That Familiar Dot Matrix Printer Sound


This is the printer that prints prescription forms at my doctor's office--an Epson DotMatrix LQ-580. The forms that it prints are simply inserted in the top and they kick out at the bottom. My particular form was missing lines--a symptom, no doubt, of the fact that this particular printer is probably not much longer for this world.

Antiquated (really?) equipment has always interested me. What do you do with millions of perfectly good items that are simply old and clunky? Do you chuck something and upgrade as often as possible? You can still get printer cartridges, of course, and they're a mere ten dollars for a ribbon that gets reused until there is, literally, nothing left of it. Ten dollars! No wonder Epson would prefer it if you'd upgrade to a new printer that has a thumbnail-sized ink cartridge that costs fifty dollars a pop.

I upgrade printers and scanners, especially, since a lot of what I do requires scanning to be done on a regular basis. And so, for lack of space, a lot of perfectly good stuff gets donated, recycled, or thrown out.

What does a place like a doctor's office do? Can they get a modern printer that is compatible with their existing equipment? Do they have to now suffer through an expensive upgrade to get a modern printer when the LQ-580 finally ups and chokes and spits out a mangled form? Will a technician have to come for an expensive fee and configure everything (and, invariably, come back and re-do it every time the configuration is lost or corrupted?) to fit the new way of doing things?

The printer I saw was well-used and encrusted in the back with grime; the kind of grime that only accumulates through years of regular use. Let us not forget that this is a printer that is fully compatible with MS-Windows 3.1, which I last used in 1995 or thereabouts (no Windows 95 for the cruddy people I once worked for in Chanhassen, Minnesota). It still had that familiar mechanical ripping sound as it imprinted faded ink onto the paper. That is a sound that I will never forget since I once made good use of an Apple dot matrix printer back in the day.

We live in a world of planned obsolescence, but don't tell that to the people who need the damned printer to work.