Sunday, 1 April 2012

Do we really need printers at home?

After not having a printer for four years - I don't really miss it. I think there's technology that we're accustomed to that we only feel we "need" because we're used to it.

After I'd been living away from home for awhile, I managed to pick up a laser printer from a department store where I was working. It was an HP LaserJet 5L - loaded paper and returned it kind of like a fax machine - top loading and ejecting without a large paper tray. I had it from the mid 90s to the mid 00s and in that time only changed the toner cartridge twice. Eventually the paper feed mechanism died and even with a new cartridge, the image became cloudy and poor (probably the fuser or the corona wire).

I left it for awhile, I had other things on my mind and didn't have any pressing need to print things. In the past I might have printed things like Google Maps directions, or documents to send to people etc.. Sometimes photos in greyscale or little signs or notes to label things, remind me of stuff, shopping lists etc.

It's now a good.. hrmm.. at least 4 years since I've had a printer set up at home. Sure, I think I have an inkjet laying around somewhere in my garage, crying out for some new ink cartridges, but in that time I really haven't had an absolute need to print any more than perhaps 20 pages in 4 years. When that's happened, I've either gone to my parents house, or to my workplace at the time, and printed the pages off there.

When I had to lodge a damage report with my insurance company after being rear-ended by a cab, the broker I go through emailed me a PDF. I filled in the PDF electronically, dropped in a copy of my signature and emailed it back. I'm not forging the document - it is me placing my impression on the document. It just happens that I never actually printed it myself.

The upshot is I didn't have to post or fax it, the recipient got the file back in exactly the same quality I sent it and I was able to include computer drawn diagrams, Google Maps and photos. The problem I did have was the receiving company's systems having problems with my .id.au address attached to a Google Apps account.

When I need to do my shopping - if I need to make a list, I'll either grab an envelope from one of the bills that I can't get electronically and scribble on it, or I'll drop a note in my phone and just refer to it.

If I need directions, I have Google Navigation on my phone.. Ok, sometimes it gets it horribly, HORRIBLY wrong, but the point is, that except for perhaps printing a CV to take to a job interview (where I've already emailed them a PDF anyway), I have not NEEDED a printer.

Now, I know some people love to print photos out - they like that whole physical element - but that's just something we've grown accustomed to. Even my paternal grandparents have an electronic picture frame in their house. Sure, us grandkids are probably the ones who load the photos on, but the point is, if you provide the right interface to the information and keep it available, you don't ever need to transfer it to hard copy.

I can't remember the last time I bought a ream of paper - and I think that's a good thing!

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