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Printers: An offer you cannot refuse

In the 1980s I worked on a magazine feature about the paperless office of the future. We interviewed people who said it was close. Any day now.

We never got there.

Today the printer remains essential.

While there may be less paper in our lives than there was, we are a long way from zero paper.

The alluring myth of the paperless office

Paper is hard to eliminate.

Make that impossible to eliminate.

This week I had to return a review product. The courier firm handling the return sent a complex six page PDF document to print.

Two pages had to be handed to the courier. Four had to be attached to the box.

It was not optional. And no, the courier firm could not drop off or bring the paperwork to me.

The paperwork is worse if the box has to go overseas. It can include a battery warning page that must be printed in red ink.


In my life courier paperwork happens at least every other week.

Another regular occurrence is when companies demand a printed legal agreement with a handwritten signature before, say, sending out a review laptop or employing my services.

Apple will accept an emailed “I accept your terms” for review products. One or two enlightened companies do the same.

The majority insist on a paper document.

It’s possible to fake this. I could scan my signature and overlay using what looks like blue ballpoint pen ink, then send through the mocked up document. I once suggested this to a PR company who reacted in horror as if I were planning a bank heist. They told me it would be a crime. I’m certain that is not the case.


Then there are the printed tickets for events. There are no events at the moment. When we come out of lockdown they will return. You can’t show the QR code on your phone, only a paper ticket will do.

Again, this is not optional.

In other words you have to have a printer. Or at least access to a printer. In non-lockdown times that could mean a trip to the local library or a large stationary shop with print stations.

There’s no getting out of this. But this is not the worst thing about printers. We’ll get to that in the next post.