Saturday, August 11, 2018

Some days I think I'd rather trim a quill pen

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a computer geek. However, I am generally on civil terms with my computer. It lets me type fiction and the occasional letter, email, blog post or book review, and enables me to buy stuff: old spinning wheel parts, books, medieval-style buttons, clothing, imitation musk flavoring for 16th century biscotti.

My printer and I do not have a cordial relationship. I’m on my third in ten years.
Admittedly, the first was bought, along with the computer, when I moved to Albuquerque. My Seattle computer was pretty old, as was the printer, and it didn’t make sense to bring it with me. The Pod I rented was full. I had no room in the car (the PT Cruiser was filled with clothing, things I’d been using until I actually walked out the door, and a 40 inch by 19 inch stained glass panel, among other things).

The second was purchased when the first died after about four years—needless to say, right before I needed to print some handouts with color pictures of 16th century clothing. I will say for it that it had printed one book-length manuscript, and very nicely, too.

I liked that second printer. Granted, it was big and heavy, but it printed well, and it was multi-function. It produced a couple of book-length manuscripts. It also scanned, faxed and printed photographs, and it offered to give me a massage and a permanent wave, but I declined. Which may be why several months ago it began to spray ink in a random manner. I messed around with it, following directions I found online and on YouTube, and it sort of stopped. That is, it would fling ink around only intermittently.

Then it stopped printing black ink.  No, it wasn’t because that cartridge was empty; this printer would refuse to print at all, in any color, if one cartridge was empty. But that was all right. Some people may have wondered why I was printing letters and address labels in red or green. That’s why. 

Finally, one day as the paper began to feed I heard what sounded like SNAP! CRACKLE! POP! And it stopped feeding. Clearing the jam did no good. Neither did turning it off. Restarting the computer—because sometimes that seems to have magical properties—did not make it stop claiming to be jammed. As I had researched fixing the ink problem online, I already knew that sending it for repair would cost more than a new printer.

Enter Printer #3.  It was inexpensive, got as good reviews as any other printer sold on Amazon, and was favorably rated on a site that rates printers.

I liked it … for the first couple of months. Specifically, until the first time it jammed. The manual was no help, as the illustrations were so lacking in detail it was impossible to figure out what you were supposed to do. YouTube showed the jam-clearing procedure clearly but only for a jam where the sheet was easily accessible, either from the top or from the bottom, with the paper tray removed. My sheet had vanished into the printer’s bowels and was not visible anywhere. Forty minutes later, it was unjammed. Something I did caused the paper to move enough that I was finally able to get hold of it.

Since then, I’ve also cleared a paper jam by pulling a sheet out from the bottom. What the instructions don’t tell you is that you will probably not be able to do it without tilting the printer’s front end up, holding it up with your head, and pulling the paper out with both hands. Good thing it’s lightweight.

I’m not optimistic about this printer’s life expectancy.  Thank goodness manuscripts are now submitted by email.