I always liked this story, since especially as a computer programmer, my solutions are sometimes more complex then simple.
"When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 C.
The Russians used a pencil."
Now, I'm all for a good story, but the real truth is the United States and Soviets both used pencils at the beginning. An inventor Paul C. Fisher developed the Fisher Space Pen on his own and at his own expense without passing it on to NASA. Fisher did sell his pens to NASA at the utterly ordinary price of $2.95 each. From then on both the Soviets and Americas used the pen on their space missions.
For more on the story see the story at Snopes.com, http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp.