Alan Dee: Is this brilliant invention really anything to write home about?

Opinion - Alan Dee
Opinion - Alan Dee

Every so often I come across such a crystal clear example of what’s gone wrong with our world that I want to shout it from the rooftops.

Well, first I either want to cup my head in my hands and wearily wonder how soon it will be before Western civilisation hits the buffers for good and all, or in extreme cases just bang my head against a wall to see if my sacrifice might help to point humanity back in the right direction. Guess what, it never does.

So let’s move on to the second stage – spreading the word.

I don’t get much in the post these days, heaven knows, but sometimes I receive samples of smart new products which the makers hope will improve the lot of our planet, or at the very least make them a few quid.

So it was that I came into possession of a FriXion Ball Clicker – the capital X is crucial, for some reason, and it’s no skin off my nose so let’s go with it.

So what, you may ask, is a Frixion Ball Clicker?

It’s a pen, to break it down to basics. It’ll set you back about £2.50, and the good folk at Pilot Pens who have put their very best brains on the project are as pleased with punch with the finished product.

What’s so special? Well, the thing that sets this particular pen apart is that if you make a mistake, you can rub it out and start again.

According to the publicity puffery that came with my sample, it adds the convenience of a retractable to the FriXion range.

There’s a science bit, of course. These pens use thermosensitive ink which can be rubbed out simply by the friction generated by the eraser at the top of the pen. And there are all manner of little design details that will commend this particular writing implement to you, which are too many and various go do into here.

You will, of course, be asking which colours you can have. I’ll tell you – black, blue. red, green, violet, pink and light blue.

All of these, I am assured, are vivid colours, even the black. You’d expect nothing less for £2.50 a pop.

And there’s a little magic touch to intrigue you, too – FriXion ink reappears after being erased if you put the paper in the freezer for a few minutes. Fancy.

But here’s the thing. Although I am surrounded by pens, I certainly haven’t bought one this century.

I tend to pick up handfuls from conferences, trade fairs and other events where pens are an everyday part of the promotional push, and it’s not that I really need them that often – the odd shopping list to write, an occasional birthday card, a cheque or two.

But if I was writing all day and likely to make mistakes, I would make use of the entirely adequate old school technology that is the pencil with a rubber on the end.

So the pen people have spent untold hours of top brain time designing this thing, setting up a production line, and preparing a marketing push, when all they’re really doing is replicating a tried and trusted technology that is itself falling by the wayside.

If all that effort had been devoted to something really useful, the world really could be a better place – but sadly world peace, a cure for cancer or action to end hunger are obviously nothing to write home about.