Home Opinion Printers: Do we really need them?

Printers: Do we really need them?


Author: Michael Evans

Ruminating on the absence of a print connection on the iPad, I got to wondering why we really need printers at all. They take up a lot of space – which is my main objection – and need constant attention and fettling. We're so accustomed to electronic devices that need absolutely no fiddling that it comes as a shock to have to mollycoddle a piece of equipment that demands replenishing with paper and has an appetite for ever-greater numbers of minute ink cartridges: "Your puce cartridge is nearly empty, do you wish to proceed?"

Furthermore, any device that handles paper is prone to misfeeds and frequent constipation. That is, with the honourable exception of the brilliant Fujitsu ScanSnap range of scanners; they do seem to have got it right. But the majority of domestic ink-jet printers are a pain. They churn and clunk and click through a prolonged start-up routine every time you wish to print a page. And invariably one of the multitude of cartridges is near expiry and dire warnings are posted before you press OK to continue. 

So why do we need printers? The answer, as far as I am concerned, is not for much. I print the occasional boarding pass or letter to a financial institution that insists on snail-mail confirmation. I certainly don't feel the need to print out drafts for correction and, as the proud inhabitant of an paper-almost-less office, I most certainly never print stuff to file.

My all-singing-dancing printer never sings, seldom dances. It sits there, occupying a useful chunk of my office, and I would dearly love to be able to wave it goodbye. Unfortunately, for those occasional essential documents, I don't know of a better solution. At the moment, however, I am seriously thinking of consigning it to a cupboard or, even, the loft, where it can churn out the odd print without inconveniencing me for the rest of the month.

Back to the iPad and its lack of printing. I acknowledge it is a problem for anyone who is planning to make Apple's new pad their only computing device. In fact, there are two problems to face: the iPad cannot be connected directly to a printer and, of course, it needs a mother ship for registration and synchronisation. But anyone who has access to that mother-ship computer, whether belonging family, friend or neighbour, could also beg the occasional sheet of printed paper from the same source. The iPad, with its intuitive ease of use and no-computer-knowledge-necessary interface, is ideally placed to serve people who aren't interested in computers and who want to explore the net and deal with emails without hassle. 

PS: Colleague Ralf Meier points out that he prints from his iPad using PrintCentral and WePrint. He says that for the very limited printing he needs this solution works well. 


  1. There is another hidden problem with printers that I suffer from.They don’t tell you about this, but each printer is programmed to run in a particular area of the world, and only cartridges purchased in that area will work on it.

    The cartridges are physically identical, but the built in software isnt, and I have never managed to get it changed when moving from one country to another with a printer.

    Thus I have a number of completely identical HP PSC 148 printers, one I brought in France, took to Angola… where it refused the local cartridges, so bought one there, took that to China, same problem… bought another, then moved to the Philippines… now have printer No.4!

    I have checked pretty well all the printer manufacturers, and they all seem to have this policy, but not one of them could really explain it to me.

    So perhaps Apple have done the right thing in not making it possible to use any printer………..

  2. And another thing that annoys me about printers is that they are increasingly seen as loss-leaders for ink sales. It’s easy for the unwary to be sucked in by a bargain–a printer for £30 or $30–and not think about the £50 or $50 necessary to replace the ink cartridges. Often it pays to choose a more expensive printer that has lower maintenance costs, but this is never obvious on the showroom floor.


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