Stylish phones keep ringing up success
Telephones beat plastics into the marketplace by 31 years, but plastics have been making up for lost time ever since.
Just a few years after its introduction, Bakelite began replacing painted brass on handsets and receivers. By the 1920s, Bakelite was a standard material for most telephones, said Greg Russell, a telephone collector and former employee for Illinois Bell who operates the Web site www.telephonymuseum.com. Picture Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, when Sam Spade calls the police to have them come and arrest his partner's killer - Bogart is handling Bakelite.
Plastic telephones really took off, though, immediately after World War II, with a wide color palette offered as well to match the decor in hundreds of thousands of new homes with the onset of suburbia. While those phones seemed like a leap forward in style, there were still limits. Until the 1980s, telephones in the United States were rented by the phone company, with only a limited selection of styles.
With the breakup of the AT&T monopoly, telephone customers could buy their own phones, anywhere, leading to a wide selection of sizes, styles and colors.
The change brought mixed results, Russell said July 9 by telephone.
``We have cooler phones now, but they don't last as long,'' he said.
The creation of mobile telephones has led to another revolution in technology, beginning in 1983 when Motorola Inc. introduced the DynaTAC cell phone. It was big and clunky - measuring in at 13 inches long and 3½ inches wide - but marked the first time phone users could really roam, though a battery life only allowed 30 minutes of talk time before an eight-hour recharge.
Modern art in a pen
You may have a piece of modern art on your desk, or in your bag, or lying forgotten on a table somewhere.
It isn't priceless. Chances are you paid less than 50 cents for it - probably even half that amount.
It is the simple Bic Cristal ink pen, first introduced in 1950 and in continuous production since then.
In 2005, Bic announced it had sold 100 million of these ballpoint pens.
``Design objects are not only [about] precious furnishings and silverware, but also hundreds of basic items from the daily lives of people around the world,'' said Paola Antonelli, curator of the Museum of Modern Art's Department of Architecture and Design, when the New York museum added the Bic Cristal to its collection in 2004. ``[We] seek a perfect balance between form and function that is best exemplified by the honest and disarming tea bag, the apparently simple Bic pen, the paper clip.''
Marcel Bich did not invent the ballpoint pen, but with partner Edouard Buffard he bought the patent rights from LaszlÃ³ BírÃ³ in 1945 and perfected a way to manufacture the pens at a low cost, convinced that the public wanted an inexpensive ink pen they could rely on.
His company, Société Bic of Clichy, France - its name taken from a shortened version of his name that was less likely to be mispronounced - rolled out the Bic Cristal, designed by Decolletage Plastique Design Team with its clear polystyrene barrel and polypropylene cap in Europe in 1950, and in the United States 10 years later.
The firm now sells 24 million stationery products globally each day, and has expanded to include disposable lighters and sporting equipment. It still produces 88 percent of its products in-house, with 17 plants worldwide.