19 October 2011

Why should printing be hard?

It's not always irremediably last-millennium to render something from bits onto paper, at least in my opinion. To carry some information for one of those increasingly rare moments offline, perhaps.  Or, to put on the wall.  Perhaps even to read and mark up with different ergonomics than on a screen.  Increasingly often, though, I find that printing just doesn't work, or doesn't work usefully.  Several times, I've printed driving directions from an online service, only to find that the thoughtfully provided map (fine onscreen) emerges overprinted with a block of solid color, as if the route has been redacted or censored - not the most useful result for navigation.  Browsers, web pages with frames, and printers still don't seem to coexist constructively, even after years. Last night, we tried to print a few 4x6 photos.  Two printers didn't feed the paper correctly, but we finally extracted a few images with unexpected colors and irregular margins.  Other times, documents fail or disappear silently when crossing the hostile waters of a local network, never to be rendered. File storage (fortunately) doesn't seem to have as many comparable problems.

Have I motivated this rant yet?  I'm wondering now about why printing should so often be problematic.  Device flaws are part of the problem, but I think it's broader than that. Is it that paper is old, untrendy, and that technical trend setters aren't generally as focused on integrating well with it?  If you're always at a screen, does this define your assumption for what others will want to do as well, and hence your priority for what's most important?