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Sitting tall atop the plastic trays filled with differing types of paper.
The noble HP LaserJet P2035, ready for service. Photo Credit: K.F. Shovlin, 2024.

Ode to a LaserJet Printer

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In today’s modern office, the printer has become utilitarian, with the constant threat of obsolescence from the forthcoming “paperless” revolution. In the Processing and Preparation Section (PPS), our printers are the backbone of our work process, from binding tickets to QA Reports to training materials. Each technician has their own printer, something not common in most offices across the Library. That way, we can print our binding tickets and not disrupt others, churning out books being hard bound for long term storage. It is with some reverence that we look back as a printer is retired, as is the case of the HP LaserJet P2035 that I have relied upon for nearly 13 years.

Sitting tall atop the plastic trays filled with differing types of paper.
The noble HP LaserJet P2035, ready for service. Photo Credit: K.F. Shovlin, 2024.

You read that right, thirteen years. It’s actually the third printer I’ve had in my time in the office known by shorthand and nostalgia as “Binding.” It replaced a temporary replacement, which was filling in for a Lexmark that died after a most unexpected event, the earthquake that rattled the DC area on August 23, 2011. That printer was already nearing its death date due to issues with the photoconductor kit and frequent paper jams. The day after the earthquake though, a paper jam formed that then caught aflame. The smoke was minor and nothing else was damaged in the diminutive conflagration, but the Lexmark E240n was no more.

In September 2011, I was issued the HP LaserJet P2035, and it has been by my side ever since. As is common practice, we are asked to keep a log on toner usage. That log, which I have dutifully kept in a single text file since 2008, is the source of much of the dates and collaboration for this post. For it was noted, with some mild theatrics of language, on October 6th, 2011:

“With the replacement printer in steady use, the cartridge was already running low.

It took some time to procure a replacement so now that one is here, it is time to say good bye.

New cartridge is installed, the first new cartridge in a new printer.

It may be a bumpy road, but we are in it together, to the end. Print On!”

Henceforth this simple black and white laser printer worked steadily, needing a new cartridge every seven to eight months. With each new cartridge install, I would make reference in some flowery language within my log and then aim my path forward echoing, “Print On!” On July 7, 2023, I installed the 13th cartridge, replacing one that lasted 11 months and 15 days. While the 12th cartridge lasted nearly a full year, the replacement was showing signs of impending demise as of the Ides of March this year. That wasn’t the longest-lived cartridge, however. Thanks to the pandemic, the 10th cartridge lasted from June 2019 to April 2021, nearly two full years.

The printer's information tells its story from before it came to the Library
The printer’s information, like a cornerstone plaque, showing its life before the Library, and that it is nearly 15 years old. Photo Credit: K.F. Shovlin, 2024.

The idea of writing a blog post about a printer may seem strange, weird, off-putting, or even a possible reason for revoking blog access. I instead look at it as a chance to consider things in your life that you may overlook. As professionals, we greatly rely on technology to just do the thing that we often take for granted that reliability. We take time to reflect on staff as they retire, no matter their contribution, why not some of our tech? As one saying goes, “One person’s floor is another person’s ceiling.” I could not have completed my work without the work of countless others before me. For nearly thirteen years, this printer did its job.

The black crust at the edge of the paper shows the cartridge was nearly empty.
Some of the last binding slips printed on the printer, showing black crust on the left edge denoting the need to change the cartridge soon. Photo Credit: K.F. Shovlin, 2024.

It’s become a common joke, “I don’t know what machine Rage Against the Machine was talking about, but it was probably a printer.” This printer has never called for rage. It has printed over 85,333 binding slips, according to a review of my work stats for these 12 plus years. Additionally, it has printed reports after the completion of 1,158 quality review lots, a process described in a previous blog post.

Test pages showing the decline of the ink cartridge and a mix of gibberish and legal boilerplate.
The last pages printed on the P2035. The pages printed containing variations of this text saying nothing, but ultimately spelling doom for this printer. Photo Credit: K.F. Shovlin, 2024.

Three different computers have been connected to this printer with four different monitors and three different mice. It printed some of the earliest drafts of my first posts on this blog. It printed proposals and training documents that I created to improve the work of my section and parts of the Library beyond our doors. It printed signs that guided others to shelves and trucks holding items for their collections. It has printed pictures of my children that now adorn my cubicle walls. This printer was there for me and did everything I asked of it. Now, as the day of its retirement has come and gone, I can simply say, “Thank you.”

Off to surplus, this weekday warrior, now released from its tethers.
The old printer set aside for surplus, along with the last remaining unused ink cartridge. Photo Credit: K.F. Shovlin, 2024.

This printer did its job, having never once drawn the ire that would cause it to be taken out to a field and beaten with baseball bats. So many people at the Library, or working for the government at any level, get by each day by just doing their jobs, by just being reliable. I have completed 17 years of service, most of which with this printer at my side, and many, just doing the basic job at hand. I will move on someday, but for now, I must adjust to something new, an HP LaserJet Pro M402dno. The P2035 is marked for surplus and will either be reassigned to another office, sold at public auction, or disposed of entirely. I would hope that someone else would find it useful, even if my recent system upgrade barred my continued use.

Shiny and new and quiet.
The new printer, a HP LaserJet Pro, ready to serve. Photo Credit: K.F. Shovlin, 2024.

So now I am back to work, a new printer installed, shiny and new. I will continue to work, relying on these devices to do their job, toiling along day to day, ready and willing to serve. Binding tickets will be printed. Lots will be quality reviewed and reported. Signs will be made. Training documents will be shared. This printer, like the one before it, will do the job. Print On!

Comments (3)

  1. What an excellent post. The small things that make our work lives better – from everyday tools to random kindnesses and smiles from coworkers – deserve notice and the occasional ode or haiku of appreciation:

    Bringers of donuts
    and reliable printers
    make work life happy

  2. Having served faithfully and with honor, sweet printer, may you now find your well earned rest in the lands of Tír na Óff!

  3. print on dear printers
    preservation is endless
    service is enough

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