Wednesday, June 22, 2005


It's deadline week at Casa PBW, and I'm ready for the final manuscript crunch. Got my tea canister stocked, the man briefed, the kids prepped, the pets pampered, the housework done, and seven meals pre-cooked, packed and in the freezer with instructions taped to the lids. Bought a brand new box of printer paper, a backup toner cartridge, and a document box ready for the final product.

All I need is a printer. Only I don't have one. Mine blew up.

Harry, my beautiful high volume laser printer, who has never failed me once in three years, died last week. I was in the middle of printing out a draft and he simply shut down. He would not respond to reason, pleading, begging, or tears. I had to rush him out to my repair guy and pray for it to be a simple fix.

Repair Guy called today with the good news. It's the fuse assembly, Ms. Kelly. Happens once in a while. I can fix it for a hundred thirty bucks, have it back to you by Thursday. It's a great machine, so it's worth it.

I know Harry is a great machine. I take care of Harry. He's worth more than $130.00 to me. Naturally I said, Fix him.

I triumphantly reported this minor fuse assembly situation to Angel, my technowiz and hardware consultant friend. Angel immediately disagreed with my decision. Harry's repair cost too much money; it wasn't worth it. We got into a volley of words as I defended my beautiful outdated high volume junky laser but no color Harry printer.

Angel insisted I go to the local computer store with all the bright new shiny laser printers and call him from there so he could use the visual aids to further explain the error of my ways. I went because I needed some document wallets, and the man did once prevent me from using a hedge trimmer to finish off a petulant FAX machine.

Look for the new HP all-in-one, I was told once I had arrived and phoned Angel from the store. Dutifully I found a monstrosity that had so many buttons and trays and feeders and flaps that it looked like a square R2D2. That one will print black-n-white and color, scan, FAX and copy stuff, he said. For less than what you paid for the old junky thing. See if they have a pamphlet.

Junky old thing. Angel simply doesn't understand my relationship with Harry. Harry has printed out my last eighteen novels. Harry has never let me down, never jammed paper, never spit blobs of toner on my manuscripts, and never skipped a page. Harry has been a constant, dependable presence in my career. Big bonus: Harry never argues with me.

I found the pamphlet for the R2D2-squared thing. It required not one but five different toner cartridges. The system requirements sounded like a shuttle preflight checklist. It did things for which I had no working definition. I flashed back on the first time I hooked up a VCR to a cable box, and superimposed scenes from a horrible seventies movie called The Demon Seed.

You sound like Darth Vader, Angel said over the phone. Quit it. You have to stop getting so attached to these things. How much do they want for it?

I finally looked at the price tag. $999.00. The cell phone didn't break when I dropped it, but I did have to call Angel back. Then there was a short interval of strangled choking noises through which I managed to relay the price.

Not bad, he said. Though I can probably get it for a hundred bucks less. Well?

I told him what I thought. In French, so I wouldn't get booted out of the store.

Angel sighed. You better not call me when that old junky thing blows a motherboard. Go on, run.

With much gratitude, I fled the store.

Harry will be home day after tomorrow. I can't wait to hook him back up. Two cords, one button, all done. Harry will never scan or FAX or copy or take over my house and reprogram me and the kids. He'll just print out manuscripts, which is fine with me. And if something else blows, well, how much could a motherboard cost, anyway?


  1. Anonymous12:51 AM

    As long as you're happy with Harry, I say the $130 is worth it. Besides, I loathe the HP all-in-ones with a passion, having had nothing but trouble with them whenever I've encountered one in the office.

  2. Anonymous1:13 AM

    Geez...I was torn between two responses to this...

    At first I loved the story. sniff... It was a touching tale of loyalty, rather like an old Lassie movie...sniff.... And I thought, 'good for you!'.

    But then I had a vision...
    120 years from now...PBW, thin & emaciated, perched precariously on the edge of her feed tray, gently stroking that single, gleaming cartridge, and quietly murmuring,
    "My Precioussss..."

  3. I can't top dreamweaver's post ;), but I can say that I agree with you. Much better a workhorse that does exactly what you want than a high flying, bells and whistles printer that never quite does what you need.

    I only just entered the world of laser printers and am still fighting to learn how to print labels and envelopes, but our old dot matrix was chewing the envelopes too much and with the self-adhesive ones, that gets expensive. Still, I got the basic black and white that should last me years and I hope to have as good a relationship with mine as you have with Harry.

    Now naming a printer is interesting. My car has a name, my guitar has a name, my cats have computers have designations and my printers too, but it's not the same :).

  4. I have a Kyocera FS1800 with the extra ram and a duplex attachment. Takes a whole ream of paper in the feeder, and holds 250 pages in the output tray.
    I wouldn't trade MY workhorse for an all-in-one gizmoid, even if the 'all' designation included a nozzle with an unlimited supply of chocolate ice cream.
    Current page count: 231,390 - and I bought it brand new.

  5. Anonymous4:34 AM

    My swords have names, but my computer hardware is just hardware. That said, I wish it were simpler.

    If you have a printer which works, hang on to it. Life is too short for bit-wrangling when you could be writing.

  6. I hate HP printers, they're awful and they fail, jam, break etc... pretty frequently. Before you buy anything, if you should decide Harry needs to retire, do go read the consumer reviews at Amazon for printers, I found those really helpful.

    I have a Lexmark all in one inkjet printer and I love it. It has been the best and easy to use.

    I hope I never have to buy HP again.

    May Harry live long and print prosperously.


  7. Michelle and I are on opposite ends of the printer debate here. My one and only Lexmark nearly got thrown through the window. That thing was a hunk of junk! I gave it away the first opportunity I had.

    My HP printers (I have one for your day-to-day printing and one for photos only) have never failed me. My oldest one is a combo machine, not quite an all-in-one but close. Never had a problem with it. And it's old. Really old.

  8. Writers only need to print in black and white.

    My workhorse is a Lexmark E320 which is honest, faithful, clean and true. And doesn't do a damned thing but print in black and white. That, however, it does very, very well.

    I'm with you on this one.

  9. I can understand the attachment to things. For me, it's my bicycle: 30 years old, heavy, a bit rusty, no gears, but I love it to pieces. It has carried me to school, to riding lessons, to the university, I've made some wonderful tours in the surroundings of several places where I lived in those 30 years; together we have survived thunderstorm rides in the nowhere and driving home on sheer ice that built after a rain on frozen ground. No way I'll exchange that for some shiny aluminium thing with twentyfive gears, exchangeable saddles, mile counter, navigation system and whatever.

    Good luck with Harry. May you have a long and happy relationship.

  10. I can definitely understand ... for about six years, I was using a 233 Compaq Presario and adamantly refused to upgrade until the power supply fan gave up the goose. By that point, the type of PS to motherboard connector it used was several years out of date.

    Glad you were able to get Harry fixed. Though, from my own experience ... "How much can a motherboard cost" might well end up on the list of Famous Last Words. :P

  11. Anonymous7:58 AM

    No matter what the printer is, if it's been faithful, it's worth keeping around. I adore my HP (not quite all-in-one; just a printer/copier/scanner), and it has behaved beautifully. It behaves better than my computer...except for when my printer-happy cat tries to pull the paper out. They need to make cat-proof printers. *-*

  12. Anonymous8:07 AM

    Having worked in the graphic arts industry (hack! cough!) I've used my share of clunky ass printers in the workplace. When I left artwork behind and started selling words, I bought an HP Laser printer, didn't even look at anything else.

    No color, no special trays, no bells, whistles or doo dads. All it has to do is print my prose. It's not the bottom of the pile cheapie, but it's not top-of-the-line either and, so far, it's been flawless. Not even a jam.

    There's a lot to be said for specialization.

    May Harry print another 18.

  13. Good for you, PBW! I've had so much trouble with printers! I've gone through four in the last five years, all ink jets. They were HP. I now have a simple laser printer. I can't remember the brand. But it's just put in paper, press button, and it does the trick. I wuv it!

  14. Anonymous8:43 AM

    we have a lexmark optra. It just goes and goes and goes and is so easy to use.

    It's black and white, which is just fine and it does cards, letters, envelopes without a fuss.

    It's going on 7 years now with that beasty. I can see many more years with it.

  15. I worked in tech support, and have lots of new stuff. But still, I always say to people, if something is working for you, and you're happy with it, you don't need the brand new superduper version. If you're hanging on to something that is a compromise, that's different. But Harry does the job, and that's groovy. Besides, I heard that newer printers are designed to hold less toner so they can make more cash from the replacements. But that's between you, me, the internet, and every single blog reader out there. There is no cabal, and I was never here.

  16. Keep Harry! I've got 2 old HP lasers that I willingly pay to repair based on my experiences with new all-in-one HP ink jets & Lexmarks. First problem with HP all-in-ones is the drivers--they conflict with just about everything. Doesn't matter how many times HP comes up with a patch. Second problem is the cost of ink. If you print a lot, you could support a third world country for what the printer costs in ink and that's HP and Lexmark!

  17. Chances are 999-0 you don't print your manuscripts off in color. B&W laser printer is ALL you need, then. Your $130 is good in this techie's book. Later, if harry does bite the big one, you can hold a memorial service for him and move on to a nice $300-$400 new lser printer. B&W, of course. Kyocera, Brother, HP all make decent middle-of-the-road laser printers. Get a good color inkjet for photos, etc.

    Need bells and whistles? Visit a model train shop.

  18. I just saw that very printer over the weekend. I have been lusting for the day HP would make that printer. When my D145 inkjet dies, that all-in-one printer (or it's descendants) will be mine!

    And hubby may get one too, because the CopyJet won't live forever, and we have learned we cannot live without color copy capability at home.

    Really, the different cartridges are easy to work with. Hubby subsists fine with his HP 4550. It's virtually idiot-proof, and while you're not a techno-geek, you're not an idiot either.

    Go for it!

  19. Of course, on the economic, business, and emotional attachment level, if, for $130 you can get Harry back and get more years of service out of him, that's a great deal.

    The all-in-one color laser will be there in future years and, presumably, be more improved (although, I'm not seeing that in the printer development market--they seem to be making them more and more disposable).

  20. Anonymous11:02 AM

    For a long time, HP's toughest competition was older lasers that refused to die and couldn't be pried out of customers' hands. My 6P is one of those. The all-in-ones emphatically are not. Keep Harry until he goes up in flames.

  21. Anonymous12:02 PM

    I'm with them--keep Harry.

    I love my HP LaserJet 6mp. I'll keep it until it no longer works or I can't get cartridges for it anymore. When I replace it, I plan to replace it with another HP B&W only laser printer. For color--I want the Epson my son has for his photography business. It's gorgeous. And my experience with all-in-ones is that they don't do any of the things they do particularly well.

  22. PBW I know how you feel. I am having problems trying to decide what to do about my laser pinter. It is a little epson personal, but it needs a new toner cartridge. Unfortunately stores don't sell the replacement and it'll be almost as afordable to buy a new hp poersonal b/w laser.

    It's a good little printer, but I when I could get a new printer without the quirks at only about double the cost of toner I am having a hard time deciding what to do.

    Good call on refusing the all-in-one. I can see it for the regular normal pc crowd. They don't need a million components, but when dealing with laser printers avoid them. It is too expensive to replace a laser all-in-one when just one component breaks.

    BTW Thanks Jim for the heads up about samsung. I have a samsung camera and am satisfied, but I was considering replacing my laser printer with the samsung best buy has on sale this week. I guess it's back to scraping for that personal color laser, or settling for just a b/w.

  23. Anonymous5:41 PM

    My solution--keep my workhorse B&W Laserjet printer on my workhorse computer, and I just bought a cheap (under $100) all-in-one inkjet printer for occasional use with my other computer. I've worked in document production (scholarly journals, mostly) for about 20 years; when you print a lot, the workhorses are *worth* it.

  24. I feel your pain and loyalty to Harry, even though I don't experience the same with my printers. My printers, like many of my relationships, hang around reliably in my life for awhile and then, fade out.

    Sometimes I'm to blame. I didn't nurture my relationship with my HP laser printer by outfitting it with the proper surge protector. It fried during one of the famous summer Keys thunder storms. Others just couldn't perform anymore the way that they'd promised when I first hooked up with them.

    I agree with those who say that we shouldn't buy all-in-ones. I mean, it's not healthy or fair to trust the fulfillment of all our needs on one single partner. Oh, the pressure!

    A few months ago, I waded back into the printer relationship pool. So many choices. So many promises. Can any printer really deliver all the longevity, reliability and print quality a woman needs?

    I ended up with a Brother color laser that pumps out a very stunning 31 b&w pages a minute. Eight pages in full color with a color capacity of 6000 pages promised out of those expensive separate toners.

    The color feature enhances the relationship by giving me the ability to print gorgeous promotional and marketing pieces.

    With the rebate, the price came to under $500.

    I hope it's going to be a long, satisfying relationship.

  25. Anonymous7:27 PM

    Your loyalty to Harry willbe repaid with good service! *g* I'm with you on not wanting allthat techno stuff.

  26. For color printing (Photographs, etc) you want an inkjet anyway. $130 would get you an HP PSC 1610. For speed printing you need a Laser. People who don;t print out manuscripts do not understand the need for speed over functionality.


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