design hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years, but the mechanical pencil has come leaps and bounds forward. All of the problems that Wellhofer (but with his judgment on pens one has to question exactly how well he actually hofers) describes with regular pencils—the need for sharpening, most prominently—are eliminated by a good mechanical pencil.
I present to you my writing implement of choice, the Mitsubishi Uni-Ball Kuru Toga Roulette. First off, it’s gorgeous. Look at that metal tip, knurled grip, and metal clip. The only parts of the pencil that aren’t metal are the body and tip so as to keep the weight of the pencil balanced. Second, it feels absolutely wonderful to hold. With the aforementioned knurled grip, you will never have to worry about your pencil slipping, but you will have to worry about constantly being distracted by how good the pencil feels in your hand.
Thirdly, it basically never needs to be refilled. It takes like two seconds to refill and the pencil taps into video game bag logic so that you can fit fifty pounds of graphite into it. Fourthly, it’s always on the sharp side. You know what I’m talking about. You have to keep twisting the pencil in your hand to keep it on the scritchy-scratchy part of the graphite. Not with the Kuru Toga. It rotates while you write, no manual turning required.
Finally, it’s even cooler to take apart than a G2. [A note for those astute readers who are already well familiar with mechanical pencils’ superiority: I am aware that the Pipe-Slide model offers some improvements over the Roulette. I have both, and I find myself using the Roulette more often simply because it feels better to hold.]
If somehow you won’t listen to reason, Wellhofer, and you insist on using an inferior implement (i.e. a pen), I’d like to take your challenge: “I dare you to find me a better pen”.
I present to you the best of the worst: the Zebra F-701 Retractable Ballpoint. It’s almost all stainless steel and the only part that isn’t (there’s plastic around the plunger) can be replaced with the metal version from the Zebra F-402. As a matter of fact, you can even put Space Pen refills into it so you can write upside down underwater in space. If you’re the type of person that takes their pens apart in class, you’ll enjoy the process of modding a pen.
Gregory Bartell ‘17