The box looked simple. They all do when everything is locked away behind cardboard. This is the quiet time when new breaking technology is asleep and still unaware of its mission (think quietly to yourself, in case it is listening, “Global Conquest”).
I am now the proud new owner of a Brother MFC-J430w. It dices, slices, and bakes at incredible speeds. At least that’s what the techs would have us believe.
The box reads Inkjet Multi-Function Center (print-copy-scan-fax). Compact Inkjet All-in-One with Auto Document Feeder & Wireless Networking. More on the side of the box: Wireless Network interface; Unattended fax, copy, scan; 4-cartridge Ink system, and a 1.9 inch color display.
Now pay special attention to the words, 4-cartridge Ink System. The use of the word, system means money, lots of money.
The printer world has been taken over by the ink aliens. Their mission is to suck out all of our profits for ink, wonderful, wild, blues, yellows, and oranges and the all time favorite, black. In many cases, the ink costs more then the printer.
However, I must now come clean with all of you, while professionally being a futurist, I fear laying hands upon tools of technology, for they hate me.
Since my first computer in 1978, an Apple II, I have found out that I overthink the actual application of technology or worse, do not understand the instructions of how to start, assemble, punch keys, or in any way interact with the device before me.
Case in point: My very first printer was an IBM Electric, hot wired to the Apple II.
When the Apple came out into the marketplace, very few printers had been invented or developed for personal computers.
It was during this time that a young engineer in Southern California in his garage came up with the technology of linking the Apple II with the IBM. I bit on the concept.
Of course, when I paid the $2,000 dollars for the newest IBM typewriter, I knew that when I opened up the back of it and inserted the special California kit, that all warranty was voided. It worked.
This was the first time I could actually type words on a computer screen and then have those same words be printed out onto paper, in my study, not part of any office.
This was raw power, just what Steve Jobs had in mind.
Flash forward to the now. The Brother printer is now out its box. Within seconds I come to a critical decision on how to install the ink. I blow my chance of acting cool when warning lights come on after I rearrange the label on the first ink cartridge. I had misread the instructions. I do that a lot. Overthinking.
She, who is a veteran of the computer/printer wars where tech tries to overwhelm the uneducated, comes into the room.
“Well, that didn’t take long. I think you have set a new record for how fast to gum up the works.” She commented, looking over the situation.
Like a super hero, she springs into action. Snap! goes the orange plastic holding the ink in place. Bang goes the various trays and doors of the subsystems.
Without breaking stride, she turns to me and says, “What’s in your hand?”
“I think it’s the phone cord to plug into the wall.”
That smile comes out, which tells me I have just said something either wrong or worse, just plain stupid.
Calmly, she gently grabs my shoulders, looks me straight in the eye and softly says, “Think about it, we haven’t had a land line phone connection for over five years. There is no phone jack to plug into.”
As she addresses me, I think to myself it is far easier to comprehend Geo-Political Civilization Dynamics than to try and make sense out of how things work in future shock.