Ask any sysadmin what hardware they have to deal with is the worst and I think universally they will all tell you it’s printers. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest ones are:

  • They use / misuse consumable items like ink, paper, etc.
  • They have a ton of moving parts to jam or break or get blocked.
  • They tend to be in places where end users are asked to service them and often put in incorrect paper, jam things or misrefill ink, etc.
  • Recent trends have made printers lowest margin items. If your printer doesn’t work, throw it away and get a new one, it’s cheaper than fixing or refilling your existing one.

A few years ago I got a HP multifunction printer (when it’s predecessor broke and it turned out to be cheaper to just buy a new one). The scanner part of it works great and always has. The printer part on the other hand has been nothing but horror. I don’t tend to print much at all, but a few times a year for some reason or another I need to print a document or directions to something or whatever and every single time this printer has failed me on the first print attemps. Reasons for it’s breakage have included:

  • It’s been so long since I printed the ink “dried up”. Once I was able to get it working by cleaning it with a q-tip, once by making the printer run it’s clean print heads cycle about 20 times, once by buying a new cartridge (almost as much as a new printer).
  • Once it decided to just not turn on at all. Unplugging it completely and waiting 5minutes and replugging it “fixed” it.
  • Once the color ink cartridge was low so it wouldn’t print anything (even just using the black cart that was full!) which required a new color cartridge.

Over the holidays I cleaned out a lot of my computer room, so I could see all the printers I still had that I hadn’t managed to throw away. 2 old HP inkjets, an old epson, and… what is that at the back of the room? why it’s my old HP laserjet 4P. I used that printer extensively during college and after and finally retired it when the tonor ran out and I wanted to move to a new shiny color inkjet printer.

So that got me thinking. The laserjet 4P only has a parallel port, but a quick check found a parallel to usb cable for $8. At the time I retired it, a tonor cartridge for the 4P cost around $100, but looking now, I found one for $12. A quick amazon order and a few days the items arrived. I hooked up the printer to my main server and put in the new tonor cart, added it to cups and printed a test page. A lovely 600dpi test page.

So, hopefully this laserjet 4P will now print reliably for me for the rest of my life and I can avoid the inkjet “buy a new one” everytime I need to print something.