We love pens, but sometimes, really, they can take themselves far too seriously.
So, once in a while, we have to search out those pens that are just silly or geeky or made for people whose lives apparently are much more adventurous than our own. The only criterion is that they must be pens you can actually use, besides being unusual in some way, of course.
This time around, we found nine such pens, each one ugly, awkward and fun in its own way. Or so we think, anyway.
Shocking Pen: This one just appeals to the 12-year-old boy in all of us. It’s a normal ballpoint pen that works fine if you twist it to expose the writing tip. But, if you depress the plunger, it delivers a mild electric shock. It’s not Guantanamo Bay-level treatment, but the seller does offer this disclaimer: “As this item does emit an electrical shock, it should be used with care, and kept out of children’s reach and not used by anyone fitted with a pacemaker.”
Dunhill Sentryman Explorer: A pen for the rich survivalist, of which there have to be, what, dozens at least, right? According to the maker, the pen was inspired by the needs of South Pole explorers. The barrel is made from anodised aluminum and has an artificial flint that you can strike against the magnesium around the cap to start a fire. A “luminous cap ring,” means you can always find it in the dark. While it’s sold as a fountain pen, it also comes with an interchangeable ballpoint tip which is, as Dunhill says, “much better for writing a journal while on an expedition!” At nearly £3,000, you wouldn’t expect the company to sell many, but the website shows they are out of stock.
Messograf Multifunction Pen: Now here’s a pen you can use to jot down notes – and then turn around and perform maintenance on your automobile. The German-made ballpoint pen is constructed of chromium plated brass and has what appears to be a pentagonal barrel. Built in are a ruler, a tire tread gauge, a caliper rule and a thread scale. This is the pen that engineers must have naughty dreams about.
PI PenTek: Do you want to finally find out who keeps readjusting the height of your desk chair when you aren’t around? Leave the PenTek laying on your desk to capture the evidence. This is a working pen with a spy camera and digital video recorder built in. All you have to do is push a button and the pen-camera will record for up to three hours on one battery charge. That’s plenty of time to catch the culprit. Then, plug the camera into your computer with the included USB cable and watch what unfolded in front of the camera while you were gone.
The Pilot’s Pen: Nothing too exotic here, but this pen’s brilliance is in its simplicity. The pen has an LED light built into the tip so you can see what you are putting on paper in low-light conditions. Sold as a pen for pilots who, presumably, must take notes and mark maps and do all sorts of other pilot-y things without turning on the cockpit lights and ruining their night vision. Runs on one AAA battery and comes with black, blue and red ink.
Pulse Smartpen: Easily the most amazing pen of the bunch. It’s not so much a pen as a computer. As you write, an infrared camera in the pen’s tip keeps track of every word and mark. At the same time, a microphone digitally records the audio of whatever meeting you are attending, or interview you are conducting. Then, later, you simply touch the pen to a particular word in your notes, and the digital recorder plays back the relevant portion of the recording. You also can download the recording and your notes to your computer. Of course, the pen is expensive, and you have to buy special paper for it. And, unfortunately, it is only available in the US for now.
Rocket Pen: Face it, work can get boring. When that happens, it’s OK to have some fun (if your boss isn’t too stuffy). We recommend using this pen as it was intended – as a toy for grown-up kids. It writes like a normal pen, but looks like a Titan rocket. And when you set it on the launch pad and push the button, it shoots into the air as much as three feet! Of course, it has a foam tip, so the company safety officer doesn’t need to worry about eyes getting poked out. Even when you aren’t firing the rocket, just writing with a pen that looks like this should help boost your spirits.
Operation Pen: Speaking of pens that double as toys, this is another of our favourites. You might remember playing Operation when you were a kid…trying to keep a steady hand while using a pair of tweezers to pluck various organs out of a cartoon human body without touching the sides of the opening, which set off a buzzer. Hmmm. Put that way, it sounds gruesome, but it actually was quite fun. Now, you can play when you should be working with this pen that writes and has the Operation game built in. Remember, take a deep breath to calm yourself before trying to remove any organs.
PenAgain: Sometimes, a pen is just a pen. This one doesn’t do anything but write, so at first it might seem out of place on this list. At least, until you look at the pen. We’ve included it just because of the sheer oddity of its appearance. It is an ergonomic pen supposed to make writing much more comfortable for those who suffer hand pain. And, to its credit, the pen actually does accomplish that, by all reports. But, it is one of the strangest-looking ink pens we found – and we saw one that looked like a finger and another that had the writing tip coming out of a cat’s hindquarters.
We’re always on the lookout for more unusual pens, so if you have any strange ones to nominate, feel free. We’ll be happy to consider any suggestions in the next roundup.