Smashed To Smithereens

March 02, 2006

One casualty of the move from Illinois to Washington in the Spring of 1998 was the printer. At the time we had a HP Color Ink Jet, maybe a 620c. Upon arrival in Vancouver it refused to work. Replacing the ink cartridge didn't help, cleaning the heads didn't work either. So we tossed it and bought a new HP.

With two computers it was always a pain to print anything. Windows 95 and later Windows 98 didn't really master printer sharing, so I bought a switch that would allow both computers to be plugged into the printer at the same time. The switch was electronic and could choose between computers based on the signal coming from them. Of course HP made this as difficult as possible. Their print driver had some diagnostic bits that wanted to maintain constant contact with the printer. Having the switch in the loop prevented this from occurring and the software complained. Thankfully on the Internet I was able to find a workaround that disabled the continuous connection feature. We used this printer quite happily for several years.

Eventually however it too gave up the ghost and we went in search of a new printer. Yet another HP was purchased, this time an "All-in-One" model that did faxing, copying, and scanning, in addition to light housework and Windows. This time the driver was very intrusive, but at least we could print. The first all-in-one wonder proved to be be reliable but once we switched to the Macintoshes it was dated. It had no USB port and therefore couldn't be plugged directly into either of our beautiful new computers. So off to Staples we went.

The USB printer was another All-in-One machine from HP; a 6110 in fact. Since HP insisted on installing a virtual suite of applications on the host computer, to aid with scanning, faxing, et cetera, it was plugged into Michele's iMac. We set her computer to share and I could print from my Powerbook. However scanning to my machine was out - the HP driver refused to install on my machine since the printer wasn't hooked directly to the computer.

This All-in-One model proved to be very problematic. Right from the start Microsoft Word almost never printed on the first try. Eventually the driver was upgraded to where it worked most of the time. But we both grew weary of continually having to use the software to stop and start the printer. Having a seldom used fax and a rarely used scanner was nice, but not really worth the trouble.

Recently I have had nothing but grief from this pile of parts. Tonight I needed to print one of my tax returns to be mailed and the printer absolutely refused to work. Big mistake on its part. After hitting it with my fist several times I unplugged it from the wall and USB cord and dropped it from about five feet up. Very satisfying crunch. Hmm. This could be a good outlet. Off to the dumpster, printer and hammer in hand I went. Ten or twelve furious blows with the hammer reduced the HP to the pile of junk to which it had always aspired. Hearing the glass of the scanner/copier table shatter was most satisfying. A tremendous amount of energy that I had been bottling up was expressed at that printer. Even flinging it in to the dumpster as hard as I could felt good.

There's nothing like beating up on an inanimate object to make you feel better.

After cooling off for a few minutes I set out to get a new printer. Just a printer, none of this driver intensive scanner/fax/copier crap. Just. A. Printer. Preferably one that was network aware. The HP model was color and $400. Too much. The Lexmark, while only black and white, was a mere $210. Much more in line with my thinking. Five minutes after un-crating it at home it was plugged into the router and had printed a test page declaring its DHCP assigned IP address. Exactly what I needed to see.

The tax return is printed in crisp laser toner ready to be mailed. And all three computers have a new network printer as their default. What can I smash and replace with next month's spending money?

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.