Disposable technology by default

Bogue Sound Sunset

Bogue Sound Sunset

I was working for Apple Computer in January 1985 when the company introduced the LaserWriter, the first laser printer to be widely used.

The list price was $6,995 and more important to those of us lugging it around for demonstrations, it weighed 77 pounds.

I was happy that my previous career was running a cattle farm where I spent much of the winter hauling around 100 lb+ bags of feed.

It is a measure of the change in our society in the last seventeen years that the third week in December 2011, I bought a Brother HL-2270DW laser printer for $99.98.  It only weighed 15.4 pounds.

The original Apple LaserWriter printed eight pages per minute of 300 DPI text and graphics using a 12 Mhz Motorola 68000 chip.

The Brother printer that I bought prints at 27 pages per minute at up to 2400 X 600 DPI.  It has a 200 Mhz processor.  The new Brother printer comes with Ethernet and wireless connectivity.  The Apple LaserWriter only had LocalTalk, a very slow but revolutionary network for 1985.

The Apple LaserWriters were built like tanks.  Most of them lived to a very ripe old age considering how fast technology changes.

It is an interesting story about how I came to purchase my $99 laser printer.

A little over five years ago, we bought a second home on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.   We were not on the coast very long when I decided that we needed a second office.

There is a picture of the office that I created in November 2006 at this post, The Not So Reluctant System Engineer.  In the picture, you’ll see the Brother 5250DN laser printer that I bought at the time.  It was virtually identical to the one in my Roanoke office.  I paid around $199 for it at Staples.

In the slightly over five years since I put together my office, there have been some changes.  I still have and use my Dual G5 Mac and my HP C6180 AIO Photosmart printer.

My Dell desktop system now runs only Ubuntu Linux, and I have added an I5 iMac to my coastal office.  The iMac nearly overwhelms my desktop.  My trusty MacBook that I bought in July 2006 recently gave up the ghost.  My main laptop since February 2010  has been a HP I7 with a 15″ screen.

About the middle of December I finished the first draft of a book that I am writing about my career of nearly twenty years at Apple.  My wife told me that she would only proof a paper copy so I printed one copy of the book.  At well over one hundred standard sheets of paper, it was the longest thing that I have ever printed.  I got a warning light on my laser toner, but I pulled the cartridge and shook it around like I have doing for years. The warning light stopped.

Around a week later after some additional miscellaneous printing, the laser printer stopped printing.  Both the jam light and the toner light were blinking.  Over the last year, the Brother laser printer had shown a tendency to jam while printing.  I did all my tricks, but I still could not get the printer going again.

I knew that it might finally be out of toner, but I was somewhat suspicious since the last page printed did not look like it had come from a printer running out of toner.  Also I have never seen a printer just stop printing because of lack of toner.

I went to Staples in Morehead City the next day to pick up a toner cartridge.  I was a little worried that it might not fix my problem with the printer.   When I got to Staples, I found than a new toner cartridge that prints something over 4,000 pages would cost me around $85.  As I was walking to the checkout counter, I found that I could buy a new laser printer with a starter toner cartridge for $99.  The starter cartridge would be good for 1,250 pages, over a year’s worth of printing for me, and a larger cartridge would only cost $44.

It didn’t take me long to decide, I took the replacement toner cartridge back and bought the new printer.  It only took me a few minutes that evening to get it working with everything.

My old printer is sitting in a closet waiting for me to bring down the toner cartridge from my printer in our Roanoke house.  If the toner works and fixes the problem, I will try to give the printer away.  If it doesn’t fix it, I will just recycle the printer.  I know from past experience that once a piece of electronics dies, investing money in it is mostly like a waste.

The new printer works fine and looks at home on the printer shelf.  I am not very comfortable being a member of the disposable society but economically little else made sense.

While we aren’t at the epicenter of the shopping world, fortunately we have plenty of services in the area and a Staples not far away.  While we don’t have an Apple Store here on the Southern Outer Banks, we  seem to manage pretty well in the world of technology.

Given the choice of another computer store or having fish and beaches in my backyard, I don’t think my vote will go to the computer store.

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