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

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

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Pint

That's why they put WEEE recycling symbols on them

Oh yes. I remember proper printers.

And pen plotters. They were amazing.

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

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

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Gold badge

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

And pen plotters. They were amazing.

Still got one - very deliberately preserved.

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

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

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

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

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Happy

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

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

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

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

And I know of another still in storage...

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

convert the thing to a laser-cutter

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

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

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

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

Like HPGL - blanck looks

For a pen plotter - blank looks

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

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Happy

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

"And pen plotters. They were amazing.

Still got one - very deliberately preserved."

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

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Happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like HPGL - blanck looks

For a pen plotter - blank looks

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

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

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Thumb Up

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

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

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Serial becoming extinct?

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

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Happy

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

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

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

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

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

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Paris Hilton

"I expect you to die!"

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

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

Paris, taken for many a joy-ride.

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Facepalm

Re: Serial becoming extinct?

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

It usually doesn't matter... usually.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Serial becoming extinct?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unhappy

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

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

Because they can make far more money the other way.

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Re: Serial becoming extinct?

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

So it's RS-423?

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

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

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rvt
Happy

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

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

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I'd laugh

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

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Terminator

Re: I'd laugh

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

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Pirate

Re: I'd laugh

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

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Thumb Up

Brilliant

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

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

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Re: Brilliant

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

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

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Re: Brilliant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloody thing had the torque of a donkey engine too!

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

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Re: Brilliant

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

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

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Pint

Happy SysAdmin Day

made better by a BOFH

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Anonymous Coward

Ricoh

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

With printers you get what you pay for.

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Stop

Typo watch

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

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

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Thumb Up

Re: Typo watch

Yeah that bit threw me off too...

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Devil

Re: Typo watch

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

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

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

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Mushroom

... less than a million?

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

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

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

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

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

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Silver badge

> Pah, we used to have a laserjet 5si

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

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

Feed rollers getting a little slippery after all this time.

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

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

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Anonymous Coward

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

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

AC

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

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

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Unhappy

250k?

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

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

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

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

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Dot Matrix Printers

Are made of machinery and noise!

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

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Re: Dot Matrix Printers

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

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Re: Dot Matrix Printers

Obligatory link to Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers:

http://www.theuser.org/dotmatrix/en/intro.html

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Happy

Re: Dot Matrix Printers

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

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

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

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

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dot Matrix Printers

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

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

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

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Pint

Re: Dot Matrix Printers

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

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Re: Dot Matrix Printers

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

Ah, happy days.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dot Matrix Printers

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

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

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Alert

Re: Dot Matrix Printers

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

Very distinctive, and sure to raise your attention.

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