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Some day my prints will come

We used to say this when film developing by post was the norm. Humour isn’t what it used to be. Neither is nostalgia.

I’ve not had much luck with printers.

For my own use the issue is that I don’t put enough prints through the printer to keep the print head from drying up. And of course the cartridges have chips in them so that you can’t refill. And my particular printer complains that that colour cartridge is empty when I try to print black text.

For personal use I prefer to send my stuff off to someone else, as they generally do a better job for less than buying new cartridges or unclogging my printer. When I wanted a load of prints made in various sizes, the easiest way was to arrange them all onto A4 paper, get someone else to print them and then trim the results into individual prints.

Which would be fine and nothing to write about, expect that once a year I get involved in a mass-printing panic.

In the run-up to Christmas we run a fair with stalls and a Santa’s grotto in the local town hall. The event raises money for a local charity, so it’s a good thing and generally very busy.

The deal with Santa is that you can have your picture taken and printed on the spot.

One year, maybe three years back, I did both the pictures and the printing. You may no longer be familiar with the phrase ‘busy as a one-armed paper-hanger’, but that’s how busy I was. It didn’t help that we have a rather ancient laptop running Windows 95 and a very basic Canon inkjet printer.

In later years we traded-up. The kit is the same but we split the work so that I just run the printer and a chum of the organiser takes the pictures. Now, people who work in IT know that computers (and by extension printers) have two little-known components. The first is the critical need detector. This causes the device to fail when it is most needed. The second is the support detector. This causes the device to feign good health and full functionality when someone with expert knowledge approaches. Obviously, as I work in IT, the former sensor takes priority over the latter.

The person taking the pictures used a camera that takes CF memory cards. These are the size of an after-dinner mint and connect through an array of fine wire probes. Obviously, swapping cards repeatedly with a cheap USB card reader causes one or more of the pins to bend. We killed two card readers and had to buy a third from a local gadget shop to keep running. I deeply hate CF cards.

But the printer; oh I hate that more.

It is incredibly slow to print. If you were printing your own snaps that would not be a problem, but when you have a queue of tired parents and sugared-up children like monkeys on crack, a slow printer is more pain than one should endure. And then, of course, one of the print heads clogs.

So this year it was going to be different. I brought my own laptop and a little dye-sub printer. Dye-sub printers are marvellous: they are fast, the prints resist smudging and there is no issue with running out of ink: the dye cartridge prints the number of sheets of paper that it comes with. It’s more expensive per print but less expensive than taking everyone’s address and posting them the prints later, which is what I had to do the previous year.

And the little dye-sub printer zipped along. It even entertained people as they watched the paper shuttle back and forth through the printer as the colours were added.

And then it ate the paper. So I cleared the jam. The next print had a blank strip down one long edge. It ate the next sheet.

Panic, moi?

I hauled the old inkjet out of the box and hooked it up. Of course I had a reserve printer.

Of course the print heads were clogged.

So I cleared the heads, loaded-up and we were back in business.

Not too slow either – I guess the biggest problem before was Windows 95 and not so much the printer.

A pal of mine turned up at the event and noticed that I looked a little stressed. He popped home and got his own dye-sub printer. Same make, different model, but they take the same cartridge and paper. Except it’s a different model so it needs a different print driver and my laptop has no Internet connection so it can’t find the driver.

So back to the inkjet we go.

And we more or less cope.

It was something like 150 prints over the course of the event, around five hours.

Even our record of around 250 prints doesn’t sound much, if it was evenly spaced.

But it’s not, and the printer and laptop are set up on a small table just outside the entrance to the main hall. So I have all the people walking in past me, combining with all the people coming out and wanting to see the screen to see their picture. And the main lift is behind me, so I have to move out of the way when someone uses it. There really is nowhere else to place it, so it’s get on with the job in hand and be thankful I’m not next to the radiator like I was last year.

Did I mention how much I hate printers? The little Canon inkjet is admittedly quite good – the cartridges are cheap and the quality pretty good when it has been unclogged.

The Canon dye-sub printer is on my study floor with the top off to see if I can find out where it is jamming. It would be ideal if it worked but I can’t have anything unreliable when the job is commercial. It’s a shame, as dye-sub is ideal for this sort of event. So it looks as though I’m back to the inkjet. I’m planning to print more of my own pictures during this year so if I space it out I could make sure the printer doesn’t dry up.

Printers – we hates them precious

For serious personal use though I’m going to stick with what I know works: send them off to someone else who can print them properly.

And Santa’s grotto? I made a special wish for Christmas 2019 that the price of Polaroid drops (and the quality improves) to the point where we could dispense with printing altogether. Get it down to 50p a shot, Santa, and I’ll release the hostage elves.


Author: fupduckphoto

Still wishing I knew what was going on.

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