Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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618 words

Copying machines have advanced quite a bit in the past years. I did a photocopying job (manuals for a DOS/Windows terminal emulation software) as a teenager and probably did a few hundred thousand photocopies in the course of that. First on a medium sized Canon copier and then on a huge Océ copier. Those Océ machines with their ‘flash’ copying technology were faster and gave quite good quality. I heard that soon after I stopped working there, technology was finally advanced enough to replace it with a machine that would just print the manuals as orders came in rather than doing the somewhat elaborate game I used to play there. That was high tech back in the time.

But these days even the small and cheap machines can do amazing thing at a reasonable quality and a high speed. Recently our department got a new photocopier which not only is much cheaper than the one we had before, it’s also less than half the size, it’s quite fast, it works as a scanner and it is supposed to become the new printer.

Now the printing doesn’t work that well. Probably because the copier isn’t made by HP or some other company that knows about PostScript and printing and because they ‘saved’ the money for the PostScript option to begin with. While printing to it from the departmental Linux system seems to work, using any other computer just failed so far. Well, it didn’t just fail, any attempt to print from another system put the copier to an error mode which requires someone to walk to it and press a button for printing to be resumed. Which for everybody in the print queue is crap of course.

But the machine’s other features are quite cool. The copier is ‘smart’ in that it automatically recognises the size and orientation of what you want to copy and then scales and rotates it to fit on a page. No more worrying about forgetting to switch to the A4R paper tray. No more test copies to see by how many percent you need to shrink a double page of a journal to make it fit on a single sheet of paper. Great stuff.

Finally there’s scanning. If you quickly want to scan some notes, you can just put them on the copier, read the A2-sized instruction sheet (yeah, that’s a horrible joke), scan them and send them to your e-mail address. While the user interface for the feature is horrid, the convenience is just great once you found out the steps you have to do. Scanning used to be something so difficult and time consuming that nobody would want to scan notes. But now you can feed a whole stack of them to the machine, have each of them scanned (at 200dpi black and white I think) in about half a second and will find the result in your inbox by the time you return to your office. It’s almost magic.

Of course the UI does suck, if only because they try to cram millions of features on a small touch screen. You can store your scans in the copier (probably with password stuff happening there), you can transfer it to some document management systems, you can e-mail it and I think I even saw an option for uploading the scans to some SMB share. You can even choose whether you want to receive a multi-page TIFF or a PDF. Each of these features probably requires quite a bit of code to do its job an I suspect it may turn out to be less than brilliant when closely investigated. But for simple tasks it’s very convenient. Not bad for a photocopier.

May 30, 2007, 0:57

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