At some point in the not too distant future, printing and printers will become a footnote to history, a relic cherished only by those unwilling to leave the past behind. Printing– as we know it today– will die.
The handwriting is on the wall. Way back in the day, Apple’s LaserWriter printer, priced somewhere near $7,000, set the de facto standard for office printing and since then printers are everywhere, available in all sorts of colors and sizes and capacities, and the price tag has dropped through the floor.
A funny thing happened on the way to the present. Some of us stopped printing. Then more of us stopped printing. Instead, we would email documents, upload documents, save documents somewhere on a network server or online, but printing was something we just didn’t need to do as much as we once did.
We have a lovely HP OfficeJet purchased a couple of years ago because a package of ink cartridges for the old printer was about the same price as a new printer. So, we bought the new printer. It came with printing, color, scanner, copier, and a fax machine, all built-in, and all about the same price as a couple of ink cartridges.
Too late. We’re just not printing as much as we used to, sometimes going a few months between print jobs, and often those are just to make sure the printer still works. I’m a bit of a Trekkie and I don’t recall seeing too many documents in Star Trek. Or, Star Wars. So, someone who figures out what takes place in the future has figured out paper isn’t a necessity.
I’m beginning to think that Steve Jobs was wise to kill off the LaserWriter during the early days of his second coming. Jobs often saw the future as something crystal clear while the rest of us kept a tight grip on the present, ever afraid it would drift away into the past. As much as I might like to have an Apple branded laser printer, it’s difficult to complain about an HP ink jet printer that does yeoman work as a printer, scanner, copier, and fax for $100 or so.
They say the world is awash in a glut of oil. Just a few years ago oil was selling at an all time high. Supply met demand and then some. Printers are meeting a similar fate. We just don’t need to print as much as we once did. Sure, there are holdouts here and there in business, and my mom still browses the web and prints out articles she wants to read (she’s afraid her iPad battery will die; but then again my grandmother stopped reading the newspaper after a few pages because she was afraid it would wear out her glasses, so there’s a sliver of a mental disorder somewhere in the Thomas family).
Remember, Steve Jobs’ original Mac came with a network. He saw the future. An Apple branded printer? Gone. Jobs saw the future. I think I can see some of it, too, and there’s not a printer around.