back to article BOFH: Don't be afraid - we won't hurt your delicate, flimsy inkjet printer

"There's a problem with my printer," a user whines down the phone at the PFY. "The multifunction - what, is it jamming again?" the PFY asks. "No, it's my desktop printer." "Put it in the bin and use the printer in reception," the PFY says in a manner that bears all the hallmarks of professionalism. "No, no, it's just not …


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  1. Robert E A Harvey

    That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

    Oh yes. I remember proper printers.

    And pen plotters. They were amazing.

    Page Definition Languages as well. Printers with a brain, not parasitic growths off yer desktop CPU that stop everything working when you have the temerity to want a paper copy.

    Gah!. It's time for a beer instead of getting all agitated.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

      And pen plotters. They were amazing.

      Still got one - very deliberately preserved.

      I actually have to work out either where to get pens for mine or engineer my own with some creative 3D printing of holders for alternatives. I saw pen plotters become extinct because, let's be honest, running an A0 on an inkjet *is* a heck of a lot faster but WAY more boring. I managed to grab an A3 Roland with electrostatic paper hold off eBay before they were no longer available. It's a top of the line model and the thing has only done about 20 sheets in its life - I got lucky there.

      The problem is, both the parallel and serial interface it relies on are becoming extinct too :(.

      If all else fails I have recently started to wonder if the mechanism wouldn't make for 2 axis of a 3D printer. It certainly is precise enough...

      Sometimes it is worth preserving things. Even if I just give it to a computer museum later.

      1. Wemb

        Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

        Forget about the pens - convert the thing to a laser-cutter. Much more fun. Add a couple of playmobile characters and you re-enact scenes from Goldfinger.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

          convert the thing to a laser-cutter

          That is actually a rather interesting idea. Use the "pen down" as trigger, and take a far laser from Wicked Lasers and slow down motion to cope with the weight inertia. Hmmm. It may take a few months before I get round to this, but I may actually try this, thanks.

          1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
            Paris Hilton

            "I expect you to die!"

            Petsmart has a laser pet tag engraver which is essentially a pen plotter. I remember back in my younger days when I worked at a Hallmark store. We had a pen plotter to do our custom invitations for weddings and what-not. Made very nice print-outs. I remember one of the biggest upgrades we got while I was there was the ability for it to automatically change pen tips (wide, narrow, calligraphy, etc.) instead of the operator having to do it. Kind-of sucked to have to do a full run of invitations in one pen style, then another run in a second, and so on. I become slightly nostalgic thinking back on the near-hand quality output of real pen writing, however automated, versus the flat 2D quasi-representation people like to pass off now. (Of course, we barely teach handwriting in school anymore.)

            Anyway, I never took an opportunity to take it for a joy-ride. The girl who ran the machine was far too sweet and pretty to get upset or in trouble.

            Paris, taken for many a joy-ride.

          2. fajensen

            Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

            Fiber-optics feeding the light to the plotting head will lessen the inertia and allow for a nasty laser.

        2. Wzrd1 Silver badge

          Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

          "...convert the thing to a laser-cutter."

          Nah, convert it to a 3d printer. You could print a battleship with the bloody thing.

      2. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

        I saved a HP 7475 A3 pen plotter with serial interface at the office. Even the pens are still good.

        And I know of another still in storage...

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

        I was trying to get a new grad to write a gcode parser.

        Tried to explain it was just a plotter language for CNC machines - blank looks

        Like HPGL - blanck looks

        For a pen plotter - blank looks

        Searched wiki for a picture of a pen plotter = amazed look

        1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

          Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

          "I was trying to get a new grad to write a gcode parser.

          Tried to explain it was just a plotter language for CNC machines - blank looks

          Like HPGL - blanck looks

          For a pen plotter - blank looks

          Searched wiki for a picture of a pen plotter = amazed look"

          Funny thing, if I concentrate on it for a bit, I can quite likely still manually code the things. Those most certainly were the good old days!

          1. mikecoppicegreen

            Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

            I used to "work" for Bryans - we made A0 flatbed pen plotters. I could set one of those up and watch it draw all day....

        2. rvt

          Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

          Linuxcnc will do quite happely for you, andit will controller the steppers for you while he is at it.

      4. Corinne

        Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

        "And pen plotters. They were amazing.

        Still got one - very deliberately preserved."

        Ooh I can still remember the joy of watching my A0 pen plotter drawing out project plans. i think every project in the building suddenly discovered a need to print A0 versions of plans, diagrams etc, just so they could play with the shiney toy

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

          We used ours to print Colossal Cave maps. Yes, it was a while ago

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

        PS, Parallel and serial interfaces should not be on the way out AFAIK just yet. Seen some nice micro ATX boards with them on. :)

      6. Schultz

        Serial becoming extinct?

        Just get an USB to serial converter, they are dirt cheap and work like a charm. You could also use an arguing, that'll make you understand the serial communication along the way.

        1. Allan George Dyer

          Re: Serial becoming extinct?

          Except that USB to serial converters don't give you real RS232 voltage levels. You're lucky to get 5V.

          It usually doesn't matter... usually.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Serial becoming extinct?

            Except that USB to serial converters don't give you real RS232 voltage levels. You're lucky to get 5V

            Which is something I wish someone would engrave on my current boss's forehead..he just won't accept that fact ('but it says USB to RS-232 on the box!')

            Even back in the days we're talking about here ( when real printers ruled the earth..) a lot of PC serial ports were a bit deficient on the RS-232 voltage levels, so we had an in-house home brewed circuit to boost them to the readily available ±12v, nowadays though (being officially a lazy barstewart with far too many other fun things to do that go piddling about with a soldering iron) if I had to do this, I'd probably just go out and buy one of the commercially available beasties to do the same job.

            This serial != RS-232 issue is also why at my current place of employ we still have a 'venerable' IBM box driving our CNC machine (despite the grumbles of TPTB that we need to change it, it's the most reliable machine we have for the job, and we have fully functional [checked every month] identical spare machines in the store)

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Serial becoming extinct?

            > Except that USB to serial converters don't give you real RS232 voltage levels. You're lucky to get 5V.

            So it's RS-423?

    2. shawnfromnh

      Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

      I was thinking the entire time reading this. Why doesn't some company make a real printer in the UK/USA with real steel and no cartridges and charge for the printer and not the ink? Make something that'll last a decade and isn't loaded down with a ton of useless crap. You just send it over the information by cable or wireless and it prints exactly what you send it in the same shade and size sent to it.

      It seems like a company could make a killing when people realize they have the best basic printer in the world that will cost almost nothing to run and almost never breaks down.

      1. illiad

        Re: Why doesn't some company make a real printer...

        um, HOW much money would you pay for this??? 200 or 300 pounds??? toner 20 to 40 pounds depending on capacity...

        too expensive, cannot afford it??? well just get the cheap plastic one then... :)

      2. Annihilator

        Re: That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

        "Why doesn't some company make a real printer in the UK/USA with real steel and no cartridges and charge for the printer and not the ink"

        Because they can make far more money the other way.

  2. Lloyd

    I'd laugh

    If it weren't all so true and genuinely depressing, still at least I can take the opportunity to say that inkjet printer manufacturers are all bastards.

    1. xperroni

      Re: I'd laugh

      Indeed. That's why I've given up owning a printer myself, when I need something in dead-tree format I load it to a pen drive and head to the print shop down the street. Then again that's rarely the case these days, as most times a digital copy will do just fine.

      1. Allan George Dyer

        Re: I'd laugh

        Why not send it to someone else's fax machine, and get them to post it back?

  3. A J Stiles
    Thumb Up


    The next time anybody asks me about an inkjet printer, I am going to refer them to this article.

    Fondly remembering my old dot-matrix machines ..... I should have twigged, even back then, seeing how the old 9-pin one was better constructed than the later 24-pin one. (The latter got through 2 print heads, due to a worn ribbon breaking pins off. I doubt the former would have struggled much, even with a knot in the ribbon. I lost them both in a burglary many years ago, otherwise I probably would never have bought my colour laser printer .....)

    1. Tom 7

      Re: Brilliant

      I had a star colour dot matrix for about 15 years - its was still running when taken by a man who wanted the stepping motors from it.

      We only use a printer now for absolute emergencies and deliveries - if you can create it on a computer you can read it on a computer. This new fangled HTML is a godsend and not paper shaped so it works really well - if it doesn't the creator needs a good excuse or some percussive re-training.

      1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

        Re: Brilliant

        "We only use a printer now for absolute emergencies and deliveries..."

        I pretty much only print a resume and most often, new photographs of my grandkids to hang on the wall. The resume goes through my well preserved HP LJ5N, the photographs through my well preserved Xerox Phaser 8500N, though I still have a Canon CP800 hidden under my chair for wallet size photographs.

    2. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Re: Brilliant

      "I should have twigged, even back then, seeing how the old 9-pin one was better constructed than the later 24-pin one."

      Hehe, I remember having my ancient three head dot matrix printer sitting on the same printer stand with an Epson 24 pin dot matrix printer.

      After a few pages, the Epson was summarily dumped onto the floor by the bruiser sharing the printer stand.

      Paper jams? That thing crushed and shredded any paper residue. Dump a bit of isopropyl about to clean it every few months or so and life was good.

      Ribbon? Who needs ribbons? It embossed the paper anyway!

      Then, there was the old Xerox high capacity laser printer, went through reams of paper. Used a bit of toner, which went into a vast hopper, no fancy cartridges or disposable drums. The only real item that was truly like one of today's consumables were the microswitches, which did fail far more often than anything else in that bruiser.

      Bloody thing had the torque of a donkey engine too!

      Oh, well. If I need dead trees, I either use my classic HP LJ5N or my Xerox Phaser wax ink printer today. Some prick stole my three head dot matrix while I was deployed. :/

  4. Isendel Steel

    Happy SysAdmin Day

    made better by a BOFH

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have a Ricoh inkjet. It is cheap to run, does 4000 pages to a black cartridge, and is grindstone reliable. It is also very heavy, large, and cost as much as the equivalent laser. (The benefit is it uses very little power and the cartridges take up little space).

    With printers you get what you pay for.

  6. David Given

    Typo watch

    This line: "I think we can do a little better than that," the PFY counters.

    Actually the Boss says that. The PFY says the previous line. (Ah, the perils of unattributed dialogue...)

    1. Michael Habel
      Thumb Up

      Re: Typo watch

      Yeah that bit threw me off too...

      1. pepper

        Re: Typo watch

        Yep, that was a line I had to read a few times to piece the conversation together. Didnt bother me too much though, ITS BOFH!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've a laserjet 5 thats done about well over 250,000 pages (I got it for £10 including cartridge). Bet your ink caosts way more than my toner.....

    1. Simon 15

      I have a HP LaserJet 4M+ also purchased for £10 from a local business who didn't needed it any more. I've had it 8 years and it's still going strong... Best of all it still works without having to replace the ink/toner every time I use it even if print jobs are *days* apart!!

      1. Captain Scarlet

        ... less than a million?

        Pah, we used to have a laserjet 5si (A Laserjet 4M+ as well that just worked forever), it was massive properly needed to take apart to service and I can't remember it every needing anything but rollers for the paper trays.

        Only reason its gone is because we moved office and the new office didnt have anywhere for it :( along with the lexmark c750 (Although that broke everytime someone slammed the lid down).

        Although these days everyone wants those stupid little colour laserjets because they can't be bothered to go to a printer room that cost 10x as much to run.

        Not sure how much our remaining dot matrix printer used, had to get rid of it because no Windows 7 driver. Took me 1 day to get my hand trapped in it (The front panel was broken, I pressed a button the panel went in and I stupidly went to prop it back without turning off, when I hit a button and then phwack I was part of the dot matrix printer. As its common sence I deserved it.)

        Right I should shutup about printers now, as I look weird

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > Pah, we used to have a laserjet 5si

          5si/MX user here: a proper printer and no mistake. With duplexer and large a3 tray.

          I think this is what BOFH was talking about regarding the weight. Anything under that when it falls will vapourise, never mind paste....

          Feed rollers getting a little slippery after all this time.

          Thing is though, those printers are *worth* repairing.

          Fix the rubber feeds and they'll quite happily work for years and years.

          1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

            "5si/MX user here: a proper printer and no mistake. With duplexer and large a3 tray."

            I'm seriously thinking of finding one on ebay. Can't beat that one! Just keep a few rollers in stock, can literally snap them in place blindfolded.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ink and toner always cost more, well, unless you can swipe them from work.

      "Is that a toner cartridge under your shirt, or are you expecting?"


    3. Montreal Sean


      I picked up a LJ3+ several years ago that had over 500k pages pass through it. I paid $40CAD for it.

      It printed perfectly, though slowly, and used a crap-load of electricity.

      It has since been replaced by a Brother 2270dw laser printer. Somehow I don't think this one will last as long...

      Icon chosen because that's the expression that was on my face when my wife made me bin the 3+.

  8. Crisp

    Dot Matrix Printers

    Are made of machinery and noise!

    Even with the acoustic hoods down, they still scream like toddlers.

    1. mittfh

      Re: Dot Matrix Printers

      I think one of the best uses for dot matrix printers (apart from a really bulky paperweight or a "Let's see how much carnage is created if I drop this from the top of a high rise" test) is to feed them a specially prepared file which takes advantage of their stepper motors and pin pushers to create something resembling music (of course, you can dispense with the ink - they usually don't care if there's any ink in the ribbon or not). Unlike scanners or floppy drives, it may be possible to get them to be relatively tuneful via software alone, rather than a MIDI interface...

      1. Nick Gibbins

        Re: Dot Matrix Printers

        Obligatory link to Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers:

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dot Matrix Printers

          I can recall nuking a dot matrix, I think it was a Star SR10. In those days I was into barcodes in a BIG way, and I was experimenting with scaling. The problem is that printheads of consumer grade dot matrix printers are designed to print a few dots, and then have a bit of time to cool down. Doing two pages of solid black bars was NOT within spec, and so the head eventually jammed, resulting in one of the more spectacular mechanical failures of a dot matrix I have ever seen.

          The head overheated, and a needle jammed so it kept sticking out. This mean there was a pin stuck through the ink ribbon which, on carriage return, was now going the opposite direction than the ribbon itself. The ribbon cartridge lost that conflict, and simply jumped out of the printer, in the process pulling out the stuck needle a bit further, which then proceeded to carve a trough through the paper in the rubber of the roll behind it.

          Needles(s) to say (sorry), I didn't even attempt to repair that one..

          1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Dot Matrix Printers

            Bah! I was printing MacPaint pr0n on a Commodore MPS-1200 (which I believe is a re-badged Epson FX-80, or at least compatible) in quad-density, 10 pages at a time. Would take a good hour, if not more. Damned thing got about as hot as the surface of the sun (or my ass when my parents caught wind that I was selling these prints at school for a quick buck.) That was... about 23 years ago and the ruddy printer is still running today with the same print head. In retrospect, I should have picked up a spare or two back when I could just in case this head fails.

            Paris, failed head.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dot Matrix Printers

        Nah, what you want is a Honeywell band printer off of a DPS-8/47. The printer alignment test program, that the CSE ran, played the William Tell Overture.

        1. Old_Polish_Proverb

          Re: Dot Matrix Printers

          Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head as performed by the IBM 1403 chain printer. 1.8Mb

    2. A J Stiles

      Re: Dot Matrix Printers

      The sound they make is how they let you know they're OK!

      I used to be able to tell draft text, NLQ text and graphics apart by ear; and I could take a pretty good guess at the line spacing and column widths, too, from the lengths of the bursts and the gaps. Could even hear it slowing down to do bold (in order to be able to strike two dots in adjacent columns).

      I even tried to see whether ALL CAPS had a distinctive sound, but it turned out not to sound much different from mixed case.

      But my friend had a 24-pin machine with serif and sans-serif fonts, and I could certainly tell the difference between the two.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dot Matrix Printers

        > used to be able to tell draft text, NLQ text and graphics apart by ear;

        I can still remember the unmistakable sound pattern of a VAX console printer (LP25?) when some dodgy kernel code caused a VMS system crash. You knew what had happened even before the lack of screen response hinted at problems. Sort of audible blue screen...

        1. Stoneshop

          Re: Dot Matrix Printers

          Now consider a VAXcluster, with one node crashing and printing its stackdump, the other nodes spewing opcom messages that they're missing a fellow cluster member.

          Very distinctive, and sure to raise your attention.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Dot Matrix Printers

      Noise? A mere trifle, compared to a floor-standing drum printer running at 2000 lines/minute. Elf'n'Safety would probably mandate ear defenders if they were used today, more like a machine gun than a screaming toddler.

      Ah, happy days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dot Matrix Printers

        We used ear defenders back then if we had to stay around them. Perhaps your company was less responsible.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Dot Matrix Printers

      Fond memories of my old Panasonic KXP-2135.

      24 pins of goodness and a cheap ribbon that lasted about a year. Back then I used to print EVERYTHING because I found Paintbrush fun.

      The noise it made was somewhat musical, the Underworld song 'Two Months Off' sounds a bit like it. The whole 'Dur-dur-Dunnnnnnn, dur-dur-dunnnnnnnn' as it did line by line. Almost a mechanical 'surprise gopher' sound.

      Currently I have 2 printers. An HP all in one that refuses to believe that the ink cartridges I gave it are actual ink cartridges, and some sort of Kodak effort that is gathering dust as it requires Windows for some reason and the closest Linux drivers are just about incompatible to properly print.

  9. Anonymous Blowhard

    $%^&ing printers!!!

    <rant>Anyway, the wife got fed up of not being able to print in colour, so we binned the HP all-in-one, actually a so-so scanner with non-working ink-jet printer attached that had printed about 30 pages, and replaced it with a Brother network colour LED printer that is satisfyingly difficult to lift</rant>

    Anecdotally, a friend of mine who is a very mild-mannered GP once became so frustrated with his ink-jet printer that he violently assaulted it and threw it in the bin (apparently the Hippocratic Oath does not extend to ink-jet printers).

    All this talk of ink-jet printers is leaving a bad taste in my mouth; roll on beer o'clock!

  10. Killraven

    I can't be THAT different! I've never had an inkjet printer break down on me. I've usually ended up replacing them after 2-3 years for a higher quality (newer) model.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      I can't be THAT different! I've never had an inkjet printer break down on me

      Ditto. Actually, I still have a HP Officejet Pro K550 - if it wasn't that the cartridges are now hard to get I'd still use it because it beats the living crap out of all the newer printers I have when it comes to speed. It has a full 500 sheet and it is *seriously* good at working its way through it (that's also why it weighs a tonne and needs a stable surface - anything with wheels goes on a journey when this thing gets going :) ).

      However, I too am looking at colour laser. The only inkjet I may still buy is an A3 one. Unless I find an acceptable LED/laser version of that too which doesn't cost a fortune in supplies...

      1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

        "However, I too am looking at colour laser."

        Don't waste the money. The Phaser wax jet/solid ink units are cheaper to operate in the long run and deliver photographic quality for images.

        The wax ink takes up less storage space than a toner-drum unit as well.

        The only inkjet I'd ever buy would be a plotter.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          " The Phaser wax jet/solid ink units are cheaper to operate in the long run"

          I'm actually doing a little research on these at the moment.

          The phaser print quality is excellent and I recommend them unreservedly for marketing, graphics design and the like, where they are in more or less constant use.

          They have two disadvantages:

          First, they use a lot of power on standby, because they need to keep the wax wells hot. The latest ones are much more economical than the older ones, but they still use quite a lot of power.

          Second, if you buy a cheap one, you pay through the wax. The wax blocks are designed to fit only a particular model range, and the wax for a cheap Xerox costs about 6 times as much as the wax for an expensive one. They are only cheap to run if you spend over about £1200. The excellent 9300 series A3 machines cost around £15000.

          Nice machines but not for home/small office use. For which, buy a cheap photoprinter from Canon or Epson for a few prints, and and HP business inket or a Ricoh Gelsprinter for everything else.

    2. theblackhand

      Are ink jets that difficult?

      But did you buy the cheapest inkjet printer available or even better, get it free with the ink cartridges?

      The problem is that the set of "good inkjet printers" is a very, very small subset of the larger set of "inkjet printers" and there is no intersection between the sets "good inkjet printers" and "cheap inkjet printers".

      The set "cheap inkjet printers" is also wholly contained in the larger sets "inkjet printers that constantly jam".

      1. Helldesk Dogsbody

        Re: Are ink jets that difficult?

        I've had the misfortune of supporting the "cheap ink jet printers" sub set (approx 2,000 of the damn things) to the point where on being informed of a printer issue my standard response was "Ah, a printer issue. Do you have a hammer to hand?"

        It was cheaper to replace them than attempt to fix issues and if it wasn't thoroughly broken at the start of the phone call it would be by the end. They weren't worth the time or effort to attempt a repair, just drop them off the desk a couple of times and/or deliver a few adjustments with a hammer/ a n other blunt implement so I could ship a new one out to site and install it remotely.

        1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

          Re: Are ink jets that difficult?

          "Do you have a hammer to hand?"

          I happen to keep a 10 pound hammer at hand, just for use as a universal repair tool.

          If that fails, I can always bring in the 23 pound hammer I inherited from my father. *That* thing could sink a modern warship!

      2. Nigel 11
        Thumb Up

        Re: Are ink jets that difficult?

        Never buy a cheap ink-jet printer. With these it's true that they are made to sell expensive ink cartridges.

        I have good experience of HP Officejets in the £80 - £120 bracket. I have several K550, K5400, 8000 models with 25,000 pages printed - some over 50,000 pages. Average print-out at time scrapped probably 35,000 pages.That's a per-page cost of 0.4p down to 0.2p, which is small compared to the ink cost, which in turn is lower than the running cost of any colour laser printer I know of. Plus colour quality is higher. Minus operating speed in duplex mode is slower, because of delay for ink to dry on one side of page before the other is printed. Latest HP8100 looks good though it'll be a couple of years before I can be sure.

        Although not cheap ink-jets, they are cheap enough to treat as consumable when they do eventually fail. You can't say that of any colour laser printer that has comparable running costs.

        No experience of other makes, so read nothing except their relative hostility to Linux into that omission.

      3. Killraven

        Re: Are ink jets that difficult?

        I've never bought the top end (always consumer models), and a few have been upgraded because of the "free printer with ink" price. I've owned two Epsons and at least a half dozen Canon. One of the Epsons was discarded because it was one of the first models where they played with chipping the tanks, allowing only so many "pages" of print regardless of how much ink was actually left. I refuse to buy HP, mostly because I find their consumer models to be poor construction and horridly loud. I also only buy printer models that use individual color tanks.

        Now, I can see why my original comment would gather no upvotes, but what on earth about it would garner downvotes?

        1. rototype

          Re: Are ink jets that difficult?

          I bought an inkjet 3-in-1 (printer/scanner/copier) a couple of christmases ago, Still going strong. Ok, so I mostly use it for the scanner - the cartridges officially cost more than I paid for the device in the first place and yes I use it so little I have to clean the heads every time I use it (which I don't if I can help it, I've got an old HP Color LaserJet 4500dtn for most of my printing needs, especially since I picked a s**t load of consumables for it when the company I was working for at the time decided they wanted the space more than it wanted the cartridges for these old printers it rarely uses any more.)

          To be honest the main reason for buying it was the fact that my xmas cards that year didn't want to go through the laser printer. I also needed a scanner with a Windows 7 driver (old one came with '95 originally) so £30 was quite well spent. I've since found that some of the cheap replacement cartridges from some supermarkets are 100% compatible and work just as well as the genuine article.

    3. Anonymous Blowhard

      Never had an ink-jet printer break down on you? Who are you? Teela Brown?

      1. Killraven

        Thanks to wikipedia, I now know who Teela Brown is. :-) (No, that's not me.)

        Seriously, I've never had one break. Now admittedly I did have ONE go non-functional, but that was because I used some generic ink cartridges that didn't seal properly and leaking ink ruined the print head. My current Canon multifunction is over three years old and going strong.

  11. Michael Habel

    The best part of Inkjet Printing

    Is when you unwrap your shiny new Cartridge to calibrate your Printer and shuffle off a few Documents, only to come back about a Month latter to have to waste Two Dozen Pages and 75% of your Ink in order to get the blasted thing to print off a few more Pages. Thankfully I've had the good sense to move to Laser. Which just works EVERY TIME!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The first inkjets were alright

    I can still remember smiling because Canon techs evidently managed to get the term "BJ" past marketing for their first bubblejet, I think it was the BJ 80.

    I switched from a dot matrix tractorfeed to a wide carriage BJ on tractorfeed which certainly helped preserve some of my hearing, but I then joined a new company where I used a bubblejet so widely out of spec that I ended up with Canon UK management on site because we burned through an ink cartridge in about 2..3 weeks instead of the expected 2..3 MONTHS.

    When I told them on the phone I was using it as a cheap way to mass print barcode labels on standard tractorfeed label stock I was told it wasn't designed for that and it would fail in weeks. At this point I told them I'd been doing that almost non-stop for over a year, and in the end I had their UK head of Sales visit us because she wanted to see that for herself :)

    Given that it was operated by not-so-gentle people it was seriously well built. We used this to label incoming goods and the whole thing was driven by a PSION Organiser II with some barcode printing code I'd written - it transformed the formerly manual stock taking and made it last days rather than weeks.

    Ah, those were the days. :)

    1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Re: The first inkjets were alright

      "Ah, those were the days. :)"

      Yeah, when if you had no driver, you wrote one.

      Today, you'd need to bribe the OS vendors for a digital signature...

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Paris Hilton

        Re: The first inkjets were alright

        "Yeah, when if you had no driver, you wrote one."

        Right! Remember the books that came with printers showing you how to send ESC sequences to the printer to get it to do all sorts of neat things!

        "Today, you'd need to bribe the OS vendors for a digital signature..."

        Nah, some people just steal them. (Search Google for "stolen code signing cert" and you'll find Opera, Microsoft, Adobe, and other vendors have fallen victim.)

        Paris, ain't nothing but a victim, kid!

    2. Fihart

      Re: The first inkjets were alright

      Mono inkjets were fine, big old Canon bubbleject jobbies with refillable ink tanks bought secondhand and dumped when the heads failed.

      Higher res or colour inkjets never worked for me so I switched to mono laser and never looked back.

  13. bed

    inkjet v laser cost benefit

    Good rant. Been there. Done that. It is relatively easy, though time consuming (mostly getting all the data), to do a cost benefit analysis of a shared network laser printer compared to a on-my-desk inkjet. The cheapest to run was an Konica / Minolta A3 photocopier which could spit double sides pages out at a furious speed - and collate and staple them. The noisiest was a 600lpm drum printer (long since retired) when printing a 132 character line of the same character.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: 132 colums

      Haha, that throws me back a few years: the decision process to buy 80 or 132 column width, printer ribbons, tractor or roll feed, the screaming of dot matrix heads (and some fooling around to produce music), the works.

      Ink tanks? LUXURY! (bring on the Yorkshire accent :) ).

    2. Stoneshop

      Re: inkjet v laser cost benefit

      The noisiest was a 600lpm drum printer (long since retired) when printing a 132 character line of the same character.

      Well, you get a rather distinctive sound when printing a line of the same characters, but if you want LOUD, then figure out the character pattern that makes all the hammers fire at once.

      (the one with the ear protectors instead of the glasses)

  14. Alan 6

    I remember once at college, we decided to race a Epson FX80 dot matrix printer and an IBM golf ball printer. Very techincal, just ran this little bit of code on the RM 480z computers they were connected to

    10 For X = 1 to 1000000

    20 Print X

    30 Next X

    Everyone reckoned the FX80 would win by miles, but it didn't, the IBM was so violent it actually shook the Epson off the desk, it didn't break the printer, but it did rip the serial cable out, so we declared the IBM the winner

    1. plrndl

      @Alan 6

      My first post-uni job was doing electrical repairs for a cheepo retailer. On Friday we got paid at lunchtime and repaired (sorry) to the pub till closing time (2.30pm in those days).

      Friday afternoons were spent doing "customer simulation tests" where we tried to emulate the bizarre ways customers had destroyed our products. Your printer race sounds remarkably similar.

    2. Jess--

      Ah the infamous fx-80, the printer so basic it's driver would control any other printer just fine.

      Ibm equipment of the same era was so over-engineered that it was near indestructible, remembering the original PS2 Towers here where the only way to kill them was to clean the dust out of them (as long as the 6 inch layer of dust was present inside they worked perfectly)

    3. Oblivion62

      Erm. Doesn't line 20 just print the value of X to the screen? Any printer that vibrated hard as the monitor scrolled numbers was probably being used by the finance director and his secretary for "dictation"...

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        There would be some way to pipe the output to the printer rather than the screen. Probably you would have whatever command required to run the prog followed by ">" then something like "lpt1" or "prn"

        1. Steven Roper

          @ Oblivion62 and jonathanb

          I wouldn't know how it was done on the system described, but on the Commodore 64 (the machine of my misguided yoof) redirecting the output of a for-next loop to the printer would have been accomplished by:

          10 OPEN 4,4 : CMD 4

          20 FOR X = 1 TO 1000000 : PRINT X : NEXT X

          30 CLOSE 4

          Damn me, why am I wasting brain cells remembering how to write in CBM BASIC after more than 25 years?

    4. El Zed

      I remember once at college, we decided to race a Epson FX80 dot matrix printer and an IBM golf ball printer...

      Oh ye Gods, the IBM Golfball the hell did I ever forget about those buggers.

      There used to be one sited right next to the Tektronix 4010 I used to hog (don't ask, 'twas the early '80s, it involved FORTRAN..and ALGOL)

      You'd be sitting there, things all nice and quiet, coding away merrily with nary a care (other than some other fscker crashing the mainframe) then this thing (on a supposedly sturdy stand) would suddenly explode into life (usually printing out stuff that really should have gone to either the line or drum printers), stand swaying away merrily..occasionally lifting slightly off the floor..

      The only printer I currently have in the house is one of those Brother inkjet all-in-one things, I find it to be a most useful and invaluable device as it's currently sitting on its side, base end out, blocking a gap beside the KVM switch, routers and firewall, thereby keeping the cats out of what they regard as a nice warm sleeping spot with benefits (i.e. cables to play with, ergo chaos to cause.. )

      other than than, yes, Inkjets, I never want to see the insides of another one for repair, so a pox on them!

    5. Tomato42

      aah, win by technical knock-out

      they don't do benchmarks like this any more...

  15. Chicken Marengo
    Thumb Up

    Just like everything else... gets what you pays for (to an extent)

    I used to run a photography business, we had three main printers. A very expensive large format inkjet for archival and large printing, a very expensive dye-sub for large runs and proofing (and I never did work out why clients felt the need for hundreds of copies of the same image, but hey, they're paying) and a cheap and cheerful laser for invoices and letters.

    The inkjet ran faultlessly for years and was surprisingly cheap to run, with cartridges the size of my car's petrol tank. We even went up to a size bigger than we needed because the value of the ink supplied with the initial purchase meant it actually cost no more than a smaller printer and spare set of inks.

    The dye-sub, again faultless, for huge print runs you just needed to replenish the ribbon and paper every 700 or so prints, 5,000 prints in one go with no hassles. It did get dropped once, we had to repair the floor.

    The laser printer? Absolute nightmare, chewed more paper than it printed. God knows where all the toner ended up, it certainly consumed more than ever went on the paper and speaking of toner, per unit volume it cost more than Ch Latour.

    Yep, good engineering costs money, but it saves more in the long run.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do people still own printers?

    I thought most people realised inkjets are as useful as a handbrake on a canoe and just did all their printing at work.

    Remember if you want to secure print something like your CV, sandwich it between some work documents.

    1. theblackhand

      Re: Do people still own printers?

      Be careful with this - printers have a detector for improper use and throw up an error that will baffle most users. The error is "Out of paper". Most users don't know where to look for a paper tray and the few that do are too lazy to get up from their desks...

      That's why so many people have to visit HR when more paper is loaded.



      Insults about cow-orkers...

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Do people still own printers?

        I hestitate to ask how one orks a cow, although it does sound like an act worthy of insult.

        1. Jedit Silver badge

          "I hestitate to ask how one orks a cow"

          You paint it red so it goes faster, obviously. WAAAGGHH!

      2. Stu_The_Jock

        Re: Do people still own printers?

        Ah, thank you for bringing back a fond memory of seeing P45 appear across a users face as I helped their IT man by fixing their colour laser printer (back around 2001 so not full photo quality) . . Having swapped out the broken cog, the print queue starts appearing, and it seems it died outside office hours as lets say the first prints out were using a lot of magenta and yellow. Seems the company didn't approve of XXX printout, as the user concerned tried to hide behind his screen, the IT man pauses the printer to go check the queue for user IDs.

        On my next visit to the office there was a distinctly tidy, empty desk in the corner.

        As for the Canon people allowing models with BJ in the name, I had a customer (not in the UK) who's name was "B.J. Services" Who thought that was a good idea ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I had a customer (not in the UK) who's name was "B.J. Services"

          BJ Services operate in the UK as well - I worked for them briefly as a contractor. If you're wondering how they thought the name was a good idea, they also thought it was a good idea to employ a HR manager who didn't know that contracts could be dissolved by mutual agreement. So when my contract was completed ahead of schedule, he fired me.

          (To be fair to the company, who as a whole did me no wrong, that gentleman's post became vacant very shortly after.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do people still own printers?

      Doesn't work. Most decent office machine log the jobs they have performed. As someone who worked in a Government department found out when he was asked why he printed a load of documents called invoice_xxx.doc at the end of every month. He was running a business from the longer.

      He appeared not to have realised that the "Audit commission" actually audited things.

  17. Alister


    Lasers, Inkjets, Dot-Matrix; modern claptrap.

    When I first started playing with computers, I had a GPO type 7 Teleprinter which I used for RTTY and packet BBS.

    It took two people to lift it, and every time it did a carriage return it used to jump about a foot to the right

    You could hear it for miles around - chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga... CRASH!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually, I recall having something teletype-like with a punch tape. I have no idea what it was normally used for, but you could type something and it would punch a tape of it, if you ran the tape through its reader it would type it all again.

      Made me really popular by my sister who once came back from school with the job of writing 500x "I shall not .." before the weekend. I made her ask if she could type it "because she was learning how to type", which is naturally not something a school teacher could credibly refuse.

      One looped tape and a noisy half hour later and I had a happy sister :).

    2. Jess--

      Don't forget the Bell

      1. Alister

        RE: Don't forget the Bell

        Of course, can't believe I'd forgotten that bit:

        chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga... CRASH! ... Ting!

        1. pepper

          Re: RE: Don't forget the Bell

          Alister, I like to think of your printer as a steam locomotive in disguise. To be fair I never experienced most of these printers in real life.

        2. Down not across

          Re: RE: Don't forget the Bell

          Thanks. That rather viivid description triggered some memories. Still undecided whether good or bad.

          I do recall some runaway print jobs. the printer went for a walk.

  18. mittfh

    The joys of inkjets

    I used to be a school IT technician. The main experiences I remember are:

    a) a South-facing IT room, where the venetian blinds were (predictably) broken. Come in after a hot weekend to find the cartridges had spilled their contents all over the base of the printer and the table they were sitting on.

    b) A3 business inkjets (used for D&T projects). Supposedly capable of 2ppm A3, in reality they were closer to 0.75ppm, so inevitably students sent multiple copies of their work to the printer. Eventually I persuaded the HoD to buy some printer management software, so [i] the printers could be fed off a single queue, and [ii] I could delete duplicates.

    c) A3 business injects again. As the cartridges were quite expensive, the department decided to buy in clone cartridges. Half of which couldn't be used because the cartridges were chipped, so if the printer thought it hadn't got HP originals, it would refuse to use them. Admittedly we could return them for replacement, but it was a pain! The queue manager came in useful again here, so I could tell it to only point at a single printer if the other one had run out of ink (and there were no usable replacements in stock).

    Oh, and mum had an inkjet she rarely used - almost inevitably when she did she'd have to buy a new cartridge as the old one had dried out, and no amount of priming could unblock the nozzles.

  19. GlenP Silver badge

    Can empathise with a lot of the above!

    Had IBM printers where we taped the box location for the paper 'cause if it wasn't exactly right the printer would jam.

    Had various ink jets in use over the years (can remember the early DeskJets with rubber belt drive for the head and no registration system - after a year or two alternate lines would be 1/2 a character out unless you turned bi-directional printing off). We also had an Epson at one company that had to be used every week or the print heads would jam and need replacing.

    Installed various lasers including, on corporate instructions, colour Lexmarks that were cheap to buy but would chew through a full set of toner cartridges in a couple of days if heavily used.

    When we moved I took the opportunity to scrap most of the individual printers and go with decent MFDs - cost not much more than a couple of decent printers, dirt cheap to run, fast and reliable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dot matrix, laser bah modern fangled technology, give me a daisy wheel printer anytime. Memories of repairing them as a very young technician in the secretarial pool. I was lying underneath this bugger that had print head registration issues replacing the multitude of Bowden cables used for moving the head backwards and forwards, kept getting disturbed by a secretary walking backwards and forwards fashion at the time was long length skirts split at the front and buttoned up strange how every time she walked by another button was undone - I think that was one of my longest repair times ever

  20. gaz 7

    What was that plotter...

    you could get in the 80s which was a small robot which ran around the page. fun to watch & wish I still had mine.

    Class tale though. Back when men were men and printers ate children for breakfast ;-)

    1. greifpad

      Re: What was that plotter...

      It was called LOGO (i think). It was supposed to be an educational tool to learn programming. Some form of BASIC i think. I remember seeing it on Blue Peter following a strip of black tape on the floor. Exciting stuff at the time.

      1. gaz 7

        Re: What was that plotter...

        Some serious google-fu revealed it to be a Penman plotter

        Wish I still had it.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: What was that plotter...

        IIRC, LOGO was the language, the plotter was called a 'turtle', because of its size and shape.

  21. tony2heads


    I remember an old hammer action printer that one of the older members of staff (at a previous job) preferred.

    The sound was like 1000 AK47s going off at the same time - bloody deafening. Good old days...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Life Expectancy

    Oh...MT690 shuttle printers! With a custom bent allen key because one of the 4 bolts that held the "voice coil" on was a bitch to get to. But no matter how many times you told HR NOT to print sticky labels on the thing, you still spent Friday afternoon elbow deep in the thing extracting bits of stuck sticker.

    Then there's a purchasing dept that bought cheaper model HP lasers and wondered why we had to write them off? Because they weren't designed to do 250000 prints in a few months and the paper scythed a line through the softer plastics of the paper feed path resulting in constant jams.

    Cheers BOFH, happy memories

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ties and Drum Printers...

    Damn, but that brings back memories.

    The night-time shift leader decided that wearing something other than jeans and a T would get him off nights so started wearing a shirt & Tie. Lasted only until the tie got caught in the drum and someone free'd him by cutting off the tie with a pair of scissors. They could have just hit the stop button, but that wouldn't have been anywhere near as much fun.

    Ah, those were the days...

    1. Cubical Drone

      Re: Ties and Drum Printers...

      Back in the day you could always tell the experienced printer/shredder techs because they wore clipons.

      1. theblackhand

        Re: Ties and Drum Printers...

        And the new guy that had been asked to blow the dust out of a toner cartridge....

  24. ukgnome


    This actually show a keen level of detail, I remember the band printer like it was yesterday. The only pedantic thing that I will pull you up on is a million pages.....That seems quite low, when I worked at a popular frozen food and biscuit manufacturer the printers there were on several million before I left.

    The whole threading the inky ribbon when you had forgotten gloves, the watching your team leader almost slice cleanly through his thumb in a moment of stupidity. The blood spurts over the 4 banks of printers, the ruined statements. Ahh it's all coming back to me, the smell of a freshly opened ribbon spool. The misaligning of cheques, the fire as paper dust from rapid printing ignited in a beautiful plume akin to a fire in a flour factory. And 4 way carbon paper, not something you see today. Did you know that the spindles that you thread the carbon paper onto when you want to separate the sheets of carbon from the printout seemingly revolve at a million RPM, and can snap a wrist and throw a man across a room. And did you know if one of these spindles comes loose they can go with such velocity that they can break double glazing and smash into a leaving visitor.

    Happy memories - thanks BOFH

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Bravo

      Did you know that the spindles that you thread the carbon paper onto when you want to separate the sheets of carbon from the printout seemingly revolve at a million RPM, and can snap a wrist and throw a man across a room. And did you know if one of these spindles comes loose they can go with such velocity that they can break double glazing and smash into a leaving visitor.

      You've already written half of the next BOFH :)

      1. pepper

        Re: Bravo

        Yes indeed, this feels like a free extra mini-bofh fanfiction story!

    2. Brian Miller

      Re: Bravo

      I worked with a fellow who told me about the time his Navy ship brought a new IBM printer on board. The crew operating the loading crane banged the printer into the side of the ship, and left a dent in the side of the ship. The printer worked fine.

      Yes, I worked with a Sperry-Univac drum printer, running 4,000LPM, so that's about 66 pages per minute. Ricoh has some high-end printers, but not Xerox, and certainly not HP. And none of those are machines that you move around them with a bit of respect for your personal life and limb.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bravo

        I am seriously wondering what kind of "ship" this would be. It would take quite a ding from a heavy crate to dent even a steel narrowboat, and the sides of ships do tend to have a little reinforcement.

        By the way, if Xerox doesn't have any high end printers, I must have dreamed my last visit to their Uxbridge base. Unless by "high end printer" you mean a 12-unit SRA1 Heidelberg, the iGen4 would meet most people's definition of "high end".

        HP has the Indigo, which is B2, but squeezing it into an office is a bit of a job.

        The reason you can move around them safely is because we have moved on from the days when the operators hinted that they wanted a pay rise by dropping a large spanner in a drive chain and watching metal parts fly past the ear of the foreman.

  25. earl grey

    BAH! newbies

    Seen and used too many of the old chain, band, and solid drum printers to recall half the details. Any one of them could eat you up and spit you out. Four part paper? BAH! We used to have six part with the carbon insert and have to decollate the whole mess. Just try to keep each stack straight and then have the other forms you had to burst (including true "tabbed" cards). Next thing you know you'll be talking about sorting, end-printing, and interpreting cards.


    1. Rick Giles

      Re: BAH! newbies

      In my day, printers printed in four feet of snow, in the dark and up hill. Both ways...

      1. Allan George Dyer

        Re: BAH! newbies

        You had it lucky! Our printers used slabs of stone, now THEY were noisy!

        But tell kids about it these days...

        1. El Zed

          Re: BAH! newbies

          You had it lucky! Our printers used slabs of stone..

          Funny you should say that..

          our next purchase is a 'desktop' CO₂ laser engraver with handy USB interface, first job for the beastie is going to be engraving on slates.

  26. ADJB

    You think inkjet refills are expensive - Pah

    Wait until you have had the joys of using a Sinclair Thermal printer and buying rolls of the silvered paper for that not to mention the days it took to print anything out. Some progress is good.

  27. Rick Giles

    I'd still be using my C.Itoh printer

    If Windows 95 would have recognized it back in the day... Got rid of it before I discovered Linux and CUPS.

    F U Microsoft. (and HP... and Lexmark...)

  28. jason 7

    I remember the time......

    ...when a inkjet printer driver was about 20Kb.

    Now a default install has to jam nearly 900MB of junk if you don't catch the tick box installed in the top left hand corner of the ninth splash screen you just blasted through .


    Stupid title, helping propagate clueless nonsense.

    IT people have never been engineers. Even software engineering professors go out of their way to burst everyone's bubble. Even if you do manage to be eligible for the EIT (or UK equivalent), you're still not an engineer.

    Computer science is an embryonic discipline that's no where near spawning a branch of engineering.

    People who use the term engineer to refer to computer janitors or even coders should be flogged, repeatedly.

    1. Daniel B.

      Re: Stupid title, helping propagate clueless nonsense.

      According to my college degree, I'm a B. Sc. Computer Systems Engineer, so it seems the educational system disagrees with you...

      1. YetAnotherPasswordToRemeber

        Re: Stupid title, helping propagate clueless nonsense.

        JEDIDIAH is correct. You've passed a BSc so can't be called an engineer as only people who've passed a BEng or MEng can call themselves engineers, or so I was told by one of my lecturers many moons ago at Uni

        Not sure whether to beer or Scientist but going with Beer as it's Friday and getting nearer beer o'clock

        1. frank ly

          Re: Stupid title, helping propagate clueless nonsense.

          Here in the UK, the word 'Engineer' is used as a rough job description for anything that involves touching/fixing/operating technical stuff. In the US, Canada and Germany, the word Engineer is a legally recognised qualification and profession involving membership of a professional body.

          In the UK, the closest we come to that is membership of recognised chartered institutions, and that's got nothing to do with the exact letters of your degree, or lack of one.

          Frank Ly BSc CEng MIEE (yes, I know they've changed the name)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid title, helping propagate clueless nonsense.

      "People who use the term engineer to refer to computer janitors or even coders should be flogged, repeatedly."

      Only after you have finished flogging all the people who refer to technicians as engineers (how many years at Uni do you have to do to know how to fix a vacuum cleaner ffs?)

      1. A J Stiles

        Re: Stupid title, helping propagate clueless nonsense.

        No, a technician is someone who knows as much as an engineer, works harder than an engineer and earns half as much for it as an engineer.

        Or at least, that was my experience.

  30. davidp231

    It's Friday!

    Happy BOFH day to all!

  31. Andy Fletcher

    Our bookkeeper....

    ...came in with one of those £20 violations of reason made by Lexmark. You know, the ones that cost less than half the price of the cartridges they need. I think cost per sheet of A4 it produced worked out about a tenner.

    He comes upstairs and gets his stuff of the laserjet these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Our bookkeeper....

      hope you charge him per page

  32. J. Cook Silver badge

    Fun times...

    I used to be an HP certified repair tech. Fun times dealing with companies that were still using their LJ 4si printers* which had roughly 2 million on the page counter and were still chugging away. The 4, 4+, and 4m were all tanks as well- as long as you replaced the fuser and pickup rollers every 150,000 pages, they would practically run forever. (hell, there are probably still companies using them, and HP's dropped all but parts support for them for almost a decade now.)

    As far as impact printers? the only ones I've dealt with on a routine basis were largely Okidata 320s, which also have a rather distinctive test page noise. At one point I was down to 20 minutes start to finish to take a non-functional one, tear it down and swap out whatever was broken, and get it back into service, if not fully at spec. (this included that frustratingly annoying white gear mounted on the main stepper motor, which was almost always the cause of print quality issues.)

    * They were largely identical to the IIIsi with a number of changes to the formatter and controller boards to make them go faster. the 5si/8000 were based on a different engine entirely, but had the same relationship and very nearly the same parts compatibility

  33. Alistair

    Sperry Rand band printer - 6 line band. Unisys cheque printer

    I recall working an SR band printer that had a 6 line band. It ran something like 40 or 50 pages a minute -- multipart paper with carbons. Loud as hell. I was present just once when the band snapped, with both covers down - it still sliced through the covers AND 2 fiberboard "soundproofing" partitions before slapping into the lexan windows between the print room and the computer room floor. The noise when it was running normally was something like standing inside a DC10 engine. When that band went, the systems manager (two floors away) heard it ....

    The beast of my experience were the two unisys laser cheque printers. And hours fiddling the damned alignment around since we printed cheques for CA US EU AR BZ and AU -- all at the time with subtly different requirements.

    Inkjets? we have one of those toys at home. I played it smart and spent the better dollar on the HP unit. Its gone through 4 complete sets of cartridges, over about 10 years. Yes it still prints. Yes it still looks good. Photos are decent, if not great. Ink? oddly -- still available. No -- we don't print much around here - -mostly resumes. For everyone in the neighbourhood.

    Good BOFH on sysadmin day. Now --- where DID I leave that clipon?

  34. MikeyD85

    IBM 6400

    Right next to me here. She's about to be retired though. She's big enough to hide people in, loud enough to drown out their screams too...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is true about drivers...

    I use for daily printing needs a HP laserjet 1600. No problem on Win7

    For photo printing however, we have a HP Photosmart 7550, great for photos but no Win7 drivers. So, after a bit of trial and error we did find that we can use drivers from an HP Deskjet 5550.

    Sometimes just because drivers don't exist doesn't mean you have to toss it out. ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is true about drivers...

      did a job a while ago for a company that used Citrix, and had an HP9000 printer. If you used the 9000 drivers, every page printed via Citrix (rather than locally) came out twice. Use the drivers for the 8000 instead, worked just fine. Who says IT uses logic?

  36. Dave 32

    IBM 1403N1

    I haven't been able to print anything successfully since they took the IBM 1403N1 printer out. Now that was a printer!


    P.S. I'll get my coat; it's the one with the print chain in the pocket.

  37. Arachnoid

    Just sayin..........

    So much for the paperless office

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just sayin..........

      It is, at last, starting to happen. Tablets are up, printing for the first time is down. Note how quick was HP's U-turn on tablets; abandoned by Apotheker, restored by Whitman. The writing is on the wall.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Just sayin..........

      When I took my first job as a baby programmer back in the last century I used the phrase, "paperless office", only to be upbraided by an older, wiser hand that, "You'll see a paperless toilet before you see a paperless office". The truth of this remains undiminished.

      1. Chris 69
        Thumb Up

        Re: Just sayin..........

        Well you've obviously never been to Japan where you will find paperless toilets...

        The answer to your next question is Yes...

        The answer to the one after that is "Not tellin"!

  38. Azzy

    I love how it's not entirely clear at the end, when the boss runs off to the old printer, what's going to happen there.

    Will he free the guy?

    Press "online"?

    Discover that it's a clever trap, and the PFY arranged it so the boss's own tie gets stuck, and the printer turned back on as he tries to free the guy, killing two bird[brain]s with one stone?

  39. P Taylor

    Costly Inkjets.

    Years ago I got fed up with replacing Lexmarks, Epsons, and various cheap HP inkjets that fail after doing 20 pages.

    So I purchased an old HP LaserJet 4L off ebay for 35 quid, including the toner.

    The 4L is a slim and somewhat smaller laserjet so does not take up much room. Weve had that for maybe 5yrs now and its used daily to print stuff for myself or kids homework, and we have never changed the Toner !. Even works with our new Win 7 x64 machine too.

  40. Mike Hebel
    Thumb Up

    Got my best printer still!

    I have, though I have to do some circuit diagnosis for it since the last move, a Decwriter III.

    Almost indestructible. And I even have fresh ribbons for it. (Though they could likely use a spray of WD40 by now even after being sealed in the plastic.)

    I'm planning on repairing it this fall and use up some greenbar doing ascii graphics. :-)

  41. N2

    Nice one

    So true,

    I wish I had a quid for every stinkjet printer Ive binned and a quid for every HP Laser Jet 5 Ive maintained to over a million pages.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Helecopter that can drop things weighing 10kg?

    Where can I get one?

    On an unrelated note did you know that the average human head weighs 7kg?

  43. Chris 69

    The Girl on the power driven lid..

    Now as I recall, we had a mainframe printer that had a power drivel hood that had quite enough extra strength to lift the pretty, mini-skirted operator (this was the mid 70s after all) high in the air... the rest I leave to your imagination.. and no I don't have pictures , strangely it was before the ubiquity of phone cameras!

    1. Steven Roper
      Paris Hilton

      Re: The Girl on the power driven lid..

      "Miniskirted operator...mid 70s"

      Mate, if you haven't seen a miniskirt since the mid-70s, may I suggest you move to warmer climes. Here in sunny Adelaide the miniskirt seems to be a perennial summer fashion; hot weather trumps feminist prudery every time. One only needs to hike down Rundle Mall of a hot summer Saturday morning to cop an eyeful worthy of Buck Rogers himself!

  44. Arachnoid

    BBC Radio 4 had an article on the modern office and how it was now more akin to a library without the tip,tap, ding of the typewriter and the ticker tape noise of the printer.How times have reversed to the original office of pen and quill era.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amstrad DMP-2000

    My first printer was an Amstrad DMP-2000 which back when new some reviewers did complain was flimsy.......

    Yet I've had no printer since that lasted so long and was so bullet proof. Yes it was 9 pin, yes it was as noisy as hell but even in the mid 1990's I still used it as a backup printer for uni work when my Canon BJ100 ran out of ink yet again after printing 3 pages. As it was "Epsom compatible" all you had to do was find a Windows driver for an Epsom 9 pin and off you went! Fine for text in LQ mode if pig slow and noisy.

    Today I've given up on inkjet and now use lasers. Fed up with ink problems and poor quality hardware eve at the "premium" end of the market.

    The Amstrad? It was finally skipped about a month ago. Fired her up one last time, plugged her into an XP box with a parallel port and yes she did still work as far as I could see without a ribbon with any ink on it! Not bad for something from 1986 that was dirt cheap at the time.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Fortunately, now you can get a $400 laser printer that kicks the shit out of the $100 Inkjet, and saves you that money back in a couple years.

    1. Rukario

      Re: Laser

      Until you have to buy toner cartridges, 4 of them (CMYK) at $150 a pop.

      1. Steven Burn

        Re: Laser

        Strangely, got 3 HP laser printers (4000TN) I got a toner for a couple years ago, and cost £80 each or there abouts (HP is selling them for £143 each now), but would still rather pay for the toners for it than buy any of the newer printers, specifically because the toner it's been using since I got given it (~4-5 years ago, on the "if you can fix it, you can have it" deal - ended up with 3 of them), only finally needed replaced with the one I got a couple years ago, around 3-4 weeks ago (original toner it came with, was with it for several years, no idea of the pages it managed to do until needing replacing though), and in all of the time I've had it, only rarely has paper jams, and only needed a new network card due to an electricity spike nuking the one that was in it at the time.

  47. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Execs the worst culprits.

    You ever been on the end of one of those centralized printer programs? The ones where some insultant comes round to lecture you on how wasteful your dozen individual desk printers are and how each department should have centralized and networked printers? Surprisingly, it's the desktop printer vendors (like Epson, Xerox and hp) that usually do the "service", telling all that it is better for your company - more efficient, more easy to service one model of large printer over a dozen random desktop models, saves by centralizinf the ordering of one type of toner, etc. - and yet whose desktop printer is always magically exempt from the same logic? Yes, you guessed it, the ones on execs' assistants'/secretaries' desks. It's seriously annoying the number of times I've had staff working on really bizz critical stuff, only for some exec to insist one of them stops that and comes look at their desktop printer as it's stopped printing properly.

  48. Arachnoid

    Whilst on the subject of printers, Dell were virtually giving away their 3330DN Mono Duplex Network Laser Printer at eBuyer recently.They were on sale for £175 with a £75 rebate fro Dell and a £100 trade in for a.n.other used printer.

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