Even Ewan MacGregor and Samuel L. Jackson can’t save you on this one.

As a keyboard monkey Technical Officer in a tech company, I do more than just watch YouTube videos install servers into racks, listen to Spotify set up point-of-sale machines and drink coffee answer phone calls for support. I also install and set up what continue to be the bane of my existence, the one constant entity in my life that never ceases to break me down as a man: the dreaded office printer. When I spoke at length a while back about typewriters and fonts, I mentioned making parallels with these God-awful machines, and I will do so today. But in place of typewriters, I’ll instead compare them to the Star Wars prequels, because who’s going to stop me? My editor?

Everyone knows the prequels as having a well-deserved reputation for being pretty rubbish (like printers. See, I got this). Sure, I was 5 once, and when I saw “The Phantom Menace” in theatres, it was a pretty big thing (midichlorians!). I remember watching “Revenge of the Sith” wearing a shirt of a decapitated Jar Jar Binks (I don’t have it anymore, but it was a pretty awesome shirt) and stuffing my face full of popcorn during that (admittedly) awesome final fight scene. So, let’s delve a bit deeper and talk about names for a minute.

Names are a beautiful thing

Printer companies, such as Brother, HP, Canon and the like bring out printers that look very much the same, and do very much the same things. You can pick them up off the shelf for what seems to be absolute pennies these days. They, as a whole, are “The Phantom Menace” for techs everywhere, because when we get a call and are told “The printer doesn’t work, please help!”; which printer? I’m sorry, but I seriously need to know brand and model, because the amount of them is ridiculous. Most of the time looking at them you can’t even tell what it is, and each brand has a separate, distinct way of executing a particular function, with different troubleshooting steps to boot. I don’t have a huge library of printer diagnostics sitting up in my brain box, and there’s no way that I can remember EVERYTHING.

When I said that most printers look the same, and do the same things, I’m talking about aesthetics and function here. A lot of printers are white, with black accents and occasionally a splash of colour here or there. Remind you of anybody? No? How about those mindless swaths of troops in the second film? Yeah, that’s right. Printers are also “Attack of the Clones”, with hardly any differentiating features. Sure, some of them might have a higher print DPI, others have slightly better scanners, and others end up dying before they’ve served their use. Thing is, I don’t need to buy a new Clone trooper when it packs it in, one just drops onto the battlefield, ready and waiting for orders.

CHAAAAARGE!

Speaking of buying things, what is it with the cost of printer ink these days? See, if you were to purchase the constituents of an ink cartridge (the ink, the plastic, the PCB et cetera), you’re probably only going to be spending about $7 to $10. Yet CERTAIN companies (looking at you, Brother) decide to charge all of their consumers through the butthole for ink, with some cartridges reaching as high as $90, and laser printer toners even more than that (luckily here at ITShop we sell the cheapest printer ink). Not to mention they “run out” when there’s still ink in the damn things, and the printer will refuse to function AT ALL until you purchase another cartridge and replace the “empty” one. This right here is the “Revenge of the Sith”, and while it’s a profit-bearing business strategy, it’s a downright bad one for the end user. You’re better off buying a new Clone trooper, as for some reason they can sell a printer for $30, but the ink price is double that of what you actually paid for the printer itself. If this was a car, you’d call it a bad investment and sell the car to someone else.

Let’s move on to function and ease of use, shall we? You buy a shiny, new printer. You plug it in, install your hella expensive ink and turn it on. But then your computer doesn’t detect it. Uh huh. OK. Sure. So you Google your printer model and up it comes with pages and pages of people complaining troubleshooting steps and driver downloads. Best get those drivers installed. Thing is, EVERY SINGLE DRIVER PACKAGE contains a bunch of things you don’t actually need, like “software customization” or “ink early warning system” or (in the case of a nefarious printer we have at the office) FOUR SEPARATE PRINTER SETTINGS EXECUTABLES. And only ONE of them IS FOR YOUR MODEL OF PRINTER. This inclusion of massive amounts of bloatware for something as simple as making a printer do its job is incredibly stupid and, like Hayden Christensen’s acting, straight up doesn’t work.

If I seem a bit mad about this, it’s because I am. Seriously, why on Earth do corporations make us jump through a million hoops to get something that we’ve already paid for working as intended? Not once have I ever seen a printer that’s truly plug and play. Not once have I ever seen an ink cartridge cost less than the printer itself. Not a once have I had a printer install go right the first time. Let’s face it, the only reason that home printers exist is because they’re only marginally better than the inconvenience of heading down to Officeworks or something, who somehow have printers that behave themselves instead of acting like small children with high midichlorian counts.

But only marginally.

About the Author

Ross Evans

Put together from bits of scrap electronics sourced from various junk yards, Ross is the ITShop Technical Officer and blog post writer for all things regarding tech. Avid consumer of caffeine-based products. Hates trains. Is an actual wizard.