Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Color Cartridge Inkjet Printers - Garbage!


Printing is dying.  Color printing at home makes no sense.

I have two printers, neither of which gets much use anymore.  One is a Canon D530, which is a laser printer. copier, and scanner all-in-one (a similar model had built-in fax capability but who faxes anymore?).  I have had this printer for many years now, and the print cartridges are fairly cheap (four for $35!) and it works as well as my old HP LaserJet 4P printers, which were as reliable as diesel engines and smelled about the same.

Those were the days - not too long ago.  We printed everything, and made copies, too!  Paper files were kept and everything was mailed "overnight" in cardboard envelopes.  A stack went out every day.  But thankfully, the "paperless office" finally came about, with the advent of large displays.  It is ironic, but at the dawn of the computer age, paper consumption went up as we still kept records on paper, and since you could create seventeen drafts of a document, you did - and printed them all.

In the very, very early years of the computer business, paper consumption was scandalous. "CRT" terminals with flickering monochrome dot-matrix displays, were a rare commodity.  Most programmers used a "terminal" which was fed with "tractor feed" paper (which was nearly 15" wide).  Everything - and I mean everything - was printed out.   A days work at a terminal would produce a huge garbage-can full of paper.  It made little sense.

Over the years, I went through a number of printers.  At work, we used Digital LA-36 DECwriters.  At home, I had a succession of dot matrix printers - and Epson 9-pin and a couple of Panasonic KXP-1134 dot-matrix printers in "near letter quality" format.  Someone gave me a Smith-Corona "daisy-wheel" printer (basically an electric typewriter without a keyboard) that sounded like a machine-gun going off when you printed. I "found" an acoustical enclosure at the Patent Office and used that machine for a number of years.

But the HP LaserJets put all that to shame.  They were quiet, fast, and "letter quality" and you could print from three separate "trays".  I had our twin LaserJets setup to print from copy paper (large drawer) letterhead (second drawer) or enveloped (manual feed).  It worked great - unless some idiot printed out a Patent Application on envelopes!  And over the years, they soldiered on, until one started to jam more and more often and went to the trash, and then a few years later, the other did as well.

I don't recall if I bought another laser printer in the interim - I may have and it was a dud.  But I found this Canon D530 online for cheap and it has served well over the years.  It is not only a printer, but a scanner and a photocopier as well.  For a home office, it rocks.

On the other hand, color printers, in particular ink-jet color printers, suck.  They started offering "inkjet" printers a couple of decades ago, and the gag was, the printers were often sold for cheap (and often given away for free with a new computer system) and provided with a "test cartridge" that might print 100 pages before it ran out of ink.  You had to go out and buy new cartridge(s) and they were not cheap.  The printer companies - and HP was among them - decided a "subscription model" was the way to go.  Give away the machines, and make the money on the cartridges.  To prevent third parties from making knock-off cartridges, they put a small "chip" in the cartridge with some copyrighted code on it - whose sole purpose was to make the cartridge perpetually protected by intellectual property (unlike Patents, copyrights go on for decades).

If your third-party cartridge didn't have that chip, the machine would not "recognize" it - a foreshadowing of today's "proprietary" architecture in everything from cars to farm machinery (Hello John Deere?).  So the cost per page to print with an ink-jet printer was staggering - 10 to 20 cents a page in some instances.  And the machines were slow as dirt and often left lines in images because of the scanning nature of the print head.

And the cartridges, if not used regularly, dried up and clogged.  The machines had a "cleaning" cycle that basically wasted ink by spraying into a sponge material (you had to clean and replace those sponges over time, but the owner's manual often made no mention of this).  If you did not print regularly, the cartridges would dry up and you might get a few dozen pages out of a cartridge before it was shot.  This is not acceptable - it is not even a printer!

We scored a free Canon MX430 color inkjet printer when Mark's stepmother passed away.  Tellingly, no one else wanted it.  I thought it might come in handy for the occasional need to color print something.  But years later, I have foolishly spend well over $100 on cartridges and printed less than 100 pages - maybe far less - of documents.  And yes, like most color printers, it will balk and refuse to print even black-and-white images if the color cartridge goes South.

So what's the point of it?  I recently powered it up and tried to print with it, only to be greeted with a blank page. Both cartridges - which are oozing ink all over my hands when I removed them - are "empty" or just broken.  The disposable print heads are likely clogged or shot.  I go online and new cartridges are advertised as low as $5.99!  But when I click on the link, the black ink cartridge is $18 and the color is $20 for a combined total of $35.  I thought about it for a second and realized that if I wasted that money on the cartridges, I might get a few pages of color printing out of them and then, they too, would dry up.

There are, of course, better printers out there - color laser printers, and color inkjet printers with refillable ink.  But they are not cheap and my need for color printing - or any printing - is pretty nil at this point.  It is cheaper and easier to just go to the local Staples and have them print something out if I need color printing. 

So,  I will throw the printer out.  They still make a version of this printer - the MG3620 which has the same cabinetry and I suspect the same print engine (they appear to use the same cartridges) - and it retails for $69.95 at Best Buy.  I suspect the demand for my decade-old (or more) version isn't enough to make it worth listing on eBay or even shipping to someone.  A set of cartridges is worth more than the printer.  It is akin to the old gag about junker cars - you can double the value simply by filling the gas tank!

That doesn't stop a couple of brave souls from listing their old printers on eBay - for $35 plus $16 shipping!  Gee, a decade-old printer with no cartridges, or a brand new one for about the same price with free shipping?  Tough choice - but both are a bad bargain, as the cost-per-page to print is scandalous, particularly if you don't print often.

So into the trash it will go.  I suppose I could drop it off at Goodwill, but even they are getting wise to "electronics dumping" these days.  Obsolete electronics are worth nothing and things like CRTs have a negative value, as they can be hard to dispose of.   The only thing worse, for a charity donation place, is when someone dumps a smelly old couch (missing a cushion) at the back door, late on a rainy night. They have to pay to haul it away.

So, trash it goes.  Kind of sad to throw something away, but it never really was a functional printer in the first place.

Shit like this is one reason my love for computers died.  Back in the day, you bought a piece of equipment and you had something worthwhile, that was functional and useful - and was obsolete long before it wore out.  These ink-jet printers?  Just trash from the get-go. They are just a "why bother?" product.

I am sure some reader will regale me with tales of commercial-grade inkjet printers that are not utter pieces of shit.  And maybe they exist.  But they aren't cheap, and given the amount of color printing the average person does, not really cost-effective.

I am looking forward to having an additional square foot of desk space, instead!

UPDATE:  The inkjet printer is gone.  The laser printer remains.  I have to say this Canon D530 has been a nice laser printer - reminds me of my old HP4P printers. Nice scanner/copier, too!

The inkjet? Just junk. Not even worth using as a scanner.

What kills laser printers (and scanner with sheet feeders, fax machines, etc.) is that the rollers and associated gear with the sheet feeders get old and dry up and then they jam, jam, jam!

I had a "plain paper" fax machine and used it for a decade or more. They sold a sheet feeder maintenance kit which included new rubber rollers and foam pads.. So long as I replaced those every 2-3 years, it never, ever jammed.   For most other machines, once they jam, it's all over!

The "print engine" may still work, but since the paper won't feed, the printer is useless.  And since parts are not readily available, it's game over.  Both my HP4P printers went to the trash when they became perpetual jam machines.

But hey, they lasted well over a decade by that point!