Friday, August 15, 2008

Luddites with blogs

I've been in quasi-futuristic mood (self-described as Videodomey), which I think was kicked off by the joint perusal of The Best of 2600, and my muttering to myself at my place of work, "Nothing's worked since we got rid of the dot matrix printer." The latter is a pretty sad commentary, but I feel it's accurate. Printing out sheets of things (in runs of 100-200+ pages every day) has been an ongoing hassle ever since switching to the purty laser printer.

The worst thing that used to happen was that the feeding sheets would get out of whack, and I'd have to climb under the desk to re-align them. That was annoying, but it was infrequent, and I could fix it myself. Now, we email the "tech guy" who comes in, looks at the error messages, and shrugs. And the same problems go on for days.

The Wikipedia entry ( at says one of the dot matrix advantages is that "they are good, reliable workhorses ideal for use in situations where printed content is more important than quality." I too am a good, reliable workhorse! And I'm generally more interested in content than in "quality," here definable as appearance and presentation.

I'd say something about my own obsolescence (and that's a weird-looking word), but on the other hand: I was BORN obsolete! Which implies that it's not change as such or the passing of time, as if there was a period when I was in vogue, and now I'm not. My values are just slightly askew of the culture, and always have been.

Anyway, the problem with the new printers is that they don't work as well as the old one. By work, I mean the basic job of transmitting a page of printed text. If it looks nicer in the end, but it takes a lot of anguish to make it to spit out at all, that's a bad trade-off. I'm not the one, after all, saying that time is money. We'd probably need to spend more than we can afford to get both pretty, shiny pages and still handle the amount of printing we have to do without inexplicable breakdowns in the system. Given that limitation, we're more or less stuck with what we have.

The interesting part of it all to me is that the idea of going back is completely unthinkable. You know, they still sell fairly inexpensive dot matrix printers just like we had, and all the accoutrements. Even the toner for non-color printing is noticeably cheaper. If I sat in a meeting and said with a straight face that we should go back to dot matrix, people would think me totally insane (in a whole new way).

Once upon a time, the sheets we printed basically existed to convey information. Once we decided it was important to convey information and look good doing it, well, we complicated the process. And when problems arise, we can't go back.

Multiply my brief, trivial musing at the printer yesterday by a million, and we have modern American life. No wonder so many people are so freaking crabby.

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