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Printing at university

In my university’s computer science department PC labs, we had about eight wide-carriage dot matrix printers for printing anything that did not need laser printing, such as source code and Web pages. Big ugly noisy machines. That were always breaking down. There were a myriad of reasons for this, including lots of paper scrunched up in the front from paper placed onto the tractor-feed sprockets with one side a tooth too far along. Or the print spooler machine had taken leave of its senses. One printer once had one of the front plastic parts eased forwards far enough to jam the print head up and cause the printer to emit ugly grinding noises. And of course, they would run out of paper.

Now, knowing the student mentality, was anyone ever going to report problems printing? So once a printer was down, it would remain down. For hours, looking at the amount of detritus that would accumulate in the print queues for each printer. I even saw one queue with over a day’s jobs sitting in there waiting. Piled around the printers were all the documents that were printed long after the students who sent the requests had given up and gone home, pages upon pages of them.

It was not hard to fix the printers, of course, and in my final year I took it upon myself to be the unofficial printer monitor, inspecting them whenever I was around and sorting the problems out. However, not being staff or anything, I had no privileges to reset the print queues such that what was coming out of the liberated printers was not several-hour-old requests. So I would pay the technical support desk a visit and request some queues be reset to clear out the junk. Unfortunately I normally got the same woman each time, the Ice Queen – very attractive, but frozen cold and seemingly not endowed with even the basic powers to perform a simple task like press delete in a print queue window. The answer was always I’ll get Chris to do that, which he was probably not going to get around doing any time soon because he’s far too busy being gurus and propeller heads and double-clicking as the sign on the door said (actually, Chris was a decent bloke, but he definitely was busy). So we’re back to square 2.