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Iconic pen used by military, made by blind people turns 50

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – Anyone who’s served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is probably familiar with an iconic government pen.

But they might not have realized it was made by the visually impaired for the past five decades.

The ubiquitous SKILCRAFT U.S. Government pens turning 50 this month.

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo, SKILCRAFT pens, manufactured for the U.S. Government, are seen in a bin at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. Government pens have been manufactured for 50 years by National Industries for the Blind. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

National Industries for the Blind traces the pen’s history to April 20, 1968, when it was introduced to government buyers. The nonprofit organization was tapped to supply pens after another manufacturer made 13 million defective ballpoints in 1967.

The pens must be able to write a continuous line 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) long and keep the ink flowing despite extreme temperatures – from 40 degrees below zero to 160 degrees (4 to 71 degrees Celsius).

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo Clifford Alexander Sr., right, and Christopher Alexander box SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. Anyone who's served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is probably familiar with an iconic government pen. But they might not have realized it was made by the visually impaired for the past five decades. "It may take us longer to learn it, but once we learn those jobs we do those jobs very well," said Clifford Alexander, who supervises about 30 Greensboro pen workers. "And we turn out a top quality garment or writing instrument." (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo Clifford Alexander Sr., right, and Christopher Alexander box SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. Anyone who’s served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is probably familiar with an iconic government pen. But they might not have realized it was made by the visually impaired for the past five decades. “It may take us longer to learn it, but once we learn those jobs we do those jobs very well,” said Clifford Alexander, who supervises about 30 Greensboro pen workers. “And we turn out a top quality garment or writing instrument.” (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

This Monday, April 16, 2018, photo shows a poster in the SKILCRAFT pen section at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. where pens are manufactured for the U.S. Government. Anyone who's served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is probably familiar with an iconic government pen. But they might not have realized it was made by the visually impaired for the past five decades. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

This Monday, April 16, 2018, photo shows a poster in the SKILCRAFT pen section at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. where pens are manufactured for the U.S. Government. Anyone who’s served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is probably familiar with an iconic government pen. But they might not have realized it was made by the visually impaired for the past five decades. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo employee Lynn Larsen, whom is legally blind, assembles SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. The pen's history traces back to April 20, 1968, when it was introduced to government buyers, said the National Industries for the Blind. The nonprofit organization was tapped to supply pens after another manufacturer made 13 million defective ballpoints in 1967. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo employee Lynn Larsen, whom is legally blind, assembles SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. The pen’s history traces back to April 20, 1968, when it was introduced to government buyers, said the National Industries for the Blind. The nonprofit organization was tapped to supply pens after another manufacturer made 13 million defective ballpoints in 1967. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo, employees Lynn Larsen, left, and Clifford Alexander Sr. box SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. Government pens have been manufactured for 50 years by National Industries for the Blind. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo, employees Lynn Larsen, left, and Clifford Alexander Sr. box SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. Government pens have been manufactured for 50 years by National Industries for the Blind. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this April 16, 2018, photo, employee Clifford Alexander Sr. boxes SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. The ubiquitous SKILCRAFT U.S. Government pens turning 50 this month. National Industries for the Blind traces the pen's history to April 20, 1968, when it was introduced to government buyers.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this April 16, 2018, photo, employee Clifford Alexander Sr. boxes SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. The ubiquitous SKILCRAFT U.S. Government pens turning 50 this month. National Industries for the Blind traces the pen’s history to April 20, 1968, when it was introduced to government buyers.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo SKILCRAFT government pens are prepared transported by machinery through the production line at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. The pens must be able to write a continuous line 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) long and keep the ink flowing despite extreme temperatures _ from 40 degrees below zero to 160 degrees (4 to 71 degrees Celsius). (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo SKILCRAFT government pens are prepared transported by machinery through the production line at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. The pens must be able to write a continuous line 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) long and keep the ink flowing despite extreme temperatures _ from 40 degrees below zero to 160 degrees (4 to 71 degrees Celsius). (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo, employee Christopher Alexander makes his way through the SKILCRAFT pen assembly area at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. where pens are manufactured for the U.S. Government. Anyone who's served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is familiar with the handiwork. But they might not have realized that all the ubiquitous SKILCRAFT U.S. Government pens were made by the visually impaired. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo, employee Christopher Alexander makes his way through the SKILCRAFT pen assembly area at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. where pens are manufactured for the U.S. Government. Anyone who’s served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is familiar with the handiwork. But they might not have realized that all the ubiquitous SKILCRAFT U.S. Government pens were made by the visually impaired. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo an efficiency counter is shown at the SKILCRAFT pen manufacturing area at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. where pens are made for the U.S. Government. Anyone who's served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is probably familiar with an iconic government pen. But they might not have realized it was made by the visually impaired for the past five decades. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo an efficiency counter is shown at the SKILCRAFT pen manufacturing area at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. where pens are made for the U.S. Government. Anyone who’s served in the military, worked for the federal government or addressed a package at the post office is probably familiar with an iconic government pen. But they might not have realized it was made by the visually impaired for the past five decades. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo, employee Lynn Larsen, whom is legally blind, assembles SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. The pen's history traces back to April 20, 1968, when it was introduced to government buyers, said the National Industries for the Blind. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, April 16, 2018, photo, employee Lynn Larsen, whom is legally blind, assembles SKILCRAFT pens for the U.S. Government at the Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C. The pen’s history traces back to April 20, 1968, when it was introduced to government buyers, said the National Industries for the Blind. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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