Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal Arts
7 minutes for reading

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?
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It is not easy for aristocrats in our time – no honor, no worship … And this descendant of an ancient Tuscan family has its own aristocratic whim – he loves to have to take less luggage for the trip.

What should he, the poor man, do?

The answer is a little later.




I’m not an aristocrat at all, but I can understand this person – for a long time getting ready for the trip was a painful and uncertain process for me. My job required frequent business trips, the places my jobs were sugar factories, and they are rarely built in big cities.

Getting ready, I was always worried –  what if you need something? It is not clear what the weather will be, it is necessary to take warmer clothes, but if it does not get colder, what will I wear? I must take it in this case … the area is unknown, shoes may not fit either.

I’ll go wearing my shoes, take my boots. How can I pack everything? Yes, the suitcase looks like a big one … It will get boring on the road, there are no smartphones and iPads yet – I will put at least a couple of books in my luggage, do not get bored in the evenings! And if you have a free evening, how can you go to a restaurant? We must take the suit too – while it fits …

If I get out, don’t go unshaven – where is my travel bag? The machine for shaving, blades, shaving brush, shaving cream, after shaving, cologne – of course, soap, shampoo, your favorite washcloth – fit, albeit with difficulty. But the suitcase became heavy, damn it …

The suitcase, of course, is large – it does not fit into the locker, it barely stuffed it under the table. When I was not driving, but flying, I paid extra for an advantage a couple of times, it was not expensive, but it’s a pity. I bought some goodies at home – where should I put them? Keep in mind that suitcases with wheels were invented later – take them as you want. Nightmare!




Similar problems, most likely, worried a person with a loud pedigree dating back to 1497 – this is about half a thousand years, not everyone is given … And his title was quite real, although not the highest, – baron. Like Wrangel or Orange in Gianni Rodari.

True, he was a Tuscan baron, that is, in any case, not paramount. Remember, in The Count of Monte Cristo the well-born countess asks about the hero whether he was a count. She was answered that he was a Tuscan Count.  “Well, let’s take it too” she said, it will do for the province ….

The title is always inherited, and wealth comes and goes. Not every nobleman owns estates or castles, and modern kings are in no hurry to grant them rent, and even more so to serfs. Some even go to work and get paid. As everybody.

So our baron’s father-baron was an ordinary engineer, which does not hint at nobility – at least in our eyes. Odessa governor, Duke de Richelieu, was nicknamed “engineer” by aristocratic colleagues – something like the current “really literate” …




The profession of an engineer sometimes requires a nomadic lifestyle: one object has been completed and implemented – it’s time to move to another. So the son of an engineer, Marcel, from his youth, got used to traveling. You can’t even say that it annoyed him – he liked to travel.

He studied for two years at the French Lyceum in Madrid, and then for five years at the school of the Dominican Order in the Gironde, where he received an excellent education – he knew ancient languages, secular rules and rhetoric, danced well and knew how to ride a horse. It’s good to be a baron!

A well-mannered aristocrat is by no means a slacker and a white-handed person. Correct aristocratic education implies some asceticism and good physical conditioning. And these qualities are generally useful for travelers, and they also helped Marcel.

Even in his youth, he independently traveled to many countries, having thoroughly studied the culture of Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and, of course, France, the citizenship of which he eventually received. Earlier, the aristocrats had a monarch instead of their homeland, but now everyone is supposed to have passports, except for the British queen – I don’t know what she presents to the border guards when she travels …

During his numerous trips, he experienced all the necessary hardships of travel, and first of all – carrying heavy bags with luggage. The rule “take half as many things and twice as much money” was not for him – there was just not enough money. I did it as best I could …




If Marcel’s career had developed at the court of Louis XVI, the titled idlers there could have teased him not only as an “engineer” like Richelieu, but also as a “lawyer” – he received two higher educations at once: engineering and legal. They would have every right to …

Unlike the aristocrats of feudal times, Marcel did not receive income from possessions and was forced to earn extra money during his studies – he walked around the apartments and sold flashlights around, somehow managing to persuade people to buy from him an item that was far from essential.

After completing his engineering education at the Carnot Lyceum, he went to work for a fairly successful office supplies company. He was engaged in sales there and at the same time moonlighted as a designer in order to pay for tuition at the evening law school at the Sorbonne.

Soon he became the Director of Production at the largest fountain pen manufacturer in France, Encres Stephens. A short break from military service ended in the defeat of France, and Marcel returned to the firm. The war was over and a window of opportunity has opened.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?
Advertising Encres Stephens




His phenomenal success began with a report from the United States of how a huge crowd of shoppers, barely held back by two hundred police officers, grinded 10,000 rather expensive eight-dollar fountain pens in a day – because they, according to advertisements, “write underwater”.

It was an invention of the Argentinean of Hungarian origin Laszlo Biro (we recently talked about him), stolen by the American Reynolds. The handle was still imperfect: paste could flow out of it, the ball sometimes jammed, and the rod fell through into the body.

The problems of the new pen could be dealt with if they were realized. It turned out that one of the main sources of these problems is the writing rod, its quality, replacement and / or reloading. Whoever solves the issues related to this will dramatically improve the consumer qualities of the product.

What do the various theories of invention recommend to do in such cases? One of the most general recommendations (it can be found, for example, from the famous theoretician of inventive activity Heinrich Altshuller) gives a simple advice: if something is inconvenient and interferes with (as in our case, replacing the rod) – is it possible to do without it at all?




In 1945, Marcel takes the first steps to solve the problem – on shares with a friend, he buys a small production in the suburbs of Paris for as much as $ 1000! By purchasing Swiss hardware, they are trying to make rod balls that will not pose a problem to consumers.

But quality balls are only part of the problem. It is generally inconvenient to change the rods, although it is not clear how to do without it … And if not to change them at all? I wrote down the pen and threw it away at once. After all, during this time it will most likely be lost or it will simply break.

It seems to be a pity – the pen is not so simple, they are still trying to make it beautiful, so that the buyer is tempted, where can all this be thrown away? And if you make it so that there is nothing superfluous and unnecessary in it, which would be a pity, then it is not a sin to throw it away …

That is, completely cheap, bad, flimsy and ugly? Maybe enough for one rod, and then for the trash? Marcel didn’t want that. “A disposable pen shouldn’t be half-use,” he said. High-quality plastic, elegant shape – to make it pleasant to hold in your hands.

There is still a question with a title. Marcel’s last name was Bich and clearly does not work. The English-speaking world will immediately notice the similarity to the word bitch. We decided to omit one letter from the surname – let it be called Bic!

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?
Marcel Bich


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Now you do not need to take an expensive pen with you on the road – buy a disposable one where you need it!

Didn’t you save that much weight? Please note – this is just the beginning!




Bich carefully calculated the cost of the new product – it turned out that it could be sold for about 30 cents (in trade, of course, 29 – the effect on the psyche was tested!). A regular pen cost an average of $ 9. Not for interest, but 30 times cheaper – and it’s not a pity to throw it away!

He began to offer his invention to large firms. Six in a row he was refused – they won’t buy it, it’s a pity to throw it away! I had to organize the production myself, and this process took several years. But in 1953, the Bic Cristal handle was finally released – the familiar hexagon.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?
Bic pen

He was going to sell 10,000 pens a day – it would allow the project to pay off. But everyone laughed and said that this figure was completely unrealistic. In a sense, they were right – the real number of daily sales reached 250,000 in two years and continued to grow!

Soon Bich bought the company of the inventor of ballpoint pens, Laszlo Biro, and with its help entered the market of a number of countries. The famous pen maker Waterman turned down the baron when he came up with his idea – Bich bought it too! Entering the vast US market began.

At first, Americans were afraid of disposable items. But Bich conceded to them a little – he made a pen in which it was possible to change the rod. Please, change it, there is such an opportunity, only a rod costs almost as much as a pen – so decide for yourself whether you need this fuss …

Bich accompanied the entry of the pen to the American market with an excellent advertising campaign. They fired guns with their pens, drew patterns on the ice, they were trampled by flamenco dancers, thrown from a skyscraper, they were drilled into walls, they were poured with acid – but then they wrote anyway!

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?


How else can you make it easier to get ready for the trip? What can you not take with you, but buy on the spot? Marcel approached the question quite scientifically: a study was conducted – what do people most often lose on the road? It turned out that lighters are the answer, what new disposable thing you need to do …

Disposable lighters were also produced before Bich. But he achieved an advantage by offering a product that was about a third cheaper than competitors, beautiful and convenient. The transparent body indicated how much gasoline was left, and the advertising slogan “Click Bic!” conquered the whole world.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?
Disposable Bic Lighter

The next step was so obvious that now it is even difficult to understand why it was not invented earlier – disposable razors! Do you know who was their main enemy? Surprisingly, it was Gillete who foresaw the damage to their reusable products.

True, they quickly realized that the new idea could not be retained, and they took advantage of the old one, popular even in the Komsomol: “If you cannot suppress it, lead it!” It didn’t work out to be the leader – Bic razors won a large share of the market, but Gillete also started to produce them – you can’t go anywhere …




The business template “Cheap disposable instead of expensive reusable” itself was not limited to the ideas of Marcel Bich. Disposable tableware appeared in the United States a long time ago, but with the flourishing of fast food in the 60s, it began to play with new colors – at first paper, then plastic …

After the invention of the Frenchman Pravas and the Scotsman Wood of the syringe, a little less than a hundred years passed until, in 1950, the American Smith patented the disposable one. HIV and other dangerous infections have stimulated their use so much that reusable syringes are already a rarity.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?
Disposable syringe

And such an idea as disposable diapers seemed to be lying on the surface, but in fact, Victor Mills invented diapers only in the early 60s. However, they say that they were invented at about the same time for astronauts, but go and check …

Let’s not forget also Randice-Lisa Altschul, who at the end of the millennium invented only a disposable mobile phone, mainly made of paper on which his electronic circuit was printed with metal-conducting ink. It was inexpensive, part of the money was payment for negotiations, and when they ended, you could replenish it or just throw it away.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?
Disposable phone




True, now there are problems with disposable products. The main reason for their occurrence is understandable – of course, it is ecology, the load on which has already increased dramatically. It’s really easy to use a disposable product and throw it away, but where will it go then?

The biggest questions are now about disposable plastic bags, mainly due to the fact that, once discarded, they do not decompose for centuries, and their number is growing exponentially. If you don’t keep track of this, nothing but packages will be around.

It has already been calculated that if the growth rate of plastic waste cannot be contained, by 2050 there will be more of it in the world’s oceans than fish. On Kon-Tiki Thor Heyerdahl had not noticed plastic debris yet, and on Ra he had not found this filth next to the ship for a rare day.

NON-TRIVIAL SOLUTION: How can I reduce the weight of my luggage?
Plastic in the ocean

Kenya simply banned plastic bags, we recently made them paid – you can try for a start. Won’t we have any disposable products now? Most likely, it will not be soon, and it is better to learn how to dispose of them than to completely abandon them. But the way it is now is no longer possible.




Inventions that are important to people are not always a sensational sensation. Marcel Bich did not like sensations, did not strive to go to secular chronicles, although he was a baron, and his photos are considered a rarity.

To make his pens popular, Bich ordered bright advertising – with the product it is necessary. But he did not like to talk about himself. Once he gave an interview to a well-known magazine, but with the condition – “No photos.”

If a person has a fantasy, he is rarely limited to one thing. So Bich has not one invention, but their whole family. Did this apply to other areas of his life as well? In a sense, yes – he had 10 children from two wives and two mistresses …

Bright people have bright hobbies … Marcel Bich took part in sailing competitions for the America’s Cup four times. Well, he didn’t win, but the main thing is to participate …

In itself, aristocratic origin does not mean anything and “we hear a lot of examples in history” … But his origin does not prevent an aristocrat from becoming an outstanding person – you just have to want to.


All illustrations are from open sources

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