When most of us think about technology, we think of computers, smartphones, or 3D televisions. But technology can come in many different forms, and sometimes we can take past technological advances for granted. Take the pencil for example. This was once considered to be a revolutionary device that allowed us to record our ideas quickly and cleanly. How revolutionary was it? Well, it has been almost 460 years since the graphite pencil was first invented, and it can still be found in classrooms around the world.
The earliest pencils were invented by the Romans, who used lead tubes to make markings on papyrus, an early form of paper. Even the name "pencil" comes from the Latin word penicillus, which means "little tail." Although pencils do not contain the chemical element lead nowadays, many people still refer to the graphite in modern pencils as "lead."
The story of the modern pencil began in 1564, when a large deposit of pure graphite was discovered in England. People found that it was perfect for marking sheep, and later it began to be used on paper. At first, the graphite was wrapped in string or sheep skin, and it quickly became popular with artists throughout Europe. The Italians further modified the graphite by enclosing it in wood. They glued two wooden halves together around the graphite stick. This exceptional method is still in use today.
Nowadays, there are many different types of pencils. They're all graded according to their hardness on a scale that ranges from 9H (very hard) to 9B (very soft). Some pencils have replaced the black graphite with colored graphite. Pencils are undoubtedly popular. How widespread are they? Over 14 billion pencils are manufactured around the world every year. As for the wood required to make all these pencils, a good-sized tree will produce around 300,000 pencils.
What about the answer to that eternal question of how long of a line could one pencil draw? The experts have even figured that out. The answer is around 113 kilometers.