An Office Affair Gone Bad

Why are printers so terrible?

What makes an office affair go South so quickly? Almost faster than when it started? Well, if you are like most people that have romanced your…..printer…..With new ink, it still may not work. Have you pushed the on-off button multiple times to reset your printer relationship? If you’ve been ignoring your printer for a while now and the ink is all dried up…

Well, here is an excerpt from an article by Clive Thompson entitled Why Printers Are So Terrible. Excellent read, then call Office Supply Solutions to save money on printers & ink!!

Printers are pretty terrible because they really are. Like many people, I’ve had printers break on me in myriad irritating ways. Sometimes, the nozzles on inkjet cartridges start to leak or get clogged, or wireless connections crapped out and never work again. Other times, paper jams created a pile of internal confetti impossible to extract — or, conversely, the printer insisted it must suffer from another paper jam that didn’t exist.

The Four Big Reasons Printers Are Wretched are…

1) Printer companies sell ink, not printers

Printer companies don’t make any money on their printers. Instead, they make their money on the very-expensive ink you need to print.

The only way to sell you a ton of proprietary ink is to make sure you own one of their printers. So they sell the printers at low prices, knowing they’ll make it up over the months and years with all the ink sales.

The thing is, printers are super-complex pieces of precision technology that really should be expensive. 

But this is just the beginning of our woes. If making a good printer is a) hard and b) requires excellent precision, but c) the printer company doesn’t want to charge you the actual costs of attaining such quality, they’re probably going to wind up — intentionally or otherwise — skimping on quality. (More on this later.)

Of course, if a printer company makes money by selling you ink, they’re incentivizing the printer to run out of ink too quickly.  

Printer companies have also played tricks for the printer to use more ink, such as creating “calibration tests” and using swathes of ink to clean printing heads and to do other maintenance chores. Another way is by selling cartridges with increasingly less and less ink.

2) Printer companies use software to lock users out of cheaper ink

Printer companies have gone to war with customers who try and use third-party ink — by cramming their printers with software and hardware that detects third-party cartridges and refuses to use them. If your printer isn’t working, it might be that you tried to buy some non-approved ink — and the printer is fighting against you.

3) Wifi networking is complex, and printer wifi software isn’t top-flight

Even if you buy approved, champagne-priced ink from your printer company, you can find another problem with printers: Their wireless connections are faulty as hell.

My printer’s wifi connection stopped working about two months after I bought it. Despite my best attempts — reinstalling updated drivers on all my computers, updating the firmware on my laptop, and performing open-heart surgery on my router settings, etc. — it never worked again. To print anything, I have to go old school and plug my computer into the printer.

Why are printer wireless connections so dodgy? Well, to be fair to the printer firms, it’s because wireless connectivity is pretty gnarly. A printer must deal with many operating systems (often weirdly configured) and a welter of routers.

The problem is that printer firms do not throw a lot of talent at nailing this problem, partly because “printer networking” is not a sexy area of software. (I’ve interviewed hundreds of coders, and never once has anyone said I am eager for printer drivers) Also, they’re not paying for top-notch talent on their networking software, and it shows. I don’t want to be harsh on any hardworking software engineers in this field; I’m sure they’re doing their best with lousy resources.

4) Printers manipulate atoms — and atoms are hard

So, we can lay many of the printers’ woes at the manufacturers’ feet and the razor-head business model they’ve chosen. The model does not, and I’d argue, prioritize producing truly rock-solid hardware.

The point is that printers, far more than any other consumer electronics we use, need to move atoms around. Most other consumer electronics don’t. Smartphones have few regularly moving parts. Neither do computers (except for their keyboards), but atoms are much harder to work with than bits, so when you have a product that wields them, you have to take physical quality seriously. So, for example, suppose you wanted more robust printers that lasted longer. If that is the case, you’d probably want a business model where the printer costs more. So the company could be incentivized to work harder on the build quality — and won’t seek to recoup the money with crepuscular ink-selling schemes.

So, given the problems inherent in the printer marketplace, what can you do about it? How can you insulate yourself and get a printer that works marginally better and marginally longer?

 Here’s what I’d recommend:

  • If you’re mainly printing black-and-white documents? Get a laserjet printer. These use a form of dry ink, which, unlike the wet ink in an inkjet printer, doesn’t dry up or require ink-eating nozzle maintenance. The cost-per-page printing is much less. Printing only in black-and-white also means the printer is a less-complex beast, thus less finicky and likely to break. Black-and-white laserjet printers tend to be slightly more expensive than inkjet printers — but that’s a good thing, right? This model’s main problem is that printer companies have incentivized to charge virtually nothing for complex hardware.
  • In this scheme, do your black-and-white printing at home — and when you need color prints, hit up a printshop or a Staples (if you’re lucky enough to be anywhere near one)
  • What if you need color photos all the time? You’re stuck with a color inkjet, alas. I don’t have any good advice, in this case, Good luck.
  • As for dealing with unreliable wifi connections — make sure you keep the USB cable that ships with your printer when the wifi breaks, as it very well may; use the cable. If you try fixing the wireless, you may blow hours of your life and raise your blood pressure.
    Wish you Luck!

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