Back in 1994, I traded a copy of NetWare 4 50-user with a reseller for a brand-new HP LaserJet 4M 600-dpi PostScript model. It’s stuck with me through two versions of Windows NT (3.51 and 4.0), Windows 2000, XP, and Vista, plus Windows Server versions through 2008 (R1). I was pleased to be able to find a driver for this old but still reliable beast for Windows 7 through Windows Update but alas, it didn’t work properly (at least, not at first): instead of printing like it did under XP or Vista without a hitch, I got an “invalid font” PostScript error message and the unit failed to print its test page.
Although my unit is indeed as described above (HP LaserJet 4M Plus PostScript 600 dpi) and a driver for that precise model is available, I had to downgrade to the plain-vanilla HP LaserJet 4M Plus driver to get this printer to work with Windows 7. It’s interesting to me that the I see the biggest-ever collection of drivers for this ancient printer model with Windows 7, but also that while the most specialized driver fails to work properly, the more generic version does just fine.
You could certainly say this printer has provided plenty of service in the 15 years I’ve been using it for work and personal use. It’s definitely the longest-lasting piece of computer hardware I’ve ever used, and I’m sorry to see it headed for retirement. I’ve ordered a new, top-rated 30 PPM Samsung ML-2851ND workgroup printer to replace this power-hungry monster, and will be curious to see how it performs in its place. It’s also amusing to me that despite the huge advances in laser printing technology since the LaserJet 4M first made the scene in the early 1990s, toner cartridges for my new printer and my old one still cost about the same (approximately $100 for a brand-new cartridge from the vendor; about $80 for a refill from a third-party supplier including old cartridge recycling). That said, the $900 MSRP price for the 4M at the time I acquired it has dropped to a paltry $170 or so for its Samsung replacement, lo these many years later (about $122 1994 dollars in 2007, according to this CPI conversion tool). That’s quite a major price reduction in the printer, but these days selling printers is all about selling consumables (ask any inkjet owner! ;-).
It’s not so much that I absolutely must have 600 dpi output that led me to make the retirement call for my trusty LaserJet4M. Rather, it’s a combination of increasingly difficult availability for parts and toner cartridges, higher power consumption, and its size and heft that all conspired to bring me to this pass. I have to imagine that the introduction of Windows 7 into other workplaces will provoke other, similar changes to familiar features on the IT landscape as well. At a bare minimum, it will be nice to bring my printing infrastructure entirely into the plug-and-play (PnP) era. Although Windows Update was able to find and deliver lots of drivers for this older HP printer, who knows how long that can remain the case?
I’m thinking about dropping the old 4M off at a nearby Goodwill recycling center in Round Rock as soon as the replacement unit arrives (probably on August 28)— unless somebody in the Austin metro area wants to come pick it up and give it a new home at no cost (it’s got a brand-new toner cartridge installed). Drop me an e-mail or post a comment to this blog, if you’re interested. The unit’s printed less than 150,000 pages and the print engine is rated for 250,000 so the old girl’s still got a few good years left! PLMK.
[Update on 8/27: I've got a taker for the printer, so please don't ask if you can have it. It's already spoken for! The early bird gets the worm, and the first request got this printer. I guess it's still worth something after all. ]