The slow demise of the printer

The slow demise of the printer

Summary: I remember a time when my printer was one of my hardest working gadgets, firing off reams of paper in the course of a year. Now my printer spends most of its time sitting on the desk next to me, silent, it's little green LED eye staring at me.

TOPICS: Printers, Hardware

I remember a time when my printer was one of my hardest working gadgets, firing off reams of paper in the course of a year. Now my printer spends most of its time sitting on the desk next to me, silent, it's little green LED eye staring at me.

Over the years I've been through more printers that I can remember. I remember the transition from dot-matrix to monochrome inkjet and thought it was ground-breaking. I also remember my first color inkjet printer fondly (an HP). I remember too how much it cost to run, but I also remember that I didn't care. I also remember my first photo printer. And again I remember how much it cost to run ... but I didn't care.

I remember buying paper in bulk, and having to change ink cartridges every few weeks (I was never a fan of the laser printer - I couldn't stand the smell). I dabbled with refilling cartridges with the idea that I'd save a few pennies, but after an ink spill, rubbish output and nearly stabbing myself in the heart with a hypodermic fill of red ink, I gave up on that. I also gave up on "reconditioned" printer cartridges after coming to the conclusion that whatever they were refilled with usually seemed to be a shade of brown rather than the requested color, and the whole thing evaporated quicker than gasoline spilled on hot asphalt, seizing the print head solid. Genuine cartridges might have been expensive, but at least they worked, and I always knew the part numbers of the replacements off by heart.

But over the last couple of years my printer has become ever more silent. Sure I still use it, in fact I used it the other day to print out a list, but increasingly I look at the amount of space it takes up and wonder if I couldn't do with a smaller, simpler printer. Another indication of how rarely I use my printer is the fact that the last few times I've used it, I've had to clean the print heads because some of the nozzles had dried out. I change ink cartridges so rarely now that not only do I not know the part numbers, I'd even forgotten what make of printer I had!

Note: I know that some of you are going to suggest that I replace my printer with a multi-function printer/scanner/copier/fax. I've thought about this before but dislike the idea of these sorts of convergence devices on the grounds that if one part goes, the whole thing will need replacing.

I'm not alone when it comes to using my printer less. It's a pattern I see all around me. In fact, I'd say that the decreased use of the printer is also responsible for fewer home users/small office users buying and using suites such as Microsoft Office. As people create fewer paper documents (and in my opinion spend less time fussing over formatting, fonts and layout), they also realized they could do without expensive tools to create and format their documents.

While the desktop printer isn't dead, it sure is en route to retirement.

Topics: Printers, Hardware

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  • Tip: buy a monochrome laser printer and switch it off when idle

    ...that's what I did, and I like it very much. Cheap solution: an endless amount of prints from one cartridge, no dried-out nozzles.

    Prints will remain necessary, from time to time. Inevitably. And when you switch the printer power off when it's not in use, then it's no bother.
    • Yup, laser printers don't clog

      I used to have both a monochrome laser printer and a color inkjet printer. I used the laser printer 95% of the time, so when I wanted a color print, the injet was always clogged. I got rid of the inkjet printer.

      I still print quite a bit on my monochrome laser printer. After printing, it immediately goes to sleep, so it's not a noise problem.
    • Enless prints from one cartridge?

      Where do you buy your toner cartridges, I could use some like that! An endless toner cartridge would save my company thousands of dollars every year!!! :)
      • Not endless, but...

        I found that Brother laser cartridges say they're out of toner long, long before they actually are. Couple pieces of black electrical tape fix that right up. Cost per page drops considerably.
      • 2000 pages

        Two thousand pages is a _lot_ of printing these
        days. It's almost endless. I'm still on my
        included cartridge for the HP Laserjet P1006 I
        bought a year and a half ago, which came with a
        half-full cartridge.
    • buy a monochrome laser printer and switch it off when idle

      That is exactly what I have been doing for years.
    • Modern Laser's Don't Smell

      Modern Laser's Don't Smell (and have not for a long time (like a decade)).

      The smell was ozone from the transfer corona wire. This was replaced with a transfer roller in the 1990's, which does not give off ozone and which has no smell.

      Lasers are FAR superior to inkjets for monochrome (black and white) output. because even if an inkjet has a resolution of 600 dpi, when the drop of liquid ink hits the paper, is spreads out, becoming more than 1/600th of an inch in diameter, and not having completely sharp edges. A laser printer's output is much higher resolution than that from an inkjet, and the difference is quite visible. And, on top of that, the cost per page for a Laser is about 80% less than what it costs to print the same page on an inkjet. The downside is color, because color inkjets are not remotely close to the color quality of color injets.
    • Or, color.

      Color laser printers can be had for under $100, including shipping, that will give the average home user 2-3 years of prints using the included cartridges. And, refills can be had for less than $60. With modern power saving green tech built in, they'll sit in standby for pennies a year, ready to warm up and print at a moments notice. And, as said before, there are no inky print heads to dry out. I've eliminated all but one ink jet at home (still have the ink based CD/DVD printer), and virtually all the inky messes at work, as well.

      It just makes more sense.
      Dr. John
  • It really depends on your business.

    as an online blogger, I can see [i]you[/i] using a printer less and less, but the amount of paper that comes to our office clearly shows that alot of people/companies still rely on it heavilly.
    John Zern
    • That's the problem with tech bloggers...

      ...They live in a bubble.

      Many seem to believe that since paperless works for them, it must consequently be the future for all the backward, less-enlightened sluggards out here in the real world. They ignore the multitude of business sectors that are driven by paper, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

      Witness this bubble mentality toward every other buzzword tech-hipsters believe to be the Next Big Things: cloud computing, eMedia, open source, etc.

      Certainly all of these technologies can and will have their place. However, tech bloggers' wide-eyed proselytizing that this New Thing will inevitably supplant that Old Thing, wholly and completely, is naive at best.

      I welcome eDocuments, cloud apps, and streamed media -- where appropriate. But long live print, stand-alone applications, and physical media -- also where appropriate.
    • It also depends on your age.

      Some people print on paper simply because they got started before computers were common at work. Most of the paper that I have seen printed is looked at once or twice and then sent to the filing cabinet, circular or otherwise.
      • You underestimate people's intelligence

        ...What you said about the being looked at once or twice may be true, but sometimes it makes sense. If I have to input something in a spreadsheet it is a LOT faster to print it out and enter from paper than either doing side-by-side (which never displays enough) or worse yet, fumbling with switching windows. In the business environment, the printer is indispensible.
  • Printers are Evil

    I *almost* never print... the rare instances I do are when someone else requires a printout, which is increasingly rare. I think I've printed things twice this year.

    My business, on the other hand, makes up for my lack of printing by people who insist on printing off emails and then faxing them to the other side of the building because they're too lazy to walk and too ignorant to use the Forward button. Electronic Medical Records can't come soon enough for me...
    • Ditto

      I still don't get why it is so difficult to integrate text, PDF, encryption, Barcode, e-mail and Database in all businesses when UPS, FEDEX and the postal services of any 1st world country have been doing this for years!
      • Seriously?

        Ummm, all of those businesses you've just mentioned STILL print...

        In fact, if you've ever walked into a UPS hub to do shipping, they have a kiosk that you go enter in the shipping information on (even if you've already labeled the package). Then you print the label. Repeat this process for each package.

        Then, you take the packages to the shipping counter, and they weigh each package, and print yet another label, and stick that on the package, over the first 2 labels.

        Then they print another copy of each label, and print your credit card receipt, and staple a separate receipt to each shipping label...

        The ONLY time they use paperless in that whole process, is when you sign for the package on the little digital signature board...

        Hardly saving many trees by saving 1 sheet of paper for a signature, but printing all of that useless crap on the front end.

        We are trending more and more away from having to print, and from sending faxes, but we're nowhere near eliminating printing from our technological diets. Just because we're doing it less commonly, doesn't mean there's anything coming in the foreseeable future, that is going to totally replace paper, and printing. Even for a lot of day-to-day stuff.

        Printers aren't going ANYWHERE in the next 20 years, and probably not even after that.
    • You're in healthcare ...

      I am in IT at a healthcare facility and can totally relate to what you've just portrayed.
      We get people who still print stuff out just so they can fax it when the ability to fax right from the workstation exists....
      It's like healthcare professionals are the last ones to hear about the invention of computers or something. Needless to say, I do a lot of hand holding. It baffles me though because PCs have been around for 30 years now and if you haven't retired yet then that means you were 35 or younger when PCs came out. So why now in this day and age do you think it's ok to act like you've never seen a computer before??
      Printing so you can scan and fax is about as ridiculous as it gets. I agree though printing is getting less and less necessary as viewing devices become more and more convenient to use.
  • Save a tree. Don't print unless you have no other choice

    • Sorry but you are wrong

      printing is still one of the most economical (energy use) ways to convey information.
      • Not to mention...

        ... that trees that are used to make paper are specifically grown for that purpose.

        It's not like you're going to come home and find someone has cut down the oak trees across the street to make paper out of them.
        Hallowed are the Ori
        • That is exactly right! Save a farmer by printing!

          Hybrid trees grow extremely fast on farms specifically for paper products. The forests are not harvested so you can use the bathroom, receive junk mail, postcards, and buy products smartly packaged in cardboard. These are from a crop grown by farmers most likely in your own country. The alternative is oil based products, that do not biodegrade nor recycle nearly as efficiently.

          Paper is not a bad thing!!!! Paper is good!!!! ;o)