On printers and the nature of evil

With Apple's new iOS 4.2 (which, if their was any poetry in the world, should be called Tabby or Manx or something to mirror their big cat-named OSX) they've introduced a little thing called AirPrint, which means you can wirelessly print straight from your iPhone or iPad. Sounds good, simple. Except that the printer at the other end of that process is quite probably EVIL. I'm fairly sure that for the last couple of decades, HP have been using printer technology to develop a HAL-like artificial intelligence.

Seriously, almost every single printer I've ever used, at home and at work, is a pile of malevolent horridness (the exception to this being the loud, slow, but utterly dependable printer I had hooked up to my Amiga 1200 in nineteen tickety-four). There's the issue of unfriendly drivers, full-but-apparently-empty "media trays", mysterious episodes where the printer simply can't be found, entirely random ink supply levels, smudginess. I'm hooked up to four printers in my office, all of which can be relied upon to have at least one major trauma each week. Recently, one printer would only print things in sepia, and then fold over the corner of every other page. My home printer simply doesn't recognise cyan ink cartridges, and regularly makes a whispery noise that sounds like a distant gateway to hell … even when it isn't printing anything.

The only joy I get from my printer is that sometimes it'll flash up a warning – "Media Jam!" – that immediately makes me think I'm at a happening at Warhol's Factory.

Unfortunately the printer industry relies on rapid obsolscence and exhorbitantly-priced refills, not on actual effectiveness, so it's unlikely to change. You know that clip from Office Space where they take the printer outside and beat the crap out of it? That clip is almost twelve years old. Nothing has changed. Considering the evolution of computing in that space of time, isn't it just shocking that printers are still the grinding, unfriendly, media-jamming sods that they are?

What we need is an Apple or a Dyson or a Dieter Rams to make a printer that just works (and yes, I know Apple have alreay trudged through this market, but that was all pre-Ive). It really can't be that difficult can it? It's a product that could be sold to every household and every office. If somebody managed to create something that was simple, unobtrusive, functional and cost-effective, they would make a FORTUNE. All it needs is some smart design.

So, are there any smart designers out there who want to destroy evil?