Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It broke yesterday, and they don't really make them anymore

I use it nearly everyday at school for one reason or another. It comes in handy in a pinch. Mine was a gift from Paul Hewitt when he was moving out of his residence in San Francisco in 2003. He had used it for years, and I used it for a decade beyond that. (And I'm pretty sure I used it more heavily than he did.) It ran through consumables at a reasonable rate, but procuring them when needed was never a problem.

But it stopped functioning correctly yesterday, and it will be difficult to purchase a replacement. When I got it, replacement would have been a simple matter of a visit to OfficeDepot or OfficeMax. But this device appears no longer to be made. Market forces have driven this species to extinction in the past few years.

What was it?

It wasn't an electronic wastebasket. No, those things occupy a substantial amount of space at the big box office supply chains. I'd have my choice from dozens of models if it were an electronic wastebasket that I needed. Electronic wastebaskets are big right now, and the segment appears to be growing. There is a bonanza in electronic wastebaskets. Feel bad that you didn't get in on the ground floor.

It wasn't an adding machine. No, those seem to be doing just fine. If my adding machine went down, I'd have models to choose from on the shelf in the store today. The adding machine is far from obsolete.

The land-line telephone? No. Those are available in every shape and size. Land-line phones command considerable shelf space these days.

Fax machine? The 1980s live on! If I were in the market for a new fax machine, I'd have to comparison shop between multiple competing models.

Digital frame? You thought they were gone, but there are still models to be found on the shelves at OfficeDepot. Note the electronic wastebaskets nearby. This was a standalone display, more than 30 yards away from the main electronic wastebasket show space. It's quite clear that if you don't have an electronic wastebasket, you really must get one. The selection available on the showroom floor is breathtaking.

Was it my typewriter ribbon? No. The stock of typewriter (and printer) ribbons is well maintained at the modern office supply chain. I will include a link to the Wikipedia entry on typewriter ribbon for the benefit of my younger readers.

No. The long-laboring device whose utility has not yet diminished from my daily life is the personal photocopier. Paul Hewitt gave me a well used Canon PC740 in 2003, and I used it well until yesterday. Yesterday it made a plastic gear-gnashing sound upon power-up. It made several good copies before fading to black. Literally. The copies it made in the midst of a run got darker until the machine produced only toner-filled black tiles. The scanning tube remains as bright as ever, but black is all that comes out.

You can argue that the era of photocopying is over. Today's documents are electronic. Paper is the past!

But don't tell that to the stores that no longer sell personal photocopiers. Substantial volumes of these warehouse stores are devoted to photocopying services.

And don't tell that to school teachers. The photocopier is the most heavily used piece of office equipment at the school. We've never had fewer than two high-volume machines on campus, with low-volume units spread hither and yon.

I suppose I'm just having an Andy Rooney ("This modern world of yours is crazy!") moment. Perhaps I'm simply jarred because the predicament was unexpected. I used the machine and expected to buy a replacement when it died. But I can't. At least not easily.

The invisible hand of the market is telling me, in no uncertain terms, that I would be wrong to want a personal photocopier. The device is not useful in today's world. Not like typewriter ribbons, digital frames, adding machines, fax machines, and land-line phones. Those things are now! They are the U2s of office machines. Personal copiers? Destiny's Child.

I know there is no arguing with the flawless reasoning of The Market. I'm just too dumb to know why I can't readily buy a photocopier, but there is no end to suppliers eager to sell me toner for a long-since discontinued photocopier.

What I clearly need to do is to replace my broken copier with today's office machinery rock star: the electronic wastebasket. It is clearly the Bruno Mars of productivity devices; it could literally shred the gnar!


Peter Stevenson said...


So sorry for your loss. However, assuming you have a reliable printer that doesn't cost a fortune to run off copies - this is a viable replacement (and it will sling you into the digital age ;). We use these at our office and scan hundreds of sheets a day every day (most of ours are over 3 years old and work like new. They scan duplex and in color to PDF, jpg, whatever you want. The x500 is OK but if you can find a refurbished s1500 - they are where the money is at!



Micah Sittig said...

Amazon have them?

Micah Sittig said...

The only constant is change!