Today we hauled my trusty Lexmark 4039 off to recycling. Unfortunately its paper handling was shot, and parts and documentation for that model are nearly impossible to find. I found the alleged service manual, but couldn’t make sense enough of the documentation to fix it.
It’s hard to imagine having a sentimental attachment to a laser printer. I guess part of it is because I bought the thing in 1996. Aside from an IBM Model M keyboard, there’s no piece of computer equipment I owned in 1996 that’s still worthy of daily use in 2009. (The true-blue IBM PC/AT case I used in 1996 still sits in my basement, but it’s been a long time since it’s been possible to fit a decent motherboard into that.)
I bought the printer–an ex-demo unit, sold by Onsale, the long-forgotten online auction house–originally intending to go up against the establishment student press at the University of Missouri-Columbia. It was Quixotic, to say the least. The printer didn’t last through the first issue, so I relegated it to personal use. Meanwhile, I stayed around one final year until graduation making a pest of myself.
That printer printed a lot of stuff for me, including short pieces that became the basis for my 1999 book. And sometimes I’d print a chapter off with that printer and give it the old-fashioned red-pen treatment when I needed a bit more intimacy with my words on paper.
In 2005, when I sold anything and everything in my personal library that had any value to keep the lights on while I looked for jobs, that Lexmark printed the mailing labels and invoices.
But even by then, the printer was outliving its usefulness. Toner was no longer being made for it, so buying toner was a spotty affair. The stuff’s out there, but when you buy it, sometimes it’s what the seller says it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Parts are in short supply. Modern printers have four times the resolution, four times the speed, weigh half as much and take up 1/3 the space. Oh, and they cost less than $100 and you can buy cartridges at the Office Max down the street from me.
Space comes at a real premium now, and for the last year or so the printer has been more trouble than its worth, since the paper handling required a lot of babysitting. So it’s time. Past time. I keep reminding myself it’s just a machine–and a worn-out one at that.
But for about 12 years, long past its life expectancy, that printer served me faithfully. And that’s worth something. Lexmark doesn’t make ’em like that anymore.
Knowing me, I may very well manage to get 12-plus years of service out of some other piece of computer equipment. But that Lexmark printer was the first.
Ultimately, I replaced that old Lexmark with an HP Laserjet 4100. It’s been great, and parts for it are easy to find.