For years I have been trying to raise awareness of an addiction that many of us don’t even know we have. We don’t know it because for the last 15 or so years the dealers have seen to it that it’s become completely mainstream, even “normal”. If you’re lucky enough to be untouched by this chromatic and habit forming substance, you can bet a member of your family is hooked; brothers, sisters, kids, heck even grandma is probably a user.

It’s totally legal. And not just in Colorado.

You see, every time one of us needs a coupon, tax return, loan application, or that killer bacon recipe off Alton Brown’s website, (here’s a link in case you don’t have it: roasted bacon ) we turn to the pushers of printers and ink. It’s such a natural reaction we don’t think twice, and we don’t even need to “know a guy” to get it. A walk down the printer aisle of your local Office Best Max Buy store will reveal countless printer options all out in plain sight, but nearly every one of them has one commonality, they feed on color ink cartridges like Don Vito Corleone on cannolis.  And here’s the artful part, these ubiquitous ink delivery systems are so dazzling and low priced we won’t think about the investment we just committed to for the next few years. Sometimes they’ll even give you a printer with the purchase of a new computer because they know they’ll septuple their investment from ink sales. It’s the old razor blade strategy folks, give you a razor and you’ll buy our blades for life.  And just like that you’re an ink addict.

But I can quit any time I want!

Sure you can, until your in-laws are getting ready to leave after a week long thanksgiving visit and want to print their boarding passes. I can almost smell the burning rubber as you peel out of the driveway to get your fix. The ink lords have got you and they know it. We think El Chapo can move some product, he doesn’t hold a candle to Epson. And HP, the largest cartel of all, these guys make Tony Montana look like Nancy Reagan. And they don’t sell it cheap. I’m sure by weight it’s still cheaper then some pure uncut Columbian, but at $60, $80, $120 a round for CMY and precious Black, not by much. Forget it if you have a deluxe model demanding new Black, Light Black, Yellow, Light Yellow and so on, you’ll have to sell a kidney to scratch that itch. And don’t think that just using occasionally will keep you clean, they thought of that. You see if you don’t print in glorious Technicolor and often, the ink in your printer will dry out, gum up the works and force a trip to your local dealer faster than if you printed your entire photo album twice daily. Use it or loose it. You also can’t sneak in some refills either, “You think that would fool a Corleone?” The newer printers will detect them, reject them, and send you shopping with your tail tucked firmly.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

“How can I quit cold turkey?” “I have to print stuff you know, it’s not like I can just delete all the funny political emails my golfing buddies forward to me without some kind of permanent record!” Yes, I concur completely, we all need to have some kind of paper trail from time to time, both financial and current administration email mockery, but here’s the question I ask everyone who is struggling with selecting their next all-in-one, paper jamming, blood sucker:

“Do you really need to print in color?”

It seems like such an innocuous question but the answer could mean a difference of hundreds of dollars during the lifetime of the printer, not mention irritation, trips to Best Max Buy, and feeling like a sheep to be fleeced every other month. I have found that most folks including myself rarely if ever really need to print in color. The I.R.S. doesn’t want your tax return filed in color and recipes taste just as good when printed in good ol’ black and white.

Right now a few of you are saying “But I really do like to print out a photo now and then.” And that’s cool, but just weigh it out in your mind before you commit to ink, are they worth $60 or $80 in ink every couple months, plus the photo paper? Or am I better off giving the local Walgreens 25 cents to print it out far better than I could? I don’t know but unless you’re name is Ansel Adams you are probably better off giving the drugstore a quarter and let them negotiate with the ink mob.

Ok, ok, I’m ready to kick this multicolor monkey off my back, what do I use instead?

Those of us that have had any kind of office job in the last 30 years or so can remember when the cicada like call of the dot matrix printer gave way to the big, silent, 20 page per minute, putty colored box that was the Laser Printer. Perfect smudge free prints could be had in mere seconds but the office was their domain due to both high cost and the ink cartels creating the phenomenon of “printing photos at home”. Sounded great to us at the time until the twin bummers of cost and maintenance swooped in and ruined the party. But by then the plan had been executed – we had been conditioned to believe that home printers only came in color – supplied with those little trial cartridges that gave us just enough of that color buzz so we would come crawling back for more just as soon as that printed shipping confirmation from Amazon showed the slightest bit of streaking. Well the day has come for the Laser printer to live solely in the office no more…and you don’t need a forklift to move it…

Say hello to my little friend… P1102W

At just a little bit bigger than a breadbox, it has been my go to Laser solution for those who want to kick the habit and let that ink dry out for the last time. I know I know, it’s made by Hp, the guys I just just spent half my website comparing to a malicious, greedy, drug cartel, but that was the just the color ink division, the guys in the Laser group are actually really nice and make great products. Really. I’m serious, I have one.
So, the P1102W is a great little black and white printing machine that I have recommended and installed for years. Setup is easy and it can be attached to your wireless network or hooked up with a usb cable to your computer (Mac or PC). These things don’t know an ink cartridge from a ham sandwich and that’s because they use wonderful “toner”. It’s a dry black powder that can sit, unused, for months, but when you press “print” out pops a laser perfect print every time. It’s a beautiful thing.

Wow, sounds real great, but unless it prints pasta Fazool I need a little bit more….

I know that some of you  require a little bit more than just printing. With fax machines going the way of leisure suits (thank God, on both accounts) some folks need the “all” in their all-in-one, namely scanning / copying and there are models for them as well. Here’s one for starters: Hp M127FW if you need that extra functionality. These printers are getting cheaper all the time, sometimes you can pick one up for nearly the same cost as an ink jet printer but here’s the deal, these toner cartridges last a really long time. Unless you are going to whip off a copy of the Dodd-Frank Act you will get a lot of mileage even from the toner cartridge most laser printers come with these days. And here’s another tip… when the trial toner does run out and starts looking streaky, just pull out the cartridge and give it little side to side shake and pop it back in, you’ll get some more prints. Here’s the best tip… these printers can use third party toner cartridges which can cost from half to a quarter of the name brand stuff. For my favorite little P1102W, you can use these third party cartridges, 1,600 pages for $10, no ink drying out, no shameful drives to Office Best Max, not too shabby.

You might be saying “Ok smart guy, if these things are so great, why is Hp and the rest selling so many more ink jet printers and offering only one or two lasers at the dusty and dim end of the aisle?”  Well, I would say that Scarface would have been selling girl scout cookies if he could have made more money on them, but he couldn’t, so he didn’t. The big bucks are made trafficking color ink and everyone’s in on it, except hopefully you.

So next time your ink jet printer beeps angrily at you and holds your print cue hostage until you give it a big hit of cyan, just say no.

This has been a public service announcement from mikes5.com

The More You Know…