Sharpie Liquid Pencil, the aftermath: it's 'permanent,' not permanent

And so it comes to this, the final bleak chapter of our time with the Sharpie Liquid Pencil. If you'll recall, the Liquid Pencil first increased nerd heartbeats around the world a week and a half ago, when it was launched promising to write like a pen, erase like a pencil, and eventually dry like a Sharpie permanent marker. In fact, those were Sharpie's exact words: "Becomes permanent like a Sharpie marker after three days." The world seemed yet full of wonder; our ambition was limitless. We poured champagne and conducted our first hands-on with great success: indeed, the liquid graphite contained inside wrote like a pen and then erased completely. A simple pencil rising to the pages of Engadget -- could any story be more American? But then... tragedy.

A week later, we returned to our Moleskine to test the permanency of our earlier scribbles and found that they still erased completely. Yes, given enough squinting and optimism, the argument could be made that the marks were slightly darker, but we'd been promised "permanent like a Sharpie marker" -- was the Sharpie Liquid Pencil nothing more than an elaborate ruse? Our hopes chastened, we clicked off another few moments of film documenting the fundamental transience of our creations, kept our best stiff upper lip, and dispatched a letter to Sharpie, imploring them to explain. Today, we received a response, which we shall reprint in full after the break.

Last week we wrote on the Sharpie blog about the new Sharpie Liquid Pencil. Lots of people responded and commented, excited about this new innovation from Sharpie. Of course, along with the kudos came questions, including your email specific to permanency. After re-reading our post on the Sharpie blog, I can understand the confusion. Hopefully this will help clarify.

As you've demonstrated, the Sharpie Liquid Pencil's liquid graphite will initially completely erase from the paper. However, over time, the marks – while faint -- will remain visible even after attempts at erasing. I suppose this could be called either "permanent" or "not completely erasable" depending on your perspective.

Not to bore you with the technical details but I thought it might be helpful to share some insight on permanency. A group called the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sets the technical standards for permanence in this area. The Sharpie Liquid Pencil was tested and beginning about 24 hours after writing, our testing showed that it met those standards. (Just to cover off, lightfast, water- and chemical-resistance are other permanency qualifiers, and Sharpie Liquid Pencil meets all those too).

So does the Sharpie Liquid Pencil become permanent or "more permanent" over time? Yes, it does, but not "permanent" in the same way as a Sharpie marker and we'll update our blog posting to clarify that. You'll always be able to erase it – a little or a lot depending on how much time has passed, the type of paper used, how hard you write and how hard you try to erase.

Again, thanks for giving us the opportunity to clarify. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Yes, we are being told that while the Sharpie Liquid Pencil meets the international standard for "permanency," it may still almost completely erase -- and of course, a clarification containing many caveats will issue. Looking back on the entire affair, it's hard to see how it could have ended any differently: a fresh-faced newcomer grasping tightly at the Dream, only to fall apart amid broken promises, appeals to international law, and the dull sense that one day each of us will in turn be erased. Good-bye, Sharpie Liquid Pencil -- and good-bye, innocence.