The Long Life of an HP Printer

I don’t care much for HP monitors and computers, but their printer technology, which is what they originally became known for, seems unbeatable. When I started our company in 1993, I first bought an HP 4L laser printer. It had a neat small footprint, cost about $500, and printed 4 sheets a minute – that was a whopping speed then. We soon expanded, and needed a laser printer off the server that all of us could access. So we bought an HP LaserJet 6P.

This printer was somewhat faster and had a sheet feeder in the back. After a number of years, when we bought the next enterprise printer for color printing, we reassigned the old 6P to the accounting office for check printing and occasional reports.

For 20 years, it just kept chugging away. Last week there was some problem with the drum, and we could have spent a hundred dollars on labor to get it fixed. So we decided to finally retire it.

The 6P just printed, printed, printed for 20 years – and I am sure it would have continued for another 20 years, if we had just wanted to spend the money to have it repaired.

With a bit of sadness and nostalgia, I bid it farewell.

Functional Obsolescence in our Society


I am off to taking two HP printers and one television to the “free electronic recycling” place at Home Depot this afternoon.

These two printers work perfectly, but we have a wireless one that all our devices are connected to. There are also no drivers for Trisha’s Mac or my Windows 7 PC for these anymore. So they have been boat anchors for over ten years.

This reminds me of my old HP letter quality daisy wheel printer that I bought for $900 or so in 1985. I used that to print from my DEC PDP 11/23, a minicomputer the size of a small refrigerator. When I started using IBM PCs in 1987, I had to make a special cable to connect to it, but it worked great with WordPerfect and then with Microsoft Word. It didn’t have graphics, but it was a great “automatic typewriter.” Its housing and shell was steel. Controltec was started on that printer. Eventually I bought an HP LaserJet 4L for less than $500 that replaced the letter quality printer.

I remember it hurt in the heart when I took that printer sometime in 1995 and threw it into the office dumpster. It worked perfectly. I would still be working now, 20 years later. That’s how it was built.

Functional obsolescence is one of the most wasteful byproducts of our modern tech society. I am contributing to it like everyone else. I don’t have a good answer. I recycle my old gear. But where does it go?

Is this sustainable?