back to article Help! My printer won't print no matter how much I shout at it!

With the impending weekend comes another tale of courageous souls dispensing the balm of technical knowhow to those who know not. Welcome to On Call. This week's Regomised reader is "John", who spent long decades at the sharp, pointy end of technical support. His story takes us back a quarter of a century, to the headquarters …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    HP

    Should stand for Higher Power because thats the only thing that could fix my last HP inkjet.

    It was less than a year old, if not used for a couple of weeks it would jam up so the print head wouldn't start, the simple remedy was a tap on the side, that quickly became a routine.

    Adding to the sticky print head is that HP ink cartridges dry up if not used in a Spanish summer, even cleaning them with alcohol will not get them going again. After the second time of new cartridges drying up and the head not moving I guess my percussion exceeded maintenance levels as the platen shattered and the casing split.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HP

      Sod wasting good alcohol on HP print heads.

    2. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: HP

      The LaserJet 4 was the complete opposite of your inkjet, those things were like tanks. I regularly used to run into them still in the late 2000s (when some of them were around 15 years old and by far the oldest piece of equipment in the entire office). Thing is, they just kept on working. A far cry from the flimsy, disposable crap you get nowerdays.

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

        Re: HP

        Eeee, we used to dream of getting a LaserJet 4, but we couldn't get authorisation until the LaserJet II died. That printer is probably still churning out 300 dpi B&W even now. Proper kit, that, built to last.

        1. Trygve Henriksen

          Re: HP

          The HP LJII was probably the most indestructible thing you could buy back then... before surplus T34 tanks became available...

          the only exception was the 'd' Doubledecker version. May the soul of its designer be buried in a landslide of old HP toner cartridges to suffer eternally!

          The LJ4 in comparison was Plastic Fantastic.

          Not that we didn't have users who could destroy a LJII, it just took a bit longer.

          Always pulling at the sheet as it slowly emerged from the top would do it.

        2. Kobus Botes
          Mushroom

          Re: HP

          @Admiral Grace Hopper

          "...until the LaserJet II died".

          I used an LJet II that we bought somewhere in '88/'89. I was supposed to have dumped it, but since there was nothing wrong with it and it was perfectly suited for the little printing I did (plus there were still a couple of new toner cartridges around), I kept it.

          It was still chugging along fine when I left the company in 2007.

          The only way to get them to stop working (icon) ---------------------------->

      2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: HP

        Ahhh I think I worked at the same place...

        Used to have to take the brass (yes solid bits of metal) roller cogs and flip them around to get another 1/2 million prints out of it since one side had worn smooth.

        I've come across new cars made more flimsy than those beasts of burden.

        We finally had to start storing them after the cartridges and fuser rollers stopped being parts you could buy (crying shame as those things still had a few more decades in 'em).

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: HP

          Hate to say, but the cartridges are still available.

          1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: HP

            They must have started to make them again as new HP carts were usually 5-10 years past their best before.

            The fusers were the biggest issue since once they've worn out it just ruins the prints.

            (For the record I did attempt to refill a cartridge once. ONLY ONCE. that corner of that server room is now forever darkened by the attempt.)

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: HP

              Has anyone new ever been tempted to hoover that spillage up?

              1. Tom 7 Silver badge

                Re: HP

                I used to work down't pit. I've seen what breathing in that shit can do to a man. Even Mansfield Lager wont shift it. Just gaffer tape the room shut and modify the building plans.

              2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
                Flame

                Re: HP

                Attempted, yes.. Succeeded... Nooo.

                It also claimed the life of one Private Henry. He shall be forever missed (he got replaced by James who probably is still doing sterling service to this day.)

                Fire icon, because it wasn't pretty once the smoke started.

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: HP

          GCC made a printer call the SelectPress 600 which had a contact on the drum designed to make it fail after a few thousand prints. Most people worked out that after about 10 minutes of fiddling with a spring on the drum you could make it last pretty much forever - a very significant cost saving.

          1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: HP

            We had fusers that managed over 250,000 sheets of paper so longevity wasn't the issue, just the enevitable wear and tear that happens to everything. At least it was natural wear + scarcity of parts and never designed weakness that did them in.

        3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: HP

          We finally had to start storing them after the cartridges and fuser rollers stopped being parts you could buy (crying shame as those things still had a few more decades in 'em).

          That's exactly WHY the parts supply dried up. Can't have you holding on to the solid kit and not splurging for their latest piece of Chineseum crap.

      3. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: HP

        I still have one in my (home) office alongside a very nice Epson inkjet for the occasional colour copy.

        1. Rol Silver badge

          Re: HP

          Don't make it too occasional, as in my experience the heads dry up, although Epson might have twiddled with them in the last couple of decades and fixed that little problem.

          1. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: HP

            Quite. Hence after gotten totally fed up with ink jets (tried few different manufacturers) I obtained LJ4700 Colour LaserJet to my fleet of obsolete LaserJets from the era when they were built properly. Why yes, of course it works perfectly. It also redefined heavy... it is rather heavy beast. Lifting it alone is not advisable.

        2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: HP

          My HP LaserJet 1018 is going strong, and generic cartridges have never caused a problem. Long may it last.

          1. Velodrome

            Re: HP

            Those were good printers. I had an LJ 1015 that lasted forever. Not as long lasting as the venerable LJ IV but great for a consumer targeted item.

        3. hittitezombie

          Re: HP

          My laserjet 2, 3 and 4000 were all dumpster-diving survivors and lasted many thousands of prints. I gave away all of them one by one as newer replacements arrived and finally had to move to a wireless setup at home. The Brother works well but it doesn't feel as good and well-built like the HP stuff.

          I must have printed over 30k-50k pages on my 4000, and it was as good as new when I freecycled it.

          I admit 30k is nothing for an office printer but is rather decent for a modern home printer where it's not expected to print more than a couple of thousand pages in its lifetime.

      4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: HP

        The LaserJet printers were the reason HP had a reputation for making solid reliable printers.

        Their inkjet printers are the reason they now have a reputation for making shitty unreliable things that you need to take out a mortgage to buy ink for.

        I never understood why their lasers had "jet" in their name. There really should be nothing jetting around inside a laser printer.

        As other posters have pointed out, don't bother with inkjets. True, lasers may not print photos as well, allegedly, but at the same time, they also won't print them out with visible banding, producing prints that fade if exposed to the slightest whiff of UV light, and which don't handle being splashed with water droplets too well either. A laser may be more expensive to buy, but it sure as hell is cheaper to run. You'll probably have made that saving on a colour laser by the time you've had to replace your first set of toner cartridges.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: HP

          Unfortunately LaserJet Pros from the last five-ten years aren't up to the quality of earlier ones (at least the cheaper ones).

          Although at least you can still get a disassembly manual from HP for them.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: HP

            Although at least you can still get a disassembly manual from HP for them.

            No need for those. Unless maybe you want to use the eternal Haynes maxim: "Reverse these steps to reassemble".

            1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
              Joke

              Re: HP

              You forgot the infamous 'SIMPLY reverse...'

              Always implied it was a piece of cake.

              1. wwwd

                Re: HP

                Not so easy to reverse when I've just separated the gearbox and engine.

        2. MrDamage

          Re: HP

          Canon's SX, NX, and CX print engines are the reason why HP got their name in printers.

          1. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: HP

            And EX and EX+ (as used in LaserJet 4).

          2. Rob Daglish

            Re: HP

            I'm glad someone else remembers this. I remember a colleague coming back from a Canon engine training course in the mid to late 90's telling us that at the time, Canon were making a significant (some where towards 3/4s) of the world's laser printer engines!

        3. Dwarf Silver badge

          Re: HP

          @Loyal Commenter

          Perhaps Jet as in Jet Aeroplane as in fast ?

          Rather than Ink Jet as in crap and never getting off the runway as its blocked.

        4. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: HP

          A laser may be more expensive to buy, but it sure as hell is cheaper to run. You'll probably have made that saving on a colour laser by the time you've had to replace your first set of toner cartridges.

          I got a Brother colour laser, duplex, wired network and their implementation of PostScript, off our local classifieds for less than the price of even the shittiest HP inkjet. Status printouts and a test page were shown in the ad, indicating clumpy magenta toner and very little use. That clumpy toner was dealt with by merely transporting the unit home, and the (original) toners ran out several thousand pages later.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: HP

            Yup. At home an agieng basic laser (Brother HL-1110) for all the routine black printing. A Canon inkjet printer/scanner for colour, which we don't that use much

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: HP

              Having written the previous...

              I thought I'd look at he Brother website to see when tehy last updated the drivers. Though their software had been telling me that it was up to date,when I last checked. I found a slightly more recent driver. (2016).

              So I installed it. Just like with the HP of many years earlier it killed off the old driver, but then refused to install- insisting that there was a driver installed already ( clearly not version aware).

              Printer no longer working I had to go through the usual steps.

              Remove all software from previous ( still. in place).

              Nope.

              Go though registry and manually delete every relevant reference to Brother.

              Then it would install.

              Do the writers of driver software never test their stuff in the real world.

        5. Weiss_von_Nichts

          Re: HP

          Anyone who prints out photos on an inkjet should be banned from printing and photographing forever unless they are proven to be visually impaired in which case their printers, phones and cameras should be spared from being smashed, painted red and nailed to their front doors.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: HP

            My Brother MFC-240C inkjet prints photos just fine, thank you. (600 dpi) And thanks to generic ink cartridges for about $1 apiece, the most expensive part of printing is the paper.

        6. Scott 26

          Re: HP

          > The LaserJet printers were the reason HP had a reputation for making solid reliable printers

          HW-wise, I agree with you, but there was a point (~PCL5) that the SW side of the equation became a complete nightmare... kernel-mode drivers for a printer?!?!?!?!??! grrrr. No! Bad driver! No biscuit for you.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HP

        only saying this yesterday, HP printers back in the day were great, just bomb proof, kept going and going and going. I think things started to change after the HP4300 range, at my old place we had 3 4200 and they went well past 10 years of use

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HP

          I've mentioned it before - have a 4200d at home with a couple of toner cartridges that was going to be skipped. Don't use it much, although I recently had to print off a few 250+page documents.

          Job done! Still have nearly 10,000 odd pages left in the toner!

          1. Trygve Henriksen

            Re: HP

            I have a 2100 at home. It print and prints and prints...

            I gave my sister a 6mp a few years ago after it had been retired from use. It still works fine. The Jetdirect EX card I had set up, though...

            1. BenDwire Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: HP

              I still have a 6P in my office which has been totally reliable for over 20 years now. I promised to buy myself a new MFP when it dies, but he way things are going I think it's going to outlast me. The only issue I've ever had occurred when I was re-routing cables and yanked the "PrintSir" ethernet adaptor out of the back.

              I've still got a 6L somewhere too ...

          2. iancom
            Joke

            Re: HP

            > Still have nearly 10,000 odd pages left in the toner

            It's the even pages that'll cost ya...

        2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Re: HP

          4200, 4250 and 4300 at 1.5 million pages though the rubber rollers on the paper path tended to start shifting and causing jams, move em back and hope they stay put.

          Not as solid as the 4i or 5si but still a damn good printer.

      6. big_D Silver badge

        Re: HP

        The 4 was a leightweight! I had to move an original LaserJet from one end of a building to the other, by carrying it all ~250M. I didn't need to go to the gym that day!

        I think they were the wrong side of 50Kg?

        1. Giles C Bronze badge

          Re: HP

          The 5si was a 99lb printer (just checked) I remember getting rid of one as it was broken completely.

          It was put in a 20tonne garbage compressor which managed to scratch the casing. They were properly built machines

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: HP

            I cared for and fed a hp5si for years. Before going into service, the printer survived a rollover accident on a freeway one slippery morning. The SUV carrying the printer was totaled (along with a batch of hard drives), but the printer was fine.

          2. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: HP

            Around 1990, my company got one of the first Canon colour laser printers. 400dpi. I laugh at your 99 pound and raise you 160 kilograms. Almost killed us getting it on the second floor, didn’t fit in the lift.

        2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: HP

          Try carrying one to an office via a paternosta lift! (CAA builing at Gatwick in the 1990's)

      7. Snapper

        Re: HP

        Still got a LaserJet 4010 working

        1. Dwarf Silver badge

          Re: HP

          @Snapper

          I'll raise that to an HP4000N :-)

          Its solid as a rock and faster to get to print than the HP MFP that will still be booting whilst I've got the 4000 up, printed and moved on with my life. I must investigate the intermittent paper tray not detected properly all the time when I get a spare hour to pull it apart.

          Driver support can be a PITA, until you find the Microsoft catalogue update and go searching for older OS HP 4100 drivers and find that they still work. See HP 4000 Drivers

          The 4000 replaced an aging LaserJet II that I picked up as faulty for £20 since it only printed full black pages. A couple of hours with a screwdriver and a scope, one replacement 74 series chip and it worked for a another 10 years till I sold it on. I bet its still printing somewhere.

          The LJ II replaced an old Epson FX80, I got quite good at doing a print head tear down and repair on those over the years.

          1. hittitezombie

            Re: HP

            You rarely buy a MFP these days, you lease it and pay by the page printed. It's a scam in many ways and we don't print as much as we used to 10-15y ago. The most used part of our office MFP is the scanner bit, direct to PDF and email. Why not buy a decent scanner instead but then I'm not paying for the IT budget.

      8. ShortLegs

        Re: HP

        > I regularly used to run into them still in the late 2000s

        I still have one, well, the descendant of the 4ML; a 2100M. Acquired it in 2000, "replaced" it with a 2055DN about 2013, but never quite threw it away; it was just tooo good. Solid, dependable, 600dpi printing. (have a feeling its actually capable of 1200dpi). 10mbit ethernet is just fine for the jobs it does. It doesn't duplex, but that is what the 2055 is for.

        Replaced the toner cartridge once. In 20 years.

        Upgrade it? It will be left to one of my children, with a condition attached that they are never to dispose of it.

        The printer driver, on the other hand. It was awesome, then HP replaced it with a 'universal' which is about as useful as tits on tarzan.

        1. Old Used Programmer

          Re: HP

          I've got a 2055dn and I'm looking at getting a used, reconditioned second one. Just runs and runs...

          1. AndyFl

            Re: HP

            I've one of those too. Completely indestructible and works well with postscript.

      9. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: HP

        The LaserJet 4 was the complete opposite of your inkjet, those things were like tanks. I regularly used to run into them still in the late 2000s

        What do you mean "was" ? I still have several LJ4M+ in regular use. Sure you will need to replace rollers and clean them periodically but I've found no need to replace them as they still print just as crisp as years ago.Might need to also change the fuser every 150k or so pages if you print that much. The EX+ engine is great and easy to maintain.

        Think I still have a LaserJet III and Canon LBPII gathering dust somewhere. All made back when build quality was a thing. All still work.

        1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Joke

          Re: HP

          "...need to replace rollers and...need to...change the fuser every 150k...pages..."

          Like my favourite hammer - only replaced the head twice and the handle three times.

          Works great - they don't make them like they used to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      10. Weiss_von_Nichts

        Re: HP

        The Laser Jet 5 was pretty much the same beast. Mine was running until the last computer in the house with a parallel port had to go. Never had any issues - unlike its successor which still is a lot better than any brand of inksquirter I've seen.

      11. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: HP

        I have just recycled a LaserJet 1100 which had been chuntering away flawlessly since 1999. Finally its paper feed system failed beyond my repair skills - hardened rubber, basically - and I replaced it with a Brother, which cost 1/3 as much ignoring inflation (£60 vs £200) and is already a bit dodgy.

      12. Damage

        Re: HP

        I still have a laserjet 4 - even works fine with Windows 10!

    3. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: HP

      That's why I threw away a perfectly fine inkjet printer (actually gave it to a colleague whose dad wanted one) and switched to Laser printer. They just print.

      1. Chewi

        Re: HP

        Got to echo the above. We got sick to the back teeth of going through gunked up inkjet after gunked up inkjet. The HP lasted much longer than most but eventually suffered the same fate. We were maybe only printing once a month, if that, which is just not enough for any inkjet, it seems. We switched to a HP Color LaserJet MFP M180n and have never looked back. It's the smallest and cheapest colour laser with a scanner you will find, or at least it was a while back. It hasn't failed to print once. The proprietary scanner plugin even works perfectly under Linux on ARM. Sure, photos don't look that amazing, even on glossy paper, but we can live with that. I'll pop to Tesco and print photos there if I have to.

        1. quartzie

          Re: HP

          I would strongly suggest to refrain from using glossy paper in your Laserjet. It's designed to work with wet ink, not dry powder toner and certainly not made to withstand the baking process required for Laser Toner.

          You might find that the lifetime of your printer has suddenly become much, much shorter.

          1. Chewi

            Re: HP

            It's HP's own glossy paper specifically for laser printers. *shrugs* I don't use it often anyway.

        2. Paul Shirley

          Re: HP

          "I'll pop to Tesco and print photos there"

          And save money doing it!

          1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: HP

            "I'll pop to Tesco and print photos there"

            CVS for me, but yes, pre-cropping your photos and uploading them to the CVS Photo shop in town, then driving into town to retrieve them, is easier, cheaper, and quite likely QUICKER than printing them on your home printer.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HP

        Future alien visitors will find the ruins of human civilisation buried under discarded inkjet printers. They are a plague

        1. tip pc Silver badge

          Re: HP

          "Future alien visitors will find the ruins of human civilisation buried under discarded inkjet printers. They are a plague"

          Future alien visitors will find the ruins of human civilisation and still functioning HP LaserJets.

          ftfy

          1. MrDamage

            Re: HP

            With Epson DFX-8000 and Oki Microline 321 dot matrix printers still churning out stock reports.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: HP

              Dot Matrix.....

              eeeeeeeek eeeeeeeek

              eeeeeeeeeeeeek eeeeeeek

              eeeeeeeek eeeeeeeeek

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HP

          Downvoted. Damn, these inkjet printers are getting smart!

      3. l8gravely

        Re: HP

        I'm still rocking a Brother MFC-8860DN laser printer at home. I have to scan PDFs from an older system due to various functions not being supported any more on newer Linux, but printing still works. Sucker is 14+ years old and still going strong. I *think* I replaced the drum once. Certainly toner a couple of times.

        My next one will be a Color Laser MFC style device some day. As long as it comes with an Ethernet jack for sure.

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: HP

          My Dell c1765nfw has appallingly slow scanning performance over WiFi or wired Ethernet, compared to usb. Don't know if it's because it's a cheapish, older device but worth checking before buying. Printing works identically fast on all connections.

          It's too big a beast to fit in my office, good thing I rarely need to scan things.

    4. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

      Re: HP

      I have absolutely no idea why, but we have a number of HP PageWide inkjets. They're decent quality, but the fuel is hideously expensive.

      Last week one of our more shouty teachers demanded we fix his printer, during lockdown the heads had become so bunged up they could not be cleaned, even after many clean cycles, so I arranged for the porters to move a printer from a currently empty office to this guy's office, asking them to leave the broken one behind so I could retrieve the nearly new, £110 a pop ink tanks for later use.

      I trotted along to the office to change the network settings to the new printer and the old one was gone. The porters had taken it and tossed it in the waste electricals skip, >£400 of ink, gone for ever...

      1. Ozumo

        Re: HP

        Moans about "shouty" teachers.

        Has porters to carry stuff about for him...

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: HP

          "Has porters to carry stuff about for him..."

          Did he shout at them to do it? If not, cannot see the relevance.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: HP

          I can think of several good reasons why that might be the case. Starting with a porter' 'union that would bring the place to a halt if anyone dared so much as pick up a paper-clip themselves.

        3. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

          Re: HP

          Porters because I currently have a knackered knee, so carrying a 25kg printer from one building to another the best part of half a mile away isn't really ideal.

          Now your point is?

    5. Terry 6 Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: HP

      I've refused to use anything HP for many years and tried to prevent them being bought at work.

      Ever since my home HP had an update that refused to install. But left the existing install broken.

      The old install had failed to uninstall properly because a particular dll wouldn't go away.

      The new install refused to work because that dll needed to be replaced and so it just aborted.

      The version number of the poxy file that refused to be overwritten was the same fucking one so a simple "skip" would have done.

      I went through all the various levels of uninstall.Several times.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HP

        The LJ 2400 was my breaking point with them.

        I used to, as part of my IT consulting work, sell HP printers. For many years they were the most reliable, bulletproof laser printers I could sell.

        After installing some 2400s, the trouble started. Those printers would not work for very long, and at about the same time HP decided my shop wasn't worthy of being warranty repair authorized or even getting parts any more.

        I never sold another HP printer. If a client insists they want HP, I do my best to discourage them, and if they get one from somebody else anyway I won't support it, they can get help for that from the asshole who sold it to them.

      2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: HP

        HPE level stuff (pre-split) was usually robustly made. Which is why I've got a venerable G6 DL380 in the basement and it'll soon be joined by a borg cube G7 N40L microserver once I figure out how to do everything without a usb keyboard.

        (as my mechanical keyboard has frayed on the PS/2 port so I don't like moving it, less I finally have to order a new jack and spend an hour with a soldering iron swearing loudly).

        Off-topic slightly but does anyone make PC gear to last anymore?

        (beer icon because it's Friday evening, I've had a few and will be crawling in a hole in lockdown until Christmas..)

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: HP

          Off-topic slightly but does anyone make PC gear to last anymore?

          Unicomp keyboards. Your venerable Model M, now with USB.

          Also, SuperMicro motherboards and SeaSonic PSUs.

          1. hoopsa

            Re: HP

            I've been dithering over a Unicomp keyboard for years, probably. I keep getting put off by the postage costing more than the keyboard.

        2. jtaylor

          Re: HP

          does anyone make PC gear to last anymore?

          HP Z800 series workstations are built like their old NetServers.

          1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: HP

            Me and my big mouth. The DL380 has toasted a ram module and now refusing to play ball (turns out I might need to move the rest of stick around to get the right channel slots populated again).

            If that fails there's a G7 locally going for 40something so I might get an upgrade and just move the drives over.

    6. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: HP

      I think I've posted before about my LJ5. A succession of HP, then Epson, inkjet printers have disappointed my household. Every print job (after the first two or three) failed because the ink had dried out. I finally got fed up, and started looking for a cheap laserprinter.

      The town "freecycle" had a posting for a free (come and get it) LJ5, so I grabbed it. Tried it out and was discouraged to hear a grinding noise, which clearly was not a Good Thing. Google and The Internet came to the rescue and I disassembled it, ordered some gears, a rebuilt fuser assembly, a network interface card, extra memory, a recycled toner cartridge, and set to work. A week later I'm looking at the most beautiful print I've seen in a long time. The test page says this printer has had 300k+ pages through it, but you wouldn't know it from the print quality or a look at its pristine innards. Someone had done the recommended PM. And the thing is *built*. Pretty much all you need to maintain it is a screwdriver, and replacement parts are inexpensive and readily available.

      So...I'm sold. It draws about 7 watts on standby and since it's on the network, with my Linux box acting as an Airprint server, even the Apple user in the house can print from her tablet. I spent a total of around $250 on the repair/upgrade, which I consider quite reasonable. I found a couple of unopened genuine HP toner cartridges at Goodwill for $20 each, which I figure will last me the rest of my life.

    7. Individual #6/42
      Mushroom

      Re: HP LaserJet 4

      AFAIK those things will be the only thing to survive Armageddon. I sold mine and it’s JetDirect card 5 years ago for the same as I’d bought it for.

    8. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: HP

      "

      It was less than a year old, if not used for a couple of weeks it would jam up so the print head wouldn't start, the simple remedy was a tap on the side, that quickly became a routine.

      "

      I suspect that a small drop of machine oil on the printhead runner would have constituted a longer term fix.

    9. aregross

      Re: HP

      The HPII was Ok but the real workhorse was the HPIII. Never had a problem with them, NEVER. The IV would occasionally need a P/S, that was when HP LJs started going downhill. Using a 2300 now with no issues!

      There's a place locally that rebuilds toner carts with new image drums, top notch! Only had a couple bad ones and they replace them immediately.

      1. jtaylor

        Re: HP

        The LaserJet IIIsi was a legend.

  2. macjules Silver badge

    Witten this before

    In 1992 I was "ordered" to get on a plane to Helsinki to sort out their brand new LaserJet IIIP* along the basis of "get out here and sort it out now!" (but in uppercase) without any option to check what was actually wrong with the printer over the phone. Took the usual spare cartridge, spare fuser, spare ream of A4 50gsm (makes it easier to shred and burn). Got there and simply switched on the printer and asked "where is the problem?" to the incredulous staff. Turns out that nobody had ever told them that you have to switch the printer on.

    Overnight stay in a 5-star hotel plus business class return flight all billed to an already diminished budget of Our Very Angry Man in Helsinki.

    * Best printer ever made IMHO. almost never caused errors and everything could be quickly disassembled and reassembled in minutes.

    1. WanderingHaggis

      Re: Witten this before

      Had similar incident with a users and monitors (the tower is on but the screen off but the tower has a light therefor it is on) -- unfortunately, it was only a walk from the second to ground floor, no hotels. :-(

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Witten this before

      I like Helsinki - hope you has a bit of time to look around.

    3. Xalran

      Re: Witten this before

      I owned a LaserJet IIP ( little brother to the IIIP ) for years and I concur to your last line.

      No error except failed hardware that could replaced in a matter of minutes once you knew how to disassemble the thing.

      At that time I had a bunch of spare parts at work in the form of a large stack of LJIIP waiting ( they waited for years ) to be recycled and an OK from IT to use them to replace my broken parts as long as the printers were complete when I was finished... Sadly, that stack got finally removed and when the mirror controler failed I couldn't get any replacement part. So I had to throw it away.

      Since then I haven't bought any other printer ( inkjets stuff are just scams to get you to buy ink cartridges and laser printers became just huge compared to the LJIIP/LJIIIP form factor )

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Witten this before

        Long 90 minute one-way trip to a insurance office in the southern end of Alberta.

        The HP printer had been down for days, screams to HP, who screamed at our service department while waiting for the power supply to turn up before we get scheduled to go to site.

        This is a two assembly replacement, requiring a fairly awkward tear down. One part finally turned up, the other being shipped by plane to be collected that evening.

        The order came down from on high "Go to site, with the part as a placatory step, do not fit it until you have both parts, just make a token gesture of fault finding!".

        On arrival the first thing I did was plug my DVM* into the power cable & then the wall power socket itself - Nada.

        Go check circuit breakers, not tripped (Thinking if the PSU had failed, it might have taken out the breaker), you'll have to get a sparky in.

        Aren't you going to fix it?

        Nothing to fix & by way of demonstrating, used a extension lead they had kicking around to plug the thing into a nearby office, where it sprung into life.

        Left the office & laughed like a drain (& cleaned up on the mileage claim).

        * Part of my standard toolbox & rarely seen when meeting\working with other techs (Especially young pup's - Much like bar code scanners, never seen them in any other techs arsenal, yet so handy when you need to read off a single or 100's of serial numbers**).

        ** Based on doing a sweep of a complete building, logging every asset & serial numbers on users desks that the deployment teams had failed (& supposed) to log during the hardware swap outs. The project manager had given them excel forms that weren't large enough for the lengthy numbers & about 4mm high to fill in with pen (I don't think they even had clipboards). The PM had to compile the data into a Master spreadsheet reading their handwriting over the entire weekend.

        Thus all concerned were all very cranky, except me as I turned up to assist & with my tablet PC & scanner in hand, set up a spreadsheet in excel duplicating the form, started getting dark & jealous looks with comments about "Why I was doing it that way! Where had I got the laptop & scanner from! Why didn't they have them for the survey!".

        I said I'd bought it & along with the laptop it was my personal property. Some countered with "But the scanners are expensive", my reply of about 10 - 15 bucks on eBay second hand & saves hours of agony is an investment I am happy to make a return on (Especially while still billing for the expected time on site. See icon).

        Hmmmmm the angry & frustrated looks I got as they went back to writing things by hand.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Witten this before

          Easier still are scanners with built-in storage. No need to tote even a tablet around especially when you have to clamber up warehouse racking. We were using them on stock-takes about 25 years ago.

  3. MiguelC Silver badge
    Devil

    Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

    No.

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

      Ditto.

      At best, I usually won't tell them what the embarrassing oversight was unless asked, and even then I'll tend to phrase it passively ("It was out of paper" rather than "You forgot to refill the paper tray and ignored the message on both the printer and your screen").

      But if you call me out to fix a problem, I'll fix it. If you're the problem...

      1. Antonius_Prime
        Devil

        Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

        "But if you call me out to fix a problem, I'll fix it. If you're the problem..."

        Yeah, HR in my current place don't like me wandering around loudly clacking the old Ethernet Crimping Tool...

        Summat about cracks about crimping... I'unno...

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

          I was thinking more generally of " ...I'll take steps to ensure you don't cause that problem again". Specifically I was thinking of changing their setup to deter re-occurrence or educating said user (possibly using minor humiliation as a tool), but I guess an ethernet crimping tool comes under the heading of "take steps".

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

            "but I guess an ethernet crimping tool comes under the heading of "take steps"."

            I don't see how. You can't fit an eyeball in one.*

            *What? I mean, they have two. They won't make the same mistake again.

        2. Joe W Silver badge

          Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

          Loose ends are bad, termination is good.

    2. Rol Silver badge

      Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

      I never thought I would find two letters side by side so hilarious, but "No" definitely had me chuckling.

      And when you think about it rationally, the IT job really is a test of a person's resolve punctuated with the occasional moment of sheer bliss, as you whittle someone's overbearing ego down to a toothpick, so why would you deny yourself.

      Also, it's an inspiring lesson for the rest of the office, which may have the desired effect of turning them away from the dark side of taking aim at the IT folk whenever anything goes wrong.

    3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

      Re: Ever solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment (...) ?

      All depends on the user.

      Of course, for self-preservation and passing-grade considerations, I'd be sure not to embarrass the teachers while working the HS AV department.

  4. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Out of tree error

    Personally I always favour that one as an "Out of Tree" error. Well where does paper ultimately come from?

    Of course being non-specific as to whether I'm referring to the printer or the user in question...

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Out of tree error

      Someone once handed me a massive stack of paper for their work. It was written only on one side of each page, and every other line. I wrote "1 tonne of paper = 17 trees" at the top. Next one came in much slimmer.

      1. SuperGeek Bronze badge

        Re: Out of tree error

        "Someone once handed me a massive stack of paper for their work. It was written only on one side of each page, and every other line."

        My Aunty recently had me proof read a book she wrote. The file was 630 pages. Thinking it was a big book, I opened the DOC file. She's written it as above! One line, then every other line, only one side of a sheet! And she wondered why a publisher wouldn't look at it! I bet it was only 50 pages total, even if duplexed. I didn't bother re-formatting it, i'd have charged her £500 an hour!!

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Out of tree error

          Double spacing was required in my student days (typewriters) and single sides was the only way (and also required).

          I guess the PC is still just a clever typewriter to some.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Out of tree error

            I guess the PC is still just a clever typewriter to some.

            Yep, and these are the same kind of dinosaurs who insist on double spaces at the end of sentences and absolutely and utterly refuse to use styles or other formatting aids (multiple spaces and manual formatting the entire way)

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Out of tree error

          To proof read double-spaced single-side is how I'd want to see it. But I would expect her to it printed out.

          You need it double spaced because comments and corrections go into the inter-line spaces as well as the margins.

          Also, personally, I find it easier to manage a stack like that single-sided, putting each page to the back once it's been read. Perhaps that goes back to the old days of typewriters and cut & paste actually meaning cut & paste (well, cut & staple) which only works if it's single sided.

        3. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Out of tree error

          Maybe slightly OT but I'm an amateur fantasy writer and my publisher/proofer dictates how I send my copy to be proofread - something like docx, double-spaced, 1" left margin (I think), so many words per page and other such requirements.

          If it's not perfectly laid out as requested, it's simply ignored/returned even if you think you have the next Harry Potter masterpiece.

          She used to have a magic about her ------>

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Out of tree error

      "Well where does paper ultimately come from?"

      Various chemicals in the ground plus a some sunlight?

      (Oops, you said "ultimately, so that would be the Big Bang then, the source of all things!)

  5. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

    Not me, but I did let them have it... After loading paper in the "It won't print Printer" I gave my best dirty look and asked them to call me next time their stapler needed refilling too... NOT! pffft users...

    1. 9Rune5 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

      I kind of feel for them a bit sometimes.

      After all, those printers are doing their best to be as unintuitive as can possibly be.

      Americans won't know what I'm talking about but... "PC Load Letter". I think I was about 12 when I first saw that. And it was confusing. (keep in mind that English is not my native language, nor had I, at that point, been subjected to anything non-metric -- except that my granddad had taught me to measure stuff in inches)

      "Jam" was also confusing. Eating a sandwich covered with strawberry jam helped me, but not the printer. Heck, at 46 not much have changed really, except I'll probably go for red currant jelly (supplied by my lovely aunt who recently sent a big jar by mail -- bless). Paper jams however seem to be a thing of the past. Some progress may have been made. Or I/we print less.

      Printers are evil. Earlier this year I bought a colour laser (btw: is 1200 dpi beneficial, or just marketing wank? I haven't compared printouts yet) and so far it has been behaving well. I configured it to show its IP address in its display, and it is easily managed from its web interface. So maybe it is an exception, but I still half expect it to go up in flames at any moment. (I even installed a smoke detector) Or maybe things have changed.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

        > "PC Load Letter"

        Obligatory Office Space: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QQdNbvSGok

      2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

        Red currant jelly eigh? Just try some Quince Jelly. Or Sloe jelly (but only if you have made sloe gin and then sloe infused red wine from the sloes first)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

          "Sloe jelly"

          No. The only jam SWMBO has ever made which was inedible. Far too bitter. Sloes make an excellent wine or make gin drinkable but jam - no. Too much tannin.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

        I have said to users, if the error message is in English (PAPER JAM or TONER LOW), then in theory it's something they can sort out.

        If it's just a number (ERROR 53), then it's my problem.

        1. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

          ERROR 53, malformed PDF!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

            EBADR

      4. renke

        Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

        > Printers are evil.

        Thanks for that - I am not alone with this feeling. Printers hate me and I hate printers, no love lost between us (with maaaaybe one exception, already mentioned in the thread: The old Laserjets, like III and 4, were built to last).

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

          Printers may be evil. I remember my first ever computer, an Amstrad PCW512, with its own printer. I could not get the continuous paper feed through the printer to manage without tearing the paper and getting all messed up. Nearly drove me to tears, until I realised that I had to manually disengage the friction feed rollers for the punched hole feature to work on fan-fold paper. (What a twit I felt, but I can still hear the sound of that old dot-matrix printer.)

          The other ting I remember about that old Amstrad, was that the Digital Research (DR, not to be confused with DEC) Pascal compiler I bought for it would not for some reason terminate on a simple nested loop program which generated 120 permutations of symbols.

        2. chivo243 Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

          In my experience, users who expect too much and know too little about printing really make printing the bane of our existence. Is that why we feel printers are considered the red-headed step child of IT? Maybe I've been lucky, most issues have been hardware and not driver related. Saying it's a hardware issue stops all questions, it needs to be repaired under the service contract Software? Then we're expected to recompile the driver, add features and make it work with one click...

        3. Marcelo Rodrigues
          Devil

          Re: rather than slap the user around the head with an empty paper packet

          "Thanks for that - I am not alone with this feeling. Printers hate me and I hate printers, no love lost between us..."

          Nah. I love printers! - to bits.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    empty paper packet

    In my experience a FULL packet makes a much more effective LART

  7. MrBanana

    Not IT but...

    I see all sorts of self inflicted problems at the repair cafe I work at. Little old lady with a broken clock - "I put a new battery in it, but it must be broken". Studiously examine Poundland clock mechanism, probe with multi-meter, take battery out, swab battery case with contact cleaner, replace battery (this time with the correct polarity), hand working clock back to owner. "Just needed a bit of a clean".

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Not IT but...

      Did you not ask her to come back the previous day to pick it up?!?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: this time with the correct polarity

      Once upon a time you could tell the way the A[A[A]] batteries went in because there was always a bump in the housing for the "+", and always a little springy thing for "-".

      Nowadays, however, I am seeing some (e.g. even xbox controllers, not just random cheap crap) with the same physical arrangement - bump & springy thing - but tiny labels saying which way round they go, and not even consistent in the same device; so now you have to peer carefully just in case. It's CFI.

      1. MrBanana

        Re: this time with the correct polarity

        I think it is the Amazon Firestick remote that has 2 AAA batteries, but both orientated the same way in the battery case. When you're used to the up/down/up/down placement of batteries, it's very unnatural when you first see it.

        1. Pete B

          Re: this time with the correct polarity

          Apple mouse used to be like this - 2 AA batteries inserted the same way round - the contacts are arrange so that the one the wrong way round doesn't make contact, so it works fine - just doesn't last long with only one battery, and a perfectly good one then gets thrown away!

          1. MrBanana

            Re: this time with the correct polarity

            Having the two batteries in parallel - that is odd. At least in the Firestick remote the internal wiring was in serial, even if the batteries were arranged to look as if they were in parallel - just remembered my old Sony Walkman WM-D3 was the same. In another clock based incident I have seen two batteries the same way around, but in separate circuits. One to power the hands of the clock, the other to cause Micky Mouse's leg to kick like a pendulum.

            1. gnasher729 Silver badge

              Re: this time with the correct polarity

              Makes sense when one battery has enough voltage, but two batteries mean you swap them once a year instead of twice a year.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's CFI.

        Is that "Complete Furtling Idiocy" or "Cloister Fart Incorporated"?

      3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: this time with the correct polarity

        Mos often its printed on the silkscreen & they still get it wrong.

      4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: this time with the correct polarity

        I've put my own do-it-yourself batteries-this-way-round sticky labels into the battery compartment of some devices.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not IT but...

      When my mother in law's PVR stopped responding to it's remote, I told her to put "freshly charged rechargeables" in the remote and test it again, to avoid any chance of using random old discharged batteries.

      What I failed to understand is "freshly charged" wasn't specific enough about actual charging the bloody things before use!

      It's completely Impossible to out think some people...

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Not IT but...

        Well you know the old mantra about trying to make something idiot proof...

  8. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Used to have totally the opposite - damn LX tractor feed units chucking paper everywhere or nowhere. I'd clear them, shove a couple of dozen feeds through them, get two or three people to send jobs, check things were still ok. Turn my back and the bloody things would jam ...

  9. RockBurner

    Oki used to produce a very nice small laserjet printer which had the footprint of a piece of A4 (I forget the model name, if anyone remembers it, please enlighten us!)

    Most reliable printer I ever had experience of. "It just worked". Wasn't fast, but ideal for home use.

    Annoyingly I have no idea what happened to it, but I think I simply ran out of use for it and it got 'lost' in a house move or similar.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      They used to do a "Winprinter" (direct GDI to page) device that matched that description. I once kitted out an entire office with those. This produced blissful silence from the, usually whingeing, users and made my life much more pleasant.

      If it was one of those, you probably ditched it when XP showed up (or 2k if you're a masochist) and it stopped working.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        or 2k if you're a masochist

        Nothing wrong with 2K, it worked better than XP until SP3 for XP appeared (which made it equal in reliability with 2K SP4).

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          >Nothing wrong with 2K

          2K = Windows NT4 + USB support = damn near perfect

          1. BenDwire Silver badge
            Go

            I totally agree. I still use it in VMs when I need to run up old windows programs.

    2. KLane

      Okidata C series printers, maybe?

      Are you thinking of the Okidata C series (C710) printers, possibly? Their dot-matrix (Microline 8x series) was pretty reliable for the most part, I mostly had to replace pin-feed tractors (plastic belts) and do proper PM to keep them going.

    3. aidanstevens
      Flame

      Something like a Panasonic KX-P6100?

      I had a similar model but it died having had very little use, unfortunately.

      I now have a Dell 1100 (rebadged Samsung ML-1610) which I somehow manage to keep going. The output path (? as the paper leaves the printer, after going through the fuser) used to chew up everything that I printed so I took some bolt croppers to the rollers and leave the fuser cover open with a screw wedged between the cover and the switch to fool it into thinking the cover is closed. Works fine!

      1. big col

        I bought an ML 1610 back in the windows XP days, was a wonderful little printer which I bought from Dixons for £15 on clearence. When drivers became unavailable it sat in a corner in the loft feeling sorry for itself for several years gathering dust.

        About 6 months ago I was about to bin it and then realised that it would work on a Rasberry Pi under CUPS. A new toner and drum cartridge from Ebay for £5, and now it is a happy printer printing away. It works great with all devices in the house from Chromebooks, Android, Apple and Windows.

        As for the paper being chewed up, I found that a light sandpaper rub to the rollers, followed by an alcohol clean fixed paper feed problems.

      2. TSM

        "Something like a Panasonic KX-P6100?"

        I had one of those! Well, actually two, after someone relieved us of the first one and some other computer kit after entering our house via a window they'd jimmied open. Lovely little machine with a very simple paper path so the occasional jam was very easy to correct. Did have a limited lifespan though. The one that got nicked was approaching its end, so getting it replaced on insurance wasn't the worst thing that could have happened.

        These days I use a Canon MX870. Yes, it's an inkjet, and quite chunky, but apart from the cost of feeding it I have never had any issues of any kind. It just sits there and does its thing day in, day out.

        Now if I could just stop SWMBO from making pointless copies of any form we send to anyone [if you REALLY need to keep a copy, just scan it on the very same device and we can always print a copy out if we ever need to], plus printing out random web pages which she almost never refers to again, we could cut the fodder bill quite a bit...

    4. gryphon

      Oh, I remember those. Nice little bits of kit. Actually LED rather than laser if I remember correctly. Panasonic also did a vertical laser which was about 10cm wide.

    5. Down not across Silver badge

      OKI LED printer. I can't recall the model from top of my head either.

      I think I still have old Brother HL-1260 somewhere that was similar (well effectively a cube, bit larger than A4 though, maybe 1.3 x A4). That was rock solid too. And it had BrotherScript (ie. PostScript) as well as PCL natively supported without any additional expensive modules.

  10. GlenP Silver badge

    Old Lasers...

    It's not that long ago that I finally retired a huge A3 colour HP LaserJet 5500. I'd been at the company 10 years or so and it was considered "old" when I joined. We only got rid because I could buy a decent modern MFD for less than the cost of the service parts it needed.

    Best small HP lasers, IMHO, were the LaserJet 4L, it had a straight through paper path from the manual feed that would print on quite thick card, handy when the company manglement forgot to order any personalised C*******s cards, just got a batch of blanks and ran them through. We also did the tech details on a brochure for a product under development (the specs changed every other week). We simply had the printers do the front side in full colour and printed the backs a few at a time. That lasted until a senior manager decided it was a waste of time and money and ordered 1,000 fully printed brochures, 990 or so of which were out of date and binned a month later.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old Lasers...

      got a 4L when I was either in my 3rd year at Uni or doing my M.Sc, great little printer!

  11. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    No Paper

    I probably told this story before, it happened in the same era of Win95 although without any shouting or unnecessarily far-reaching embarrassment. The user phoned me and said that she cannot print. So, I happily pop over to her office - while Mademoiselle S. might not have been the sharpest tool in the box, she did have some convincing arguments for a young lad to pay a visit. Anyhow, first glance at the printer concluded: it is on. Secondly, I opened the paper tray and told her: it does print considerably better WITH paper. And then I simply enjoyed the moment.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: No Paper

      What, no "Reader, I married her"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No Paper

        I don't care how attractive a young lady is, you do not marry a fool.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: No Paper

          " you do not marry a fool"

          Never call a man / woman a fool, borrow from them.

        2. eldel

          Re: No Paper

          Oh I dunno about that. My wife did and she's made it work for the last <mumble mumble> years.

          1. Imhotep Silver badge

            Re: No Paper

            I came along at the time my soon to be wife was willing to 'settle'. I'm all for women with low standards.

        3. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

          Re: No Paper

          We've all been fools at some point...

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: No Paper

          "you do not marry a fool"

          That depends on the nature of "you". In some cases one has to conclude that only a fool would marry them.

  12. Gringo99

    I never protected the guilty

    If something was "fixed" by turning it on, I used to say "it works better when you turn it on".

    I've found that shame helps the user remember their mistakes (well, and mines too!).

  13. Spacedinvader
    Unhappy

    Must be a quiet On Call week

    If we've resorted to the "it's out of paper". Again.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Must be a quiet On Call week

      True, but it's still a winner as you can see from the number of comments.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Must be a quiet On Call week

        "Out of paper" and "It's not turned on" both beat "Work" on a Friday afternoon.

        Gotta have something to keep you going until ----->

  14. Richard Gray 1
    Pint

    Robocop ED 209

    I was working as a subby in Scotland, and we were told to relocate a printer that kept jamming.

    only to find it was one of those old HP large format printers that look like ED 209 from robocop.

    It was located in a shed at the end of a platform at the train station.

    The door was a bit sticky so we ended up having to "push it gently" with our shoulders. we then removed the printer and wheeled it down the platform and out of the barriers.

    No one said a thing. We had a few funny looks but no one asked for work ticket, paper work, ID or anything.

    When we relocated it it was plugged in and was not a happy camper. I unplugged it and recommended to my boss that we leave it until tomorrow to "have a look at it". Sure enough after a days warming up it worked fine.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Robocop ED 209

      Slaughterhouse in Alberta.

      The Canon printer kept jamming up & the shift workers overnight would tear the paper, leaving it jammed in the fuser requiring callouts from Canon (Wasn't a simple pull out & replace job like HP's).

      Long story short - They had removed a wooden table in the area (Just before I had started there) that used to soak up the ambient moisture in the air, hence why the jams were suddenly occurring. Solution every shift picked up a single fresh ream of dry paper from reception.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Slaughterhouse in Alberta.

        Ah, that's sad, I thought there was going be sanguinary ingress in your story.

  15. A K Stiles Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Paper loading

    I have tried all manner of explanations in the past for how to load headed paper into the main office printer - the most successful, but not infallible was "Headed paper only, Top this end, Face down". It reduced the occasions of having to go and remove plain paper from that drawer or rotate / flip the headed paper to just once a week or so, rather than the several times a day grief it was previously.

    My usual response was something along the lines of "Happy to fill the paper for you. I get paid the same whether I do this or develop the software you need to do your job..."

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Paper loading

      My usual response was something along the lines of "Happy to fill the paper for you. I get paid the same whether I do this or develop the software you need to do your job..."

      Bonus points when that response is to a bean counter, double when the bean counter manager overhears it.

  16. Dabooka

    When optical mice were new...

    My pal at work got a shiny new Dell along with all the other in his office.

    I pop in to have a chat but he's not there, out on site or some such, so I leave a note. By writing the word 'nonce' on a slip of Post-It and attaching it to the underside of his mouse. Cue his return to find his nice new PC is not responding and a call to the techy to complain he can't log in and his 'mouse isn't working'. [You can see where this is going can't you?]

    Rocking up with a spare mouse the tech has a quick look, peels off the Post-It and proclaims 'Apparently you're a nonce mate. Try it now'

    He certainly didn't spare his blushes. To this day this remains one of my crowning glories at work and we both continue to communicate via this method.

  17. FishCounter

    Oracle Printing Issue

    Just had this issue last week; customers couldn't print from Oracle and printer looked fine, LPD service on print server was running (gets knocked offline by some jobs). Accessed the printer via web UI and will you look at that...no paper in the letter tray. Gave the help desk manager who called me about this only a little grief as he's the one who called me and was still on the phone when I "fixed" the issue.

  18. Giles C Bronze badge

    Rules of network printing for users

    This used to be the process about 15 years ago.

    1. Print page nothing comes out of printer

    2. Print again (repeat until it works)

    3. Print to every printer you have a connection to (including those in other buildings)

    4. Complain to support nothing is working

    The fix is usually

    They passworded the print job (newer systems)

    Pressed the off line button

    Changed the paper size.

  19. KittenHuffer Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Never underestimate (l)user intelligence!

    Back in the days of W95 I had one user that created an excess of Helldesk tickets. On one such visit I arrived to find that everything was w**king perfectly, and I was told that quite often the fault disappeared when the IT techy arrived. So I explained that we were each issued with a small fob that transmitted a signal that the computer would pick up .... and start w**king again! How I delivered this with a straight face I'll never know, cos I could see the other office occupants grinning at me.

    I returned to my department only to be dragged in by the boss ..... to explain why he'd received a call demanding one of the 'small fobs' that would make the computer w**k properly!

  20. Sparkus

    You haven't seen printer 'fun' until you've seen a late 1980s Siemens 'industrial' laser printer that used roll-feed paper stock run out of control...........

    This is not 132 column fan fold paper in nice 15 kg boxes. These are actual industrial / newspaper sized rolls of paper. The handling system alone was a pretty impressive collection of steel beams and high pressure hydraulics.

    Think of an A0 wide loo roll about 3 km long spooling out at a couple of meters a second. In those cases, the book said to let the paper run out completely because the inertia of the spinning roll was enough to be dangerous to try to stop.

    1. MisterHappy

      Ohhh I have wonderful memories of those.

      One of my first jobs was at a place that used those beasts. Roll of paper maneuvered into place by me and a colleague, arms come down and out so that we can line up the roll with the holder, press the load button and watch as the hydraulic arms pick up the roll and lift it into place.

      Next steps were to feed the end of the paper through the various rollers, ending with the 45 degree roller in the bottom of the printer (where in other places the box of paper would be).

      The fun part was that they also had the folding table at the end of the printer (yet more rollers to navigate), when that went wrong it was a race to stop the printer to avoid a huge pile of prints piling up between the printer & the folding table.

      Having said that, the 'cold fuse' variant of that printer was a dangerous bit of kit but that was a later job and I knew enough to avoid it like the plague.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My wife's answer to no printout immediately emerging from our home printer seems to be to just try printing it again, then repeat 10 times, then give up. When I eventually want to print something myself, and find the paper either jammed or run out, after fixing the issue I then have to either wait it out for her stuff to print out, or battle through the cryptic menus displayed on a scrolling 10 character display on the top of the printer, on top of a cabinet, such that I have to get a chair to stand on to read the thing, in order to cancel her print jobs. Even when it does print out successfully for her, 50% of the time she never bothers to pick up the paper, as she'd only printed it "just in case she needed it". I'm eagerly waiting for the paperless office to actually happen.

    AC, as she also has anger issues :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wait for it

      Waiting for the paperless office to happen

      Wasn't yours part of this brave new world

      Wait for PC LOAD LETTER

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Have you tried turning it off and on again?

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      It's a bit tricky to get to my electricity meter... so I read it with my camera phone.

  22. Neil 44

    Line printers were the most fun!

    You could play tunes on them.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu4SxJqU9I4

  23. TomPhan

    I don't want to stereotype doctors as arrogant...

    But more than once we've had a call about a printer needing paper and the person who had 10 minutes to call the help desk about it is too busy to put any in.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I don't want to stereotype doctors as arrogant...

      Your problem there is that you need to make them wait far longer than 10 minutes for their call to be answered. And make the music really horrible.

      Fixed it for you.

  24. DS999
    FAIL

    Why would you lie to the user?

    If they think you worked some sort of magic they aren't going to learn what they did wrong, and a quick resolution to their problem only makes it more likely they call you right away before stopping to think and double check what they know to check.

  25. ShortLegs

    "His story takes us back a quarter of a century

    to the headquarters of a national agency where he was the sole technical support person and tasked with keeping everything ticking over, from Novell servers to those newfangled Windows 95 desktops"

    Hang on, a quarter of a century? No, that would mean my first day at Unilever managing Netware 4 boxen and Pentium based disk-less PCs was...

    ...oh. Yeah. 25 years ago :(

    I feel old now.

    Gits.

  26. shedied

    Offer an *out*

    It's all about the distraction.

    "Was there a power outage recently?"

    Then you power the thing on.

  27. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I suppose it might ruin the fun but it would be a good idea for IT departments to set up a rule that all call-outs to re-load or change printer paper, switch on printers, PCs, monitors etc. or plug in their power cords will be charged back to the department at an appropriate professional rate; the minimum will be 1 hour even if it's to the next desk.

  28. earl grey
    Facepalm

    the worst part

    is after being retired a couple of years now i still have all the manuals for those early HP printers.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Until I saw the solution I was prepared to start shouting "Fake News!". LaserJet 4's don't stop working, they just get replaced by something inferior. They were the ultimate office printer and everything has been downhill since then.

  30. Shred

    A decade or so ago, I was doing IT support for the teacher education school within a university. One day, I was asked to drop everything and run to the video conference room - the fax used to receive documents wasn't working and they needed it fixed right now.

    On looking at the fax, I found that its LCD display was showing "Paper tray empty. Insert paper and press GO". I filled the tray and pressed GO and away it went. Disaster averted.

    There were about 20 people in the room, at least 15 of them having a PHD, but none had been able to solve the problem. As they say: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. If you can't do and you can't teach, you teach teachers".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Many years ago, a company we did server support for managed to let both of their IT guys go on leave at the same time. When this was discovered they asked if we could send somebody on site for the day to do desktop and end user support. The company agreed, I drew the short straw and was duly sent up to Middlesbrough to do my penance back on the pointy end of IT support.

      I didn't get a single call all day until late afternoon when somebody asked me to look at their fax machine. This was completely out of the realms of what we were supposed to be supporting, but I was bored by this point and despite knowing next to nothing about fax machines I agreed to have a look.

      Turned up, randomly poked a few buttons then switched if off and on again. Problem solved. Shortly after that I could go home.

  31. Grumpy Rob

    Fun with Laserjets

    Another great thing about Laserjets was that, with the IP address and some simple scripting, you could write short messages to the display. My favourite message was "OUT OF CHEESE" - that certainly got a few funny looks from users when picking up their printout.

    Unfortunately the place I was working at changed out all the old Laserjets with huge copier/printer/scanner units AND stifled creativity by password-protecting all the gear. The fun police are everywhere nowadays :(

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Fun with Laserjets

      @PJL RDYMSG DISPLAY = "Game Over"

      PJL was great not just for pranks, but for checking/setting printer settings. Especially in multi-user environments where sometimes some jobs could leave it in somewhat undesirable state.

  32. xyz

    My girlfriends response to any IT story...

    .. That I might wish to impart is always "OH GOD, NOT ANOTHER PRINTER TRAY 3 STORY."

    I keep stuff to myself these days.

  33. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Lots of great stories, as usual...

    ...but no one has noticed that "John" was a bit crap at his job.

    Step 1 - clear print queue

    Step 2 - send test print

    Step 3 - ping the printer.

    WTF? Where is Step 0? Check the fscking printer first!!! Odds are that anything but the cheapest, nastiest printer will have some kind of status display. Why destroy the users print queue when it's almost certainly going to be a paper jam or paper out?

    1. Glen 1 Silver badge

      Re: Lots of great stories, as usual...

      Because you can do 1-3 without leaving the comfy chair.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Lots of great stories, as usual...

      If user has printed 10 times a 30 page document that he wants once, the print queue is where the problem is now. Deal with that first.

  34. xyz123

    Once had a guy complaining to IT that his personal printer stopped working.

    He'd had multiple printer jam tickets raised, and had decided to 'fix this' permanently (in his head the paper was to blame obviously) by simply removing (and throwing away) all his printer paper.

    So he emptied the printer, then complained it wouldn't print.

  35. Man inna barrel

    Printer is on fire

    The printer is fine, but somebody messed up a print job, and now we have page after page of garbage spewing out. I cannot stop the thing. KILL! DELETE! STOP!. The bastard kept going. A print job has been issued. It must be executed. That is The Law. So I feed it paper until the vomiting abated. Not very Unixy, I admit.

    Another good one was the photocopier in the electronics lab. It had a faulty temperature regulator, but worked fine for single sheets. There was a big notice saying "DO NOT PRINT MULTIPLE COPIES". One day, someone came in from another office to "borrow" the photocopier. I do not know how you get to be a secretary without being able to read, but there she was, trying to print 20 copies of some wodge of blah. And sure enough, smoke poured out, and someone had to rush over and turn the thing off, before the sprinklers were set off, and wrecked all the electronic kit in the lab.

  36. Bruce Ordway

    Just the opposite

    >> solved a silly problem, but spared the user from office-wide embarrassment

    I worked with a guy who would do just the opposite of this.

    This person was very creative in the ways he could make printers (and just about anything else) fail.

    He would then take much joy in exposing the next user (victim) to as much scrutiny as possible.

    No one was off limits and surprisingly everyone enjoyed his shenanigans.

  37. Whiznot

    My boss once spent considerable time trying to figure out what was wrong with the new x386 computer. I walked in and pressed the monitor's power button. I'm sure that many of you have had the same experience.

  38. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    American company with UK office

    I was once involved with an ambitious US start-up that wanted to setup in the UK, with swanky offices in Chelsea. Interesting company in many ways, but I can't say much more than that ;)

    I kitted out the office with everything I recommended and everything worked like a sewing machine.

    The only problems they had were when the bosses flew in from America for meetings. They'd plug their laptops into the network and they couldn't print, and then nobody could print. So I'd get a really shirty call from them with the sweeping statement that "nothing is working". One of my support philosophies was/is still to endeavour to deal with situations such as this face-to-face. I'm sure many of you will have guessed the problem already and, sure enough they were up and working within five minutes of my arrival.

    The problem was one of paper size, their laptops were instructing the printer to use US paper size, and the printer (HP LaserJet 4 I think) was setup to print A4.

    In hindsight I believe the reason for their visit was to blame the UK operation for the poor performance of the company. A matter of months after that the company went down in flames quite spectacularly. (I wish I had more time to write a book...).

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spare the embarrasment?

    I'd gladly hit them over the head with a full ream. All in the name of education, of course.

  40. jtaylor

    Top priority "Can't print"

    I worked helpdesk at a teaching hospital that was part of the state university system. This had all the politics, egos, and other nonsense you might imagine.

    One day, I was told to drop everything and fix a printer problem. What's the problem? "Don't know, such-and-such unit just called. They can't print." I replied that Intake nurse's station was down in the ER. A printer is not life and death. I'll get to it. "No. Go there now and fix the printer immediately." So, I went.

    "A printer is not life and death."

    At the Transplant unit, they explained that organ transports require a document from the hospital, on controlled letterhead (not to leave this room.) And the flight out to pick up the organ was leaving soon.

    I ran down the hall and grabbed the first LaserJet that I saw. Yelled "Sorry, back soon" over my shoulder as I yanked the cords and barged out the door. They printed that document, then I had time to troubleshoot the original problem and return the stolen goods.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Top priority "Can't print"

      Well done. (But that's a terrible single point of failure. Next time it might not have been an issue solved with a spare printer).

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: But that's a terrible single point of failure

        I agree. In mitigation I *did* mention that this was a LaserJet 4 and the consensus - here at least - is that these were/still are damn reliable printers. IIRC they had a maintenance contract on the beast too. Staff on premises using the pc's on a regular basis were 3, cost of a decent printer in those days was a sizeable cost.

  41. VBF
    Megaphone

    Tact and Diplomacy - not!

    Actually, for awkward dozy tw@ts like that user, I used to say loudly, "I've replaced the paper, would you like me to show you how to do it next time?"

    Which is why I moved into testing.....no ******* users to deal with!

  42. Muscleguy Silver badge
    Boffin

    I am reminded of the physiology lab I demonstrated back in the ‘90s. This was the year the analogue pen recorders and oscilloscopes were replaced with all in one Macs (last version before the iMac) on stands with an analogue-digital converter box on top (designed by the dept head’s son {spinoff co still going I think).

    I was called over by a student in the nerve conduction lab who had followed the instructions, pressed the ‘stimulate’ button but nothing had happened. I went to check the nerve (sciatic, cane toad) was properly seated against the electrodes in the organ bath to find her partner was still dissecting it out of the toad leg.

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