A Radioactive Pen in Your Pocket? Sure!
by Evan Ackerman, IEEE Spectrum
In an era of atomic cars and atomic planes, Parker’s 1958 Atomic Pen probably seemed like a good idea
In 1958, Parker Pen designer Walter Bieger developed a series of “Dream Pens,” three of which the company later supplied to Stanley Kubrick to be used as props in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Parker was one of several companies—including Bell Labs, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, and RCA—contacted by Kubrick for samples of what they thought they might have on the market in several decades. When the movie premiered in 1968, the Atomic Pen pictured above was featured floating in microgravity, an effect achieved by sticking the pen to a sheet of glass that was slowly rotated in front of the camera.
The Atomic Pen’s design called for a tiny packet of radioactive isotopes, which would heat the ink to produce a selectable range of line densities. Perhaps understandably, no production units were ever made.
While Parker’s other Dream Pens didn’t make it into the film, the company did use them extensively for promotion in movie theaters, department stores, and supermarkets, displaying the company’s retail products alongside the concepts as “pens of today and tomorrow.”