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.