Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Being printerless

Our lab used to have one of these big whizzy multifunction devices that let you print, scan, email and fax, as well as act as a good old fashioned xerox machine.

Truly useful. Scan dockets and contract related documents straight to evernote. Scan documents which have to be signed first to pdf and email them off. Print drafts. Print big A3 spreadsheets. Share scribbled sketches of code designs.

All good, except that the week before Christmas it died, never to go again.

Christmas of course segues into the summer vacation here in Australia. The printer is leased rather than owned on one of these complex deals that we pay so much for the hardware and rather than pay for the consumables, pay something like three or four cents a page to cover the cost of routine maintenance and consumables, as well as having a printer tech come out and fix it if it breaks. The printer company obviously hopes we'll print a lot, not do a lot in terms of scanning, and that there won't be too many expensive repairs along the way.

So the first part of the process was to get somone to come out and agree it was no longer in the land of the living. This took longer than you would expect due to it being holiday time, but that wasn't a whole lot of a problem as a lot of people were away.

The only problem was that the people who need to approve changing the contract were also away. And then the start of semester was upon us. So due to the accumulation of minor problems we've been without a printer for nearly two months.

The really interesting thing is how we've coped.

The first thing was to dig out an old HP laserjet and put it on the network. This turned out to need toner and because the people who look after the supplies contracts were changing contracts, that turned into a saga in itself.

Other strategies included going and 'borrowing' other people's mfd's for a heavy scanning session. But the really interesting thing is that people stopped printing. Instead they started reading stuff onscreen, on a tablet, dropping it in dropbox as a pdf. People started taking pictures of whiteboards and scribble pads with their phones, not quite the paperless office but close.

People got used to not having a printer, and because there were other ways of sharing and distributing information they coped.

I'll even admit that J and I used to edit our home shopping list on Google Docs – shared document editing is designed for compiling joint shopping lists and I used to print it out. Now I simply view it on my phone.

And this really is the key takeaway. People's habits changed. Yes, when they really, really needed to print they found ways round not having ready access but they've found ways of living without a printer.

Our replacement printer is finally scheduled for delivery. It'll be interesting to see if people start printing in volume again ...

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