It’s fascinating when we think how far home printing has come. Today, the ability to print pages and pages of documents in glorious colour is something we take for granted but less than three decades ago, it was a luxury that few could afford.
Dot Matrix Printer
My first serious home computer was the Amstrad PCW which I bought in the mid-80s. It came with an “internal” (i.e., bundled) printer: a dot matrix model that was as noisy as it was beautiful. Yes, I considered it beautiful because it was my first printer and for the first time, I could submit beautifully formatted essays which impressed my professors. To me, it was the most magical thing ever, though I had to make sure I did not print in the evening or whenever someone was asleep because the screeching noise it made could be heard all over the house. The other downside was having to replace the ribbon when it got faint which was quite often as I printed rather a lot and replacement ribbons were expensive, especially for a student.
Hewlett Packard Deskjet 500
It wasn’t long before the quality of my dot matrix printer started to look less beautiful, especially when my interest in computers went beyond word processing to include desktop publishing which called for higher quality printing. Through the Amstrad PCW magazines that I was subscribed to, I learned of a few external printers that could be used with the Amstrad. They were using a technology called “inkjet” with the two biggest benefits being near silent and higher quality printing. The two most popular models at the time were the Canon BJ10e and the Hewlett Packard Deskjet 500. Both cost around £500 but eventually I opted for the latter, on the very strong recommendation of a fellow Amstrad PCW owner.
If I thought the dot matrix printer was beautiful, well … there were no words to describe the Deskjet 500. True to the advertising, it was silent and the print quality was breathtaking. Quite soon then, the dot matrix became the ignored ugly sister as I began my love affair with the Deskjet. The replacement ink cartridges were even more expensive than the ribbons for the dot matrix but I didn’t care. I only had to look at the beautiful family newsletters that I was able to print to know that the higher operating costs were worth it.
Colour and Multi-function Printers
I remained very happy with my relationship with the Deskjet for a couple of years, but then I started reading about colour inkjets. The prohibitive costs of colour forced me to be loyal to my mono Deskjet for a little while longer but as soon as I could afford it, I dumped it for a colour Epson inkjet printer (whose model number I don’t remember now). Absolutely stunning … for the first time I was able to print colour documents. Even photographs came out looking very beautiful indeed. The geeky me was well and truly satisfied.
I got through several colour inkjet printers over the next few years, mainly by Epson. From around the mid-90s, printers became multi-functioning devices. This meant that as well as print, they could scan, copy, and even fax. But ironically, the more powerful printers evolved, the cheaper they became until you could buy one for under £20. The reality, of course, was the printer itself was just the beginning of the story. It was from the replacement ink cartridges that the printer manufacturers made their profit – a branded one would often cost as much as the printer itself. I was very grateful that compatible cartridges were available for a fraction of the price of branded cartridges.
Samsung Xpress M2675F
It was inevitable that eventually, I moved on to laser printers. I bought my first laser printer in 2013 and it was the Samsung Xpress M2675F and amazingly it cost me less than £100. It was mono (as colour laser printers we still very expensive then) but the performance was excellent. Printing was fast and the scanning and copying functions were also solid. With compatible toners, operating costs were reasonable. I really couldn’t fault the printer: it still gives me brilliant service even today with hardly any paper jamming or any other problems over the years.
Brother HL 3140CW
In 2016, I treated myself to my first colour laser printer: the Brother HL 3140CW. If my memory serves, it cost just under £200. The print quality was very good, but unfortunately it was prone to paper jamming, especially when printing multi-page documents. However, for the odd single page documents or when colour is desirable, the Brother HL is a useful printer to have alongside the Samsung which still functions as my main (and favourite) printer.
I wonder what my next printer will be?