"We Can't Live Without Electronics"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, August 15, 2014

The ever-important, must-have and can’t-live-without-office equipment available today is taking over.

Remember the old days when if you needed a copy of something, you were typing on your typewriter, you just inserted a second sheet of paper with a carbon paper in between. You did have to make sure it was facing the right way or when done, start over.

The carbon paper could be re-used many times but after awhile, the image copy faded (much like today’s printers, running low on ink). You also had to be careful handling the carbon paper to avoid getting it on your hands or clothes. A careless move with that timesaver could ruin a wardrobe with one sheet. It really was great though getting two copies at once. It saved the typewriter ribbon from having to be replaced as often — which was a big chore.

Soon, carbon paper was replaced with NCR — no carbon required sheets. For typing forms, you simply inserted the NCR paper and out came two or three copies at a time. It cost a little more, but was not as messy, and it was faster. It stayed around for years, and was used in cash register receipts. The drawback was the copies faded and, over time, were illegible.

Enter a handy office machine — the word processor. Many variations of the new office wonder were offered and the more they could do, the more they cost. Many of them had cartridge ink replacements and “daisy” wheels that selected options for text. These devices soon led into the expensive age of miracle electronics — the personal computer. Unlike the large frame units used by businesses a compact, laptop size was offered for “personal” use.

Although computers could do a great deal more than the word processors, they also cost a lot more and could not accomplish the task of printing your work. Soon, the long succession of office printers arrived. All that needed to be done was keep paper in the tray and replace the ink cartridge. A neat appearing print out, with the ability to provide numerous copies with the touch of a finger, soon made them indispensable. The drawback was they really escalated the cost of obtaining a “copy” over the previous methods.

It wasn’t long before problems presented which made it necessary to revise the new wonder device many times. Photos needed to be printed in color. The electronic manufacturers complied with models that could print black and color. They were very expensive, so many small offices and home users did not rush to purchase them. The cost exceeded the value.

Not to be denied, manufacturers determined how to get the color printers in stores and into the mass market by lowering the price. They put the cost at just slightly above that of the black printer BUT raised the cost of replacement cartridges for both. They did provide a super-size ink cartridge that delivered more ink — at a greater cost.

As the printers became more sophisticated, wireless and able to work with the PC’s, the insidious cost of ink continued to rise. I have a very old printer and the wiz kid, latest model wireless printer in use. The ink cartridges used in the old model (amazingly still available) produce twice the number of copies. The cost of a year’s ink supply for the new printer would pay for three printers. Get the picture?

Yes, we have come a long way since the old Underwood’s and crank copy machines, but it still takes me about the same amount of time to put out a column. In spite of keeping up with all of the time saving machines introduced over the years.

As I see it, we are trapped with our electronic machines and can’t live without them.

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