My tractor feed is misaligned

Yes, I took two weeks off and this is the best I could come up with.

When it comes to computer printers, I have either been exceedingly lucky or oddly blessed. Until now, I have owned a whopping three printers that served as my default, print-it-all scrawler. (I don't count my Epson R200 and R280 that I use almost exclusively for printing DVDs.) That's three printers over 22 years. I've had 13 cars in a period that's shorter by two years. Granted, I can't take any HP—not even a wide-format DesignJet—around a cloverleaf at 80 the way I could in my sorely missed '95 M3.

Still, printers not being known as a particularly hardy bunch of peripherals, my record seems a bit out of the ordinary. Boring, perhaps, but still impressive. I started with an Apple ImageWriter II, which was hooked up to an ultra-suave Apple IIGS. The "GS" stood for "graphics" and "sound" which were still rare enough in the WordPerfecty days of 1987 to be a selling point. At least that's what the sales guy told us.

The ImageWriter II was a nine-pin dot matrix impact printer that used a four-color ribbon to produce "Welcome back, William Yates 5th Graders!!!" banners via Print Shop. Given its nine-pin print head, the II's text output was decidedly pixelrific. Although at the time such output could actually be touted as WYSIWYG. The color output, however, was pretty spiffy, even if the only thing you could print was clip art of coffee mugs and sunglasses-wearing suns. If you were totally gonzo, you could swap out the ribbon for an optical scanner. Sure, it took nine times as long to scan something as to print (which wasn't exactly quick to begin with), but such was the price of dithered glory.

The ImageWriter soldiered on for quite some time, even after I switched to an Amiga 500. In the end, a sweet rebate offer from Hewlett-Packard on a DeskJet Plus meant the end of the line for the platinum battle-axe. We sold it to a hippie.

The HP DeskJet Plus was, to this high school senior, astounding. It delivered near-laser quality relatively cheaply and much faster than a dot matrix printer. And, of course, it was much quieter. I can no longer recall the retail price (it's been 19 years, people), but I actually do remember that the rebate was for $150. I bought one (well, my parents did as my graduation gift—swanky!) and my friend Andy "Dr. Evil" Brown did, too.

The DeskJet Plus stayed with me through college and for almost three years after. I even turned it into a four-color printer by getting ink refills in cyan, magenta and yellow and running the paper through four times. The results were better than they had a right to be, although the trapping was usually a bit off. In early 1997, I was in need of a PostScript printer, so the DeskJet Plus was transferred to my parents, who used it without a hiccup until 2006 (by that time with an iMac G5) when it unceremoniously gave up the ghost without warning. Hey, if you're gonna go, go quickly.

I replaced the DeskJet Plus with another HP product, the LaserJet 6MP. The "P" stood for "PostScript," which I, as a freelance (unemployed) ad wonk, needed. This was before the days of your computer being able to act as the PS rasterizer, mind you, so a PS-emulating printer was the way to go on the Mac. Features-wise, the 6MP was fairly basic. Even though it cost a grand. One printer tray, no Ethernet, no ADF, only two megs of RAM. But it was 600x600 dpi and could spit out pages all day long. When I eventually bought a Mac model that didn't have a parallel port, I simply snagged an HP JetDirect print server off of eBay for $25 and plugged the whole thing into my router.

In the 12 years I had the 6MP, I only bought two replacement toner cartridges. Two. And if one of those hadn't been a dud of a remanufactured cartridge, that number would be one. I guess HP hadn't heard of "starter toner" back in '97.

Twenty-two years. Three printers. I hope my new printer keeps the streak alive. But the story of finding it will have to wait until next week.

Plan your nap accordingly.



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