The female embodiment of passion and energy and ZOOM! is Danielle LaPorte. I am constantly inspired by her.

On her blog she posed the question, What do YOU want to revolutionize? and asked people to post, write, blog, their responses.

Despicably Annoying

Only one aspect of the computer industry has failed to mature, innovate, or proceed in any discernible way for the last 15 years at least: PRINTING.

No, I don’t mean the inspired, passionate, and creative ink-stained wretches who turn out gorgeous letterpress business cards, etc. They amaze me.

I mean that worthless hunk of plastic that takes up an inordinate amount of space on your desk, which is actually cheaper to buy brand new than the ink that goes inside it. Whether it is Hewlett-Packard, Canon, Epson, or anyone else, these “printers” are simply an offense. And they need to be stopped.

The muddy imperfection of the inkjet is now an accepted standard. Serif fonts with blobby rounded edges due to imprecision. Off-kilter feed mechanisms that give you 3/4 inch margin at the top left of the page that grows to 5/8 of an inch at the bottom. Paper trays that take less than a ream of paper. Wasteful pools of ink sitting in the bottom of the printer, or inaccessible in the “empty” print cartridge. Software that installs literally hundreds of useless geegaws and widgets throughout your entire system, and then clouds the operating system’s well designed built-in print options.

The litany of failures goes on and on. Ask around and you will find exactly zero people who love their printer.

Simple Problems, Simple Solutions

There is absolutely no reason that a printer should take up that much space in my work area. It simply is not that valuable. My monitor, mouse, and keyboard do not take up that much space COMBINED, and they are far more critical to my work.

So take it off the desk, and mount it on the wall. Twelve inches wide, fourteen inches long, and four inches deep. Mounts to the wall like a shelf. The front is magnetic, or whiteboard, or corkboard, or something useful.

It fits a full ream of paper, so I simply open the paper and put it in. I don’t have to store 1/3rd of a ream of paper somewhere until the printer decides to allow me to put the rest in.

Software should be non-existent. The people who make this groovy new printer will have written the drivers for it, and have provided those drivers to each of the operating systems out there: Mac OS, Windows, and 3 flavors of Linux. It is built-in. No downloading necessary.

And finally, dump the inkjet technology. It was an interesting experiment, but the quality is repulsive. Go back to the Apple LaserWriter technology, in grayscale. Once we get used to high-quality printing again, the engineers will figure out how to do laser-based color right, and we will have truly exceptional output available at the consumer level. (I could go off on a rant about graphic design and the excessive use of color to cover poor design choices… but I won’t.)

Curmudgeonly Conclusion

I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but I have earned it. Printers have occupied an inordinate amount of my desk and my time since the late 1980’s. The problems have been consistent ever since the inkjet technology replaced Apple’s LaserWriter, and they have never gotten better.

Last year I finally gave up. My life, my time, and my money is better spent elsewhere. And fortunately I live within a few blocks of a Kinko’s. (Yes, I said Kinko’s. FedEx is a shipper. Kinko’s is a printer. I don’t care what they call it now.) If I REALLY need to print something, then I walk down to the Kinko’s with a USB drive and get it printed.

The result is that everything I print looks GREAT. People comment on how nice my printouts look. They notice.

Sure it costs more per page, but the overall cost is FAR less than I would spend on a printer, cable, and inkjet cartridges per year.

In the end, the way the printer companies treat us is just rude. They release more and more marginally passable garbage, and expect us to fawn over them like some Pacific island cargo cult. That level of hubris and openly hostile treatment of their customers needs to stop.

SOMEONE needs to invent the next printer.


Now you kids get off my lawn…!