At the end of 2001 I was sick and tired of my string of HP DeskJet printers. The print heads would clog, the ink would smear, and I wasn't about to spend money on a flaky print server to put it on my 10b2 network. So I decided to step into The Future and I bought a printer on eBay. A very large, very expensive, very used printer: It was an Apple Color Laserwriter 12/600, kissing cousin to the Lexmark Optra C and decommissioned from MIT, of all places. I got it for $1000 which included 2 extra fusers, and 2 spare toners each for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Network ready and 110lbs before you added consumables, it would print a blistering 3 ppm in glorious 600 dpi color while sucking down enough electricity to power a small town.
Back when I still had a subnet of public IPs, I opened it to the firewall and had it installed on my work computer. If I saw stuff that was interesting I would just print it right to my own living room. And since we were recently engaged at the time, Larissa would periodically print cute notes and things while I was at work or asleep. After that, it came with me from IL to NY where it took up residence in the back corner of the mancave. And apart from not being able to run the printer and air conditioner at the same time in the summer, it did a nice job most of the time and while it wasn't photo-grade by any stretch of the imagination it nevertheless created some very good looking printouts when everything was working well.
Of course, that was the trick. Every few months it'd go a bit funny -- it'd print too heavily or leave streaks on the paper, and since it required a resevoir of fuser oil, that would sometimes leak or otherwise make its way onto the page. Plus, with a whopping 28MB of RAM and PostScript Level 2 printing, anything complicated or with fine detail would sometimes take literally an hour to print. If I took the time to fuss with it for a while I could always get it back to printing right. But it was requiring service more often, and tended to spoil print runs greater than 5 pages. If Larissa wanted to print last minute things for her classes or resumes or anything like that, the output just wasn't up to that kind of spec anymore.
So a few weeks ago we wound up discussing what to do about the printer situation. At first, we talked about maybe getting something with the cash we get from the folks at Christmas, but given that the 12/600 was at the point of needing me to get under the hood again, we started looking around with the idea that we'd jump on a good deal. It really didn't take me all that long to narrow down the field. My requirements were pretty simple. I wanted color laser with networking and duplexing. (I'm addicted to duplex printing thanks to my HP 4025dn at work.) I've worked with a couple of Brother laser printers and was not keen on having one at home (they work great but seem to malfunction in maddening ways). And HP's duplex color models were way out of my current price range.
That pretty much left Lexmark, who apart from being behind the innards of my trusty LW 12/600, made the venerable Optra R series that I was able to deploy and service with great success back at the TV station. And to our delight, not three days later we discovered that Staples had the Lexmark C543DN on sale for $299 -- before a $50 trade-in. Now, part of the printer upgrade scenario I worried about was disposal of the old beast. No one on eBay would pay the shipping and I couldn't see anyone in the right mind wanting even to cart it away on Craigslist. I didn't really want to just heave the thing into the dumpster either, on general principal let alone not wanting to put all that plastic and toner into a landfill. So $250 and not having to worry about the disposal seemed like a huge deal.
So our friend Brian came over and we huffed and puffed and carried the old thing out to his SUV and down to Staples. And now we have a shiny, little, fast, quiet new printer which doesn't trip the circuit breaker. Of course, I won't be able to replace all the toners for $50 on eBay like I could with the 12/600. But being back to having professional-grade printing right in the apartment is outstanding.