Why are printers and drivers so complicated? "I want a set of dots with this shade here, please" shouldn't need 200MB of software

Also protocols exist, but no printer made in the last 10 years seems to use them consistently

Never mind 3D printing, we need 2D printing fixed first

OH! There's a laser printer being developed that actually works by burning the paper instead of using up ink or toner. Could work very well for black and white printing (if it ever gets to market)

/cc @kelbot

@cypnk Also: When printers malfunction, they should indicate what the problem is, rather than blinking one of two LEDs.

@bstacey Exactly! I don’t need a check engine light in my printer thank-you-very-much

Or some obscure error code to hunt down

@cypnk good luck with that. as far as i can tell, it's been regressing at least since i was in my early teens, and i am about to turn 37.

@brennen Printers shouldn’t be this hard. Even if they’re buried under a mountain of patents, there should be a way to distill the essential components into a workable, minimal unit

@cypnk yeah. i feel like printers are an unusually clear example of all the ways that the market slowly but irresistibly unsolves a class of solved problems.

@brennen @cypnk I miss my old Epson dot-matrix printer. It came with a manual telling you exactly what bytes to send to make it poke out dots in whatever pattern you like - a nice simple system for graphics where each byte maps to one of 8 pins on the print head, then you do a 8/72" line feed and send another lines worth of dots.

@cypnk @brennen ah, cool! Epson has this manual digitized! Go take a look at programming a printer, complete with some examples in BASIC. (graphics start on Chapter 6, pdf page 58)

@kepstin @cypnk neat. :)

my grittiest low-level experience with controlling printers has all been zebra label printers that take epl/zpl - which can be kind of a gross undertaking in its own right, but i've got to give it to those things on robustness and predictability.

@cypnk @kepstin (oh, and, sort of indirectly, dealing with gerbers and excellon drill files destined for printing circuit boards.

i don't think i can in fairness describe that particular decades-old technology as a _solved_ problem.)

@cypnk @brennen Printers are why I have no faith in self-driving cars.

@cypnk @brennen That distillation was done in the 1990s. It's called the Laserjet 4 series. (And they can pry my Laserjet 1100 consolation prize from my cold dead hands.)

@deutrino i lost a laserjet... II? (III? i forget now) to a breakup about a decade ago that i still think of with great fondness. (the printer, not the relationship.)

it weighed as much as a small refrigerator, but it worked every time without fail and the output was super clean.

@brennen yeah dude I would likely think of the printer wistfully a heck of a lot more often in that case too 😂

@brennen @cypnk I am 52 and can add ten years to that.

Even today, I have colleagues breaking the concept of wysiwyg, so that what comes out of the printer looks right, whilst what the user sees looks like crap.

@cypnk I hear that. 3D printers seem to be easier to setup and operate than regular ones.

One HP printer my mom had decided that the software had to be installed on drive C - which was a read-only volume on her system for other proprietary reasons.

Almost feels like the basis of a Raymond Chen post.

@rook It’s like they’re going out of their way to be terribly designed. It should be easier to actually do this right the first time, but no one seems to want to touch it

@cypnk I remember manually formatting raw documents and throwing them at lpr in DOS. Back then, that was the definition of a printer to me, something you could do that to.

I'm assuming it's the value-add features people keep using to sell printers. I mean, they sure do move a lot of printers.

@rook But at some point, there has to be diminishing returns. I think the drive now is to be able to print clearly from your mobile, but even that shouldn't need this much junk

I think printer manufacturers are building more and more generic computers that are locked down to use their software. Also, that cartridge scam must make some cash

@cypnk thankfully you can buy printers that don't take cartridges. I haven't tried hard-wired connection with mine so I don't know how well it prints with generic drivers.

But then: it is still pretty stupid to need drivers to wifi-print... I remember having a print server that needed no special drivers back in the 90s.

@rook @cypnk I remember those print servers too. Turns out you can still get them for about $20.

@cypnk I actually think 3d printing is relatively straight forward compared to 2d. Run your model through a slicer of which there are many to choose from and they are all compatible with pretty much any printer. Feed the resulting file to your printer through, USB, SD etc... and it prints.. Very open and the user has control over all variables.

@kelbot @cypnk Just wait until the first enterprise asks for shared networked 3d printers with quota management and authentication, integrated with a 30 year old Windows domain server

@kelbot There should be a way to port 3D printing tech over to 2D (I can't believe I'm saying this)

I don't know if I can do it, but I'll see if my laser cutter can be adapted into a rudimentary large format printer

@cypnk I mean just replace the hot end with an ink nozzle and you have a printer.

@kelbot I'm sure there's more to it than that :P

Actually, because it's open frame, that does make it easier to adapt it to a reservoir system. No more cartridges!

@cypnk I've seen some 3d printer concepts that double as laser engravers. Can we just engrave the paper instead of using ink? No ink to buy would amazing!

@kelbot The entire frame is designed to accommodate all the electronics so it should be possible to put it on a table and use a low yield setting to "burn" paper instead of cut. It will be very delicate though

@cypnk @kelbot nice to see the error message "printer on fire" will be with us for a good while yet

@cypnk No smudging or fading. I haven't watched the video yet. Are they using thicker paper or is it just burning lightly enough that it doesn't go through?

@kelbot I think it's done lightly, but it's not just burning, but actual carbonizing. That may explain why smudging isn't a problem apparently

They're using an IR laser and I have no experience with those, but I'm sure that may also explain why they're able to create very specific depths for the effect

@kelbot @cypnk It seems to me that someone could figure out something similar to the old thermal printers of the late 1970s without the need for special paper. This should be a why haven't they question.

@lnxw48a1 something to do with cost, I'm sure. Fun fact: thermal printer paper is slathered with BPA, that evil evil poison which folks in the USA were demanding be removed from food cans, water and baby bottles, etc a while back. Don't lick your fingers after you touch a receipt. @kelbot @cypnk

@cypnk @kelbot

When I was a kid I was convinced that was how all laser printers worked. How else would you print using a laser?

@cypnk It helps when you use business-oriented printers, or shop carefully - when I want a cheaper laser, I tend to stick to Brothers where the model number ends in 60 or greater, that basically guarantees you get at least PCL 6 Standard (the good kind of PCL 6), and you might get BR-Script (their PostScript).

@bhtooefr My Brother is about to eat it. I can feel it already, the gears are grinding and sometimes, I have to reboot it a couple of times. I dread going shopping gain when I know there are still lots of issues

Even printing an envelop is a chore because it crumples the edges

There has to be a PCL compatible open source printer somewhere down the line. This route just isn't sustainable

@cypnk I don't see where the business model is for an OSHW printer - most people just don't care about printing enough, so you have to compete on price, and when you're competing against subsidized printers with walls of patents...

@bhtooefr @cypnk
tired: open source printers
wired: open source super high resolution plotters

@bhtooefr maybe we could crowdfund open source printer hardware with viral videos of people smashing crashed / frozen /recalcitrant / "I've decided I'm out of ink" all-in-one printers into thousands of pieces using an old Laserjet as a hammer, and then plugging the Laserjet in and printing half of Wikipedia on it before it wants toner. You know, as an example of what's doable. @cypnk

@deutrino @bhtooefr @cypnk for "artisanal" printer revival (because retro is in) I think it'd have to start by artists imitating/using the output and limitations of early printers; this makes it cool - then you get development from there.

@calvin @deutrino @cypnk Yeah, I think the artisan market is the way to go.

I'm really wondering if dot matrix technology could be pushed to meet something resembling modern text reproduction standards, tbh...

@bhtooefr @deutrino @calvin Zine publishers will thank you there

Mass printing text on cheap newsprint is going to have a huge demand

@cypnk @calvin @deutrino Problem is that dot matrix printers are /slow/ (yes, multipart forms, but that looks like ass)... maybe /line/ matrix?

@bhtooefr @deutrino @calvin That might work. Also, part of the slowness of older printers was the software. Nowadays, a microcontroller has more processing power than a desktop from 1985

@cypnk yeah, @gdorn got a jetdirect card for the Laserjet 4 he inherited from @ouahful and it has like 3 big fat VLSI chips on it! Real heavy solid card. Probably outgunned by the chips in a color changing light bulb at this point.

@bhtooefr @cypnk @deutrino I think they won't even bother with retro compatibility with such stuff; and as such make it fast, higher resolution, and with modern connectivity - but they'll still preserve a token aspect that makes it "retro," like the noise.

@bhtooefr @cypnk @calvin @deutrino lpd has been waiting in the wings of so many operating systems for so long for just this moment to shine


in 1992 some folk I knew set up a rave flyer printing business and they had an Apple Mac a device that looked like a big Laserjet but was a full colour offset printer (and could use any stock that wouldn't jam up the feed from low gsm paper to glossy).

Alas they funded it by "less than 100% legal means", so got raided closed down by cops and assets seized (cops got the printer via Court order and used it for crime prevention and anti-drugs flyers!)

@bhtooefr @deutrino @calvin

@vfrmedia @bhtooefr @deutrino @calvin The system works against the citizens once again

While cops here have their own means of shutting down dissent, that sort of thing would have raised holy hell

Police, uspol 

Police, uspol 

UK cops/criminal law/drugs 

UK cops/criminal law/drugs 

UK cops/criminal law/drugs 

printers again this time 

@calvin @deutrino @bhtooefr @cypnk

and that Konica definitely does at least PCL5, as I was once using it with software hosted in NL and they didn't have a Dutch driver or it would upset the RDP server in some way so I managed to redirect a "Laserjet" to the virtual printer port or whatever RDP uses and that worked...

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