An ode to my favorite printer

My beloved printer: a Canon Pixma iP4200

My beloved printer: a Canon Pixma iP4200

I have been using the same inkjet printer since 2006, a Canon Pixma iP4200. It was free after rebate when I bought my first Mac, and since then it has been The Little Printer That Could. It got me through college, grad school, my first job, and it’s still serving well three years into the tenure track.

I do not, as a rule, like printers. In fact I detest many of them. About 7 or 8 years ago, I bought a 3-in-1 Epson scanner/copier/printer. I hated it. If it ran out of any of the ink, it wouldn’t scan. Not copy, not print, (though it definitely wouldn’t do those either) scan.

My printer at work (a Ricoh) is 3 years old and can no longer do duplex printing without leaving vertical streaks or white lines on at least one of the pages of each paper. It regularly pauses itself without notice, so I wait for something that isn’t coming until I open the printer dialog to resume. If left on, it frequently performs a noisy maintenance routine that it apparently cannot interrupt to print. It has an LCD screen about the same size as the one on my first CD player (circa 1999) that displays inscrutable messages I find nearly as informative as a fortune-telling eight ball.

Will you print the job, printer? Signs point to no.

Meanwhile, my trusty little Canon printer will alert me that ink is running low and pause printing to give me the chance to replace the ink, but it will happily continue on if I just push the paper feed button. I can print until there’s really and truly no ink sticking to the page. It handles duplex printing and several paper sizes (it was marketed for printing photos, after all), and the ink cartridges are still available at fairly reasonable prices. It’s roughly box-shaped, with paper trays that fold in and a flat top. It packs up nicely for moving and is sturdy enough to support my feed-through scanner perched on top without preventing the printer from printing. It has no display screen, just three buttons (power, paper feed, switch paper load tray) and four lights (power on/off, warning, paper loaded in the top tray or paper loaded in the bottom tray). It’s not fancy. In many ways, it’s boring, but that boring-ness is probably what makes it so reliable. It’s jammed a small handful of times in the entire lifetime of the machine, and I believe one of those times was because I’d accidentally sent a label or envelope through that had a sticky spot showing. Oops.

This printer has moved a lot with me. It shuttled back and forth to college, and came along on every across-town and interstate move since. The only other possessions that have traveled as much and seen such frequent use are my camera, my raincoat, some of my tools, a canvas tote bag, and a cheap but sturdy set of plastic drawers.

The main concern I have about my dear little printer now is that Canon stopped updating the driver in 2014, so every OS update since then has been a bit of a gamble. Will it still work? Can I use it without the driver? If I need a driver, can I still use the old driver? One of these days the software will move on, and my trusty printer will be left behind.

Today I connected my new work laptop (a MacBook Pro) to the printer. I needed a new cable to connect to the laptop's USB-C port. The laptop runs macOS 10.13 (High Sierra), and the most recent driver update was for macOS 10.7 (Lion). I tried it anyway.

The old driver still worked! My little printer lives to print another day. I am relieved and delighted.