Low cost Ink-jet printers suck

(This post can also be enjoyed…if that’s the right word, at my new site that I love until I get bored with it, the Whirling Vortex of Suck)

Color printing. It may seem odd to many people today, but we weren’t always able to print in color from our computers. My history dealing with computers and getting some kind of printed output goes back to the mid-eighties and therefore my viewpoint is somewhat skewed by my experiences. My first computer was a Mac Plus and the printer I used was a Seikosha SP 1000. This was (and still is I suppose) an eight-pin dot-matrix printer that while in operation sounded remarkably like running a wood chisel on concrete at 8000 RPM and was about as painful to listen to. There were Laser Printers available but they were god-awful expensive and about the size of a small car.

Ink-Jet printers to the rescue! As compared to their laser printing brethren, they were much cheaper and the output from them (if you didn’t expect too much) was just fine for common documents and maybe even a little desktop publishing, though that could be expensive for large print jobs. Except something happened along the way. Ink-Jet printers got even cheaper, but the replacement ink cartridges became more expensive. OK, I can deal with that. I understand that Canon, HP, Epson, and the like deserve to make a profit. If they didn’t, the people running those companies would be thrown out like yesterday’s bathwater. I can even deal with the fact that they sued companies that were making replacement cartridges since that was their real bread and butter. What I DON’T like is that for the last few years, these companies seem to making these printers with very little in the way of quality and durability.

I don’t use mine a whole lot. Occasionally I’ll print something like a licensing agreement and some holiday cards and letters but I’m mostly dealing with documents on an online basis. I DO expect them to last over a year. I SHOULD expect that if something goes wrong, that it might be worth repairing over replacement. I DO expect that even if I have to replace the damn thing, that I should be able to find another that uses the same expensive cartridges so any cartridges I have left can be used in the new printer. Lately though that’s not been my experience.

I used to use Epson printers until they succumbed to these kinds of bad habits, so I switched to HPs. Didn’t take long before I learned that HP did much the same, so I then went to Canon’s Pixma line. Last year I bought a Canon Pixma ip3300. Worked great until the other day and here’s where the story begins.

My younger son has discovered the theater. During the summer, he and a friend of his during theater camp performed some excerpts from Oklahoma. So now he’s bitten by the acting bug. The theater group has asked him and his friend to audition for their next production except they can’t use any of the material from THAT production for their audition. So, being 12 years old and with a bit of a sense of humor they decided to sing and play the violin and piano to (God help us all) the theme from Gilligan’s Island. What does any of this have to do with ink-jet printers? I’m getting to that.

In order to have the words and music to the theme song required me to go online and look for it. The only place I found that had it was a service I’ll save for another day because they suck too. To make a long story a little less long, I could buy it but I couldn’t save it in ANY format but had two chances to print it out instead (told you I’d get there). After I actually paid $4.95 for a copy of the theme song to Gilligan’s Island (I know this stretches believability a bit in this day of expecting everything to be free on the internet), I attempted to print it. My printer went through its normal warm up routine and then went ERRRRRRNNNNNTTTT. This was not the sound I was expecting. It was still in the print queue, so I changed some things and examined the printer and tried again. ERRRRRRRNNNNNNNNTTTTTT. The printer was totally borked and nothing I could do would fix it. I was afraid that if I logged off the site I would have to pay yet again for the theme to Gilligan’s I sland. The only thing I could think of doing was to replace the printer. This might sound crazy in the wake of losing just $4.95, but I was going to have to get a new printer ANYWAY, so why repay for this stupid theme song?

So off to Target, where they had no Canon Printer that used the same ink cartridges that my now broken one used. So I tried Office Depot and ended up buying a Canon Pixma ip3500. Yes, it MUST be better since 3500 is more than 3300, but more importantly, it used the same ink. I connected it and it wouldn’t see the print queue from the 3300. Online I go to find the OS X driver for this printer (and yes I had the disk, but wanted to make sure I had the latest one from Canon). Installed it, but I had to restart to activate it. In the words of the Charlie Brown trying ever so futilely to kick that damn football that Lucy is holding…AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGH! One restart later and with the tech Gods smiling down on me, the files were still there waiting to be printed. One drag and drop later and I had two printed copies of…yes…the theme to Gilligan’s Island to give to my son.

What I also have are two broken ink-jet printers (I still have the one from before the 3300 as well) that really aren’t worth getting fixed. With all the grief that Greenpeace gives Apple for their manufacturing methods, you’d think they could throw a little tantrum in the direction of ink-jet printer makers for making garbage that isn’t worth repairing and ink cartridges that don’t last very long thoroughly clogging landfills all over the world. Thank you makers of low-priced ink-jet printers! You suck.

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