Miracle Man


I'm a big believer in percussive maintenance myself...

I’m a big believer in percussive maintenance myself…

So our printer died a month and a half ago. We were in Las Vegas in the middle of doing the Sony Online Entertainment convention and it suddenly sent up an error message saying the print heads had gone bad. Up until this point it had been happily printing receipts for us with no apparent discomfort or reluctance and then very suddenly it refused to print another line.

We were annoyed; this was just one more thing in a long list of things that had gone awry from our original plan. We didn’t have any spare print heads: at $70 per print head they weren’t the kind of thing we kept around the house if we could help it. We had, however, just bought an entire set of fresh ink cartridges since we knew the old ones were getting low.

“Lets just try changing the ink and see if that solves the problem.”

So we did. It didn’t fix the problem.

We called around a few of the office supply stores to see if we could pick up any new print heads; we didn’t want to have to spend the money on them, but if it would solve the problem then we were willing to make the effort. No luck: if we wanted print heads we would need to order them and we wouldn’t be getting them until the convention was over anyway.

So we boxed up the printer for the remainder of the convention and decided to deal with it later.

When we finally got home from our travels the printer still wasn’t cooperating. Reluctantly we decided to go ahead and buy the print heads online. They arrived in the mail and we plugged one of them into the printer.

No luck. The printer still refused to work.

Now that we’d plunged all our new ink cartridges into it we didn’t want to just buy a new printer. Thanks to forced obsolescence all the new printers required a different type of ink cartridge.  So we turned to Craigslist to see if we could find someone who was selling a printer that could use the ink that we already had.

Someone was.

The printer was identical to the one that we already had and we could have it for $100. They “hadn’t printed on it in a long time” so there was no guarantee on their end that it would even still work. The Curmudgeonly Lion drove up to meet them at a Starbucks with all our new ink cartridges and a laptop computer in hand so that he could test it before we poured any more money into the project. By now we had bought a complete set of ink cartridges, a complete set of print heads and we were possibly about to buy a replacement printer.

After much debate we decided it was worth it and we bought the Craigslist printer.

Upon getting home we discovered that the Craigslist Printer wasn’t working either. It claimed that it had no blue ink even though we had just plugged in our brand new ink cartridge. We pulled the cartridge out again: it did appear to have been leaking a tiny bit but it seemed unlikely that it was actually as empty as the printer claimed it to be. Just to be safe we took it back to the store and exchanged it for a new one. The new one didn’t help.

Our last Hail Mary was to take apart both printers and see if we could swap out the broken parts on one for the working parts on the other. For about a week and a half the studio turned into a frankenstein workshop of disassembled printers. In the meantime classes had begun for grad school and every new paper necessitated a trip to the Student Production Office to print a hardcopy at ten cents a page, cash only.

Please work on the printer!” I begged, reluctant to push the Curmudgeonly Lion since I didn’t know if there was anything he could do.

It was a weekend of much swearing and ink-stained fingerprints. I sat in the kitchen working on class assignments while the Curmudgeonly Lion came in at intervals with a new piece of the printer to show me forensic evidence of the failures leading to printer death. The blue ink cartridge had bled out into one of the printers’ padding. Something on one of the circuit boards had fried leaving a burn mark on a piece of the casing. This tubing lead to that cartridge port, this module connected to that control panel, etc.

And then quite suddenly we had a working printer again.  A month and a half of frustration, three trips to the office supply store, one order to Amazon, a Craigslist listing, and five hours of experimentation paid off in a Quixotic tilt against the consumerist system of disposable technology.

The Curmudgeonly Lion played this off as if it were No Big Deal.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on September 19, 2013.

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