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How Did Chalk Markers Come About?
Before we can understand how modern chalk markers came about, we first have to look at its forerunner — blackboard chalk. Many of us are familiar with white or yellow chalk sticks, which are still used in classrooms all over the world. But did you know that chalk is not just a writing tool, but also a naturally-occurring mineral?
Natural chalk is made of calcite (calcium carbonate), a mineral composed of microscopic shells called coccoliths. Over time, these shells accumulated into limestone cliffs and underground deposits.
Prehistoric artists used chalk to create some of the earliest cave drawings. Over time, people began to mix natural chalk with clay and pigments, creating sticks that would eventually become teacher's chalk. The first attested use of chalk on blackboard dates back to the 19th century when George Baron, a mathematics professor, used it in his lectures.
Today, most chalk sticks are made not with calcite but gypsum (calcium sulfate), a more affordable and abundant mineral. Safe to say, chalk has come a long way from its rocky beginnings — but it's still not a perfect medium. Some studies show that chalk dust, while non-toxic, can accumulate in the lungs and cause breathing problems over time. That’s why many schools stopped using blackboards; instead, they now have shiny whiteboards.
Whiteboard markers were invented by Jerry Woolf of Techform Laboratories. These dry-erase markers were used to write on acetate and other glossy surfaces without permanently staining them. Later, the markers were patented by Pilot Corporation, one of the world's most popular pen manufacturers.
Since then, markers have evolved to meet a wide variety of needs, from DIY crafts and labeling to menu boards and commemorative signs. Today’s artists are not limited to blackboards and whiteboards; with the use of chalk markers, they can write and draw on practically any surface available.