I understand that modern technology cannot be used in Hogwarts. The magic interferes with such muggle devices. But why can't they use a Biro?

I weep for the left-handed witches and wizards who have to use those feather quills and ink pots to write, and it all seems so unnecessary. A Biro is not like a TV or a toaster. It is a simple device utilizing gravity fed ink to coat a ball bearing with a thin coat of ink, allowing for easy writing. I see no reason why it wouldn't work in Hogwarts, so why do they insist on using feather quills?

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    Quills are cooler. They also contribute to a distinction between the magic world and the Muggle world. And left-handers can write with quills (and I've had problems enough writing with a biro). Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:18
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    I'm also a lefty and I know the problems you're talking about. There are standard workarounds and I've used them. It's not a huge deal once you get used to them (I use and enjoy a fountain pen, and I've had smudge problems even with biros.) Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:28
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    Are students allowed to use biros in English schools now? I remember when I was growing up, we had to use fountain pens (cartridge type, not manual fill). Biros (ball-point pens) were not allowed. The lefties I knew either used that weird, cramped, reach over the top technique, or wrote fairly normally and had worked out ways to not smudge the ink. Taking a couple more backward steps in technology fits the Hogwarts aesthetic.
    – Dranon
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:34
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    Obviously they use ink enchanted to not smudge instead.
    – JAB
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 15:49
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    Similar to @Dranon’s experience, we were only allowed fountain pens at my elementary school in Germany in the 90s. And I think high school (same decade) at least discouraged ballpoint, if not forbidding it outright (but I’m not sure about that). So I don’t find it at all odd that an even marginally traditional school (and Hogwarts is very traditional) would ban modern writing implements. And as for fountain pen vs quill, well, the difference is really minor once a magical ink reservoir comes into play. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 16:14

4 Answers 4


I'm reasonably sure everything used in Hogwarts is produced in the magical world, possibly using (you're not going to believe it) magic. As such, I don't think wizards can produce ballpoint pens, because that would require them to follow some advancements in technology, which they famously don't do. Remember Mr. Weasley, and how everyone thinks he's a wacko.

My point is - the supplies in magical world (including stationery) must be produced magically due to wizards' alienation from Muggles; I'm not saying a pen wouldn't work, I'm simply saying wizards wouldn't think of using one. Or chalk it up to quill-makers' lobby.

As to why Muggle-borns don't use them - what if they do? Since the series is centered very narrowly on the trio, there's not much room for others' perspective. Maybe some Muggle-borns do use them, we just don't see it (observer bias). There's also the problem of anti-Muggle sentiment, which seems to exist even in late 90s when the series is set. I assume showcasing one's Muggle-bornness would not be a very wise choice, especially with Voldemort's growing influence in later books.

The issue of wizarding pride is mentioned in the Pottermore article on technology, written by J. K. Rowling:

There is another reason for most wizards' avoidance of Muggle devices, and that is cultural. The magical community prides itself on the fact that it does not need the many (admittedly ingenious) devices that Muggles have created to enable them to do what can be so easily done by magic. To fill one's house with tumble dryers and telephones would be seen as an admission of magical inadequacy.

I'm guessing a quill and an ink bottle are also easier to use in conjunction with magic - one can enchant the quill to write, regularly dipping itself in ink, and maybe sharpen itself. How does one refill a ballpoint pen? I don't. I throw it away, and get a new one; or if I really like it, I get a new core and change them. But the core of a pen is the part that is actually the hardest to make, what with the small ball, tiny tube, and the ink. The schematics of a quill are just simpler.

And why stop on pens? Why not use A4 paper, like normal people do, instead of parchment (and why not measure the parchment in metres, like normal people do, instead of feet)? I'm guessing the scope of possible improvements is too wide, and people just don't care.

One could also point out that glasses, watches, and some other tools are used by wizards. I'm guessing that is due to them being invented before the International Statute of Secrecy, which was accepted in 1692.

The Hogwarts Express is a notable Muggle invention that is being used by Wizards. However, this one is very much an edge case. As it is explained in its Pottermore article written by J. K. Rowling, the train was the best option possible when it came to transporting a lot of students at one time, while still being hidden from Muggles. Multiple solutions, including various flying transportation methods, portkeys, and sometimes Apparition were tried, and some were meant to be tried but were blocked by the Headmasters of Hogwarts as breaching the security of the castle. In the end, it took a Muggle-curious Minister of Magic, "one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain" to steal the train and put it to use. It was by no means easy, and definitely met opposition at the time:

The Hogwarts Express underwent several magical modifications before the Ministry approved it for school use. Many pure-blood families were outraged at the idea of their children using Muggle transport, which they claimed was unsafe, insanitary and demeaning; however, as the Ministry decreed that students either rode the train or did not attend school, the objections were swiftly silenced.

There's also the problem of very few Muggle-borns, who would know about pens, being in charge of things. Sure, some students are Muggle-borns, but how many of the Ministry officials, or even the Hogwarts staff, are also Muggle-born? I would assume a Muggle-born taking over the ministry could change things for the best, but that would require a sequel to the seven Harry Potter books, and we haven't gotten one.

There is also a relevant Quora thread, which says more or less the same things, and maybe more.

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    I am fairly certain that not everything in Hogwarts is magically produced. Harry's glasses were muggle made and, much like a Biro, operate on a simple principle of physics. I doubt that the muggle-born students have to buy an all new wardrobe (specifically civilian clothes) because the zippers on their jeans cannot function in Hogwarts' magic field. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:22
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    Your extra points were most enlightening. I still think it's weird, cause the anti-muggle sentiment does not seem to extend to the student's civilian wear. Honestly, I think the real reason is purely cosmetic. Feather quills give the magical world a ancient feel. I just like looking for an in-universe explanation for these things. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:47
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    Notice that Dumbledore's glasses and other glasses in the series arent made the same way as Harry's--they are more old-fashioned. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 17:16
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    I think the key point in all this was made by Gallifreyan in the answer: Muggle technology is considered a clever little way of copying what can already be done with magic. We can probably assume that quills are magically improved and that a pen - invented much later - just isn't necessary. Plus, a quill is much cooler! If you were a Muggle-born who just enrolled, would you be wanting a little plastic biro?
    – ThruGog
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 21:38
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    @Yakk Off the top of my head, see the seventh book where Hermione packs Ron's(?) too-small jeans. And i'm fairly sure there were many other cases mentioning pants pockets.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 14:00

A ballpoint pen is not as simple a device as you assume.

The manufacture of economical, reliable ballpoint pens as we know them arose from experimentation, modern chemistry, and precision manufacturing capabilities of the early 20th century.

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    It's time for you to merge your accounts. You clearly are active on the site and would like to participate. Whatever the circumstance you were a victim of was it's been forgotten. Come back to us.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:20
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    Whilst they may be difficult to produce, the principle under which they operate is no more complicated than an hourglass. It is the practical application of the principle of gravity. There is no reason why an hourglass would be able to work in Hogwarts, but a Biro would not work. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 14:27
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    @MagikarpMaster see bbc.co.uk/news/business-38566114 . Ball point pens balls are hard. Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 8:11
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    @Luaan you could really work the gold/silver arbitrage, especially if you could port to Azeroth. There, silver bars are at par with gold bars. Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 16:48
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    VictimOfCircumstance, @PeteKirkham 's BBC link is probably worth adding to your answer. China is far, far more advanced in "muggle" technology than the wizards of Harry Potter are, and they've struggled to produce ballpoints. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 16:34

Gallifreyan has a very thorough answer but it doesn't cover one thing, the use of such technology outside of Hogwarts.

At the beginning of The Prisoner of Azkaban Harry is doing his homework in bed under the covers at night with an electric torch (let's ignore the breaking of the use of underage magic law that happens in the film) yet is still using a quill and ink pot. This seems really impractical.

He is nowhere near Hogwarts, so there can be no magical restriction on using a pen.

So at a guess of an in-universe answer, we could assume that (like some schools) Hogwarts insists on students using a proper pen (in this case a quill)


Charms, spells, etc. can be placed on quills in the magical world such as anti cheating charms used during exams. Ink can also have special properties. This may not be possible for ballpoint pens in addition to points other have brought up regarding their non magical manufacture.

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    What would make a ball point pen different from a quill in this sense?
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 16:01
  • "Magic"... I don't think anyone* in the world, fictional or real knows the precise rules of Harry Potter magic so it could be any number of reasons. Perhaps the specific spells are calibrated to work precisely with a quill's shape/materials/concept. Perhaps all quills, or the ink therefor produced by the magical community are spelled on manufacture to allow those sorts of spells to be bolted on. *With the probable exception of Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 1:57

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