August 11, 2016

Out with the old

The Car Talk guys argued that, in most cases, repairing an old car is cheaper than buying a new one. The reasons for buying a new(er) car come down to improved safety features and reliability, along with the utilitarian demands placed on the vehicle (how many child seats will fit in it).

Otherwise, comparing the amortized cost (or monthly payments) of old against new makes clear which way the economic scales are tipping.

When it comes to modern consumer electronics, there's rarely anything that can be repaired. Then the question is whether to buy an extended warranty. The answer is usually no. If the gadget doesn't break within the manufacturer's warranty, odds are it won't break within the extended warranty.

My HP 895cxi inkjet printer had been a workhorse for almost twenty years. Until it simply decided to not work, flashing an "ink cartridge" error I'd never seen before, even when an ink cartridge ran out. The usual cleaning remedies (plus a few more) didn't help.

It's possible that the almost new (OEM) cartridge dried out from long lack of use and a new one would work. Except it'd cost more to replace the cartridge than to buy a new printer.

Granted, in computer years we're talking about an antique, but HP 51645A cartridges are still being made and sold. HP lists the black cartridge at almost fifty bucks. A remanufactured cartridge goes for a more reasonable $13. But the last remanufactured cartridge I tried was broken out of the box.

Add in the color cartridge and the total comes to $30. I don't even know that the cartridge is the problem. The problem is, these days, a printer, scanner, and a CD-ROM drive are the kind of peripherals I can do without—until I absolutely need them.

Meanwhile, a brand new all-in-one Canon MG2520 sells for $28 at Walmart. Cartridges included. It'd replace my equally ancient (and excruciatingly slow) CanoScan scanner at the same time.

As we all know, inkjet printers operate on the razor blade economics model: "Give 'em the razor, sell 'em the blades." The tiny Canon cartridges make that strategy clear. But I don't plan on printing out any novels (I did literally print out a couple of novels on that HP).

What using a Centronics printer cable was like.

Tossing the old HP was a blast from the past. Ah, the good old Centronics parallel printer interface. Bulky, heavy, unwieldy—makes me think of a 19th century transatlantic telegraph cable. Surprisingly, they're still available at reasonable prices. The Windows XP of the cable world, I suppose.

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