Limping along with an eight-year-old printer

It’s true. I’m still using a printer from the Bush II administration days, a Samsung CLP-300, and I’m immune to the idea that I should just replace it. It still works, and I’m a cheap bastard.

Well, maybe I’m not what you normally think of as a cheap bastard. I may just quietly donate to your charity and not say a word. I wouldn’t resent my taxes if I didn’t think they amounted to a donation to organized corporate crime with handy government laundering. I don’t mind paying for quality. I don’t mind buying you lunch and leaving a nice tip. I insist that my wife buy business attire without looking at the price tags, so that she gets what she needs rather than trying for false economy. I don’t mind spending, but gods, how I hate waste. I bought a quality printer, it still works, and it would therefore be wasteful to buy a new one. If I figure a charity for phonies or wastrels, they’re dead to me. If the lunch I buy you turns out to be lousy, my furious yet private embarrassment will assure that the restaurant has seen its last nickel from me. If her new clothes don’t hold up, we are shopping somewhere else next time. So when I buy something, I’m going to take good care of it, and I’m going to get every second of safe life out of it that I can.

That would explain why my pickup truck, which is half my age (it dates back to the early part of the Bush I administration), is still on the road. And I don’t want a new one. If you give me a free Ferrari, I’ll never even drive it just for curiosity’s sake. On the block it goes.

The way my mind works is that, since most people buy new trucks after five to eight years, and I have not bought one in twenty-six, every day of operation is pure value profit–that is, the value I gained exceeded expectations, and exceeded what most others gain, and is still racking up the wins.

I remember when color lasers were four-figure office luxuries and color inkjets became the norm. Ever since the first HP DeskJet, though, which retailed for $1000 (and people paid it), the purpose of printers has been to sell supplies, not to make impressions on media. HP was once the gold standard, but it lost its way, and now gives users Fiorinal headaches. Now I’d buy a Canon or a Samsung.

My CLP-300 has a parallel port. Before USB took over the connectivity of our peripherals, kids, printers required a big thick cable called a parallel cable. It was pins on the computer side and an oblong block on the printer side, and it clamped down there. I don’t think my computer even has a parallel port now.

Its power draw is so heavy that I couldn’t print without a battery backup. Absent this power source, the draw would cause the computer to power cycle, probably before the printer had all the data. When it fires up, the lights in my office dim for a moment, and I am once again reassured that my battery backup will work at need.

After about ten pages, as each new page feeds, something begins to clack inside. At fifty pages, the clacking gets louder.

When I send it a long and complex job, it thinks for about thirty seconds before it even begins to print, like an elderly man assigned a young man’s job. You think I should what? it seems to demand. If it’s a picture, it makes a passive-aggressive protest by leaving a few weak lines the vertical length of the image, just to remind me that I have inconvenienced its repose.

My printer jams now and then, for any reason or no reason, which will require me to pull the beast out and extract all the stranded paper by pulling with force. There is no other way. I suppose that the rubber takeup rollers have become plasticized from heat and age.

It has a collector cartridge that gathers up loose toner from inside, presumably with some sort of blower. When that fills up, there is no real signal that it needs dumping, but the beast won’t print. Samsung thinks I should spend another $20 on a new piece of plastic rather than just dump its contents in the trash. Of course, since inhaling a bunch of toner is toxic, dumping it poses challenges.

Depending on my printer’s mood, after a certain length of printing time, I will start to smell overheated plastic. Soon thereafter, the job will halt until the beast cools off. I don’t start long jobs and then leave the house; I stay close enough to smell any real smoke and hear the alarms.

After printing, it will protest for an hour with periodic power draws. Not strong enough to pop the battery backup again, but strong enough to cause a click and the lights to dim a tad.

The toner cartridges, size and shape of half-pop-cans, go in like torpedoes in a submarine’s tubes. When the light starts flashing to tell me that a cartridge is low, I take it out and perform a sort of rocking motion to distribute the remaining toner as evenly as possible. When the light goes solid red to tell me that the printer has had enough, and insists that I replace the empty cartridge, I rock it again while cursing it. About half the time, that gets me another fifty pages.

I’ll take ’em. They are value profit.

I don’t mind spending, but holy hell, waste is my enemy and I will war against it to the knife.


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