This is a list of the printers I have owned in reverse chronological order. My recent purchase caused me to ponder just how universally crappy my printer experience has been, except for the laser printers I have owned. I might have been much better off saving $10,000 and buying a laser printer when they first became “available” to SOHO users.
Networked colour laser printer. I picked up the 300N last week for about AU$1.10 per N. This is the first colour laser printer I have owned, and certainly provides the best $/kg value of any printer I have owned. It takes four toner cartridges which are rated at 2000 pages, and cost around $70 each. It’s fast, and while it isn’t the world’s best colour printer by a long shot — it works with Windows, Linux and Mac, and doesn’t require turning on a PC to use. So far, for the 5 pages it has printed, it rocks.
Dell Photo All-in-One Printer 922.
USB-connected Windows-only, colour inkjet, scanner and copier. This printer cost me nothing. It was practically thrown at me when I was buying a Dell laptop for a relative. While discussing the hilarious prices ink cartridges sell for the salesperson cannily told me I’d probably be ready to buy a new laptop next time I ran out of ink anyway, so why quibble over cartridge prices. That didn’t end up being true, as the “introductory pack” of black ink ran out very soon after it was set up and I felt the touch of Dell’s conveniently located “buy more ink” service right alongside the friendly graph showing just how out-of-ink I was. Buying one black cartridge was a complete rip-off, and buying two lowered the unit price by 40% or so, so I planned ahead and got two black cartridges for marginally less stupid prices.
Eventually, my kids’ readily accessible source of paper for aeroplane construction, drawing, and origami boulders grew tired of having the paper ripped the wrong way past its feeder rollers. It began its rebellion by feeding between 0 and 10 pages at a time, with 0 and 10 being the most likely values decided. Out of warranty, I declared the printer dead. Does anyone want to buy some ink cartridges?
Having a scanner and copier on hand was undeniably useful. I’ll have to find a reasonable replacement for the scanning capabilities at least.
My favourite printer ever. Purchased in about 1999 and still going strong. The KX-P6100 is small parallel interface Windows GDI-talkin’ monochrome laser printer that inspired the “toaster” building at Sydney’s Circular Quay, I’m sure. It’s about the size of two reams of A4 paper and stands “upright.” Panasonic no longer have a printer division — this was the printer that broke the mould. Panasonic apparently didn’t “get it” like other printer manufacturers do. They seemed to think that there was nothing magical about their toner so they didn’t use much and sold it cheap! $25 per ~2500 pages cheap.
Unlike a bubblejet, the KX-P6100 can rest for months without printing and work perfectly when you pull it out of mothballs. I still have it waiting in the wings, but driver support is getting a bit shaky with the arrival of Vista.
[…Time passes, and Chris & Jessica own a series of anonymous colour bubblejets…]
Canon Bubblejet BJ-10 & Apple Stylewriter
When Bubblejet technology hit the big time and Canon released the BJ-10, I was employed, relatively flushed with funds, and eager to torture my dot matrix printer collection to death and dance on their grave. I had been dreaming about bubbles and jets since I read about them in Byte magazine so I snapped one up as soon as I could.
The BJ-10 was a dream — relatively fast, black, laser-like printing on ordinary paper with a little bucket of ink which it could inform you was empty (or could it?) and no nasty ribbons. Sure bubblejets need to be used constantly or they jam up. And they need to be used sparingly or they fuzz up. But they were still way better better than dot-matrix dinosaurs.
Owning a Mac meant owning the Apple-branded equivalent of the BJ-10: the Stylewriter.
Epson LQ-500 & Epson LX-50. 24 and 9 pin dot-matrix printers.
I’m guessing here. I think I was the proud owner of two ribbon-chewing, mis-feeding, very rugged and noisy Epson printers during early university days. The two features I recall being impressed about are speed and price. Not having to wait a week to see hard copy of a 500 word essay was pretty novel. I recall printers being staggeringly expensive for something that you rarely used, and paper and ribbon prices seemed sky-high too. I guess the people I shared my university accommodation with probably recall an overwhelming sense of knowing which very early mornings I had assignments due, from the fantastic cacophony that accompanied the completion and near-completion of any assignment. I bet they marked the date when graphical fonts extended the printing time on dot matrix printers nearer to the upper thresholds of noise tolerance.
I marked the advent pf graphical fonts by allowing several times the printing time to get my assignments in on time. Sitting for hours between midnight and dawn waiting for the printer to jam, or screw up the feed hole alignment so you could restart the page over and over is not a fond memory. These were awful, awful printers.
When I first started working at the Commonwealth Bank, I was given a tour. My guide showed me a large room which was wall-to-wall dot-matrix printers making paper copies of every ATM transaction made in the region for dispute resolution. Even as I stood in the door to that room, watching two operators fumbling with printer ribbons or jammed paper, I estimated I could see 5 or 6 other printers with similar problems.
Commodore 1520 Plotter. Centronics-connected 3(4?)-pen plotter.
I didn’t own one of these, I just convinced my school to buy a few of them for the (don’t laugh) Vic 20 lab. They had fantastic text quality and quiet operation. This made the 1520 stand out very favourably from the early dot matrix printers that were common at the time. It was trivially easy to apply basic maths to generating colourful spirographs and other sophisticated-looking graphics. The downside was the paper was a roll that was only about 3 inches wide and had to be ordered from Commodore. The pens held a minuscule quantity of ink too, and guess who you had to talk to about acquiring new ones.