In 1439 Johannes Gutenberg brought a revolution to Europe with his printing press. In 1984 Hewlett Packard brought frustration to the world with the desktop printer.
The humble printer sits quietly next to the computer, partially hidden by books and coffee cups, awaiting a chance to bring the printed word to its user. The printer understands that it once had a highly important role in society. It gave birth to knowledge, it brought forth love letters and reconnected family members and forgotten friends divided by the seas. It might have been forgotten, left unplugged but it has never forgotten that it once had this very important job. Unfortunately, the printer is used so infrequently now that it becomes overwhelmed by the pressure of its task: too eager to show off its work, it pushes the paper through too quickly and chokes with performance anxiety.
There are different types of printers but the two most popular are the inkjet and the laser printer. The inkjet is the traditional artist of the printing world, carefully dropping ink on the page to reproduce words and images like an overly precise Georges Seurat; the Laser printer is the makeup artist, with its electrifying personality, delicately powdering the nose of the paper with ink dust before blow drying it set. Whichever printer you use, the result is almost always the same: a frustrated owner scowling at a half printed page or a beautiful vista of splendid colours turned into a faded, streaky, monochromic mess. The owner, who has neglected the printer for months, now awkwardly pulls at random cables, reinserting them and trying in vain to solve the problem but the innocent printer doesn’t realise it has made a mistake. It sees this attention as positive reinforcement for a job done well. When the printer does finally produce the image correctly, it is punished by an owner who quickly tries to hide its shame with coffee cups, books and stray bits of paper: the printer is ignored until next time.
In recent years, scientists have been working hard to ensure that people can feel this sense of exasperation and frustration even when they are on the move. No longer do we need to hide our outrage and anger behind the study’s door: the dye-sublimation compact printer allows you to take your frustrations on your travels with you, instantly turning your holiday pictures into handy postcard-size infuriations.