A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Hooptedoodle #149 – Another Brief Skirmish with Technology

Since I choose to tell you about this one, dear reader, you may safely assume that this is a (rare) tale of braggart and personal triumph from among the many episodes of frustration and bewilderment which form my normal daily experience of the Age of Technology. There will be, in short, a happy ending.

My son’s printer is a Canon MP470 – not a brilliant piece of kit, so be sure; it is, for a start, a combination printer/scanner unit, a type of device I have never liked very much. It was my mother’s, but she never used it, so we sort of borrowed it and it came to live here, and it has worked pretty well, though the lad’s taste for artwork with black backgrounds and so on gives rise to a mighty appetite for ink cartridges.

Well it stopped working today. The paper was feeding in crooked (crookedly?), and the printer was making ominous clattering noises – any attempt to print anything produced a paper jam and a mess of ink on the rollers. I strongly suspected that the new owner’s habit of overfilling the paper hopper (by a factor of maybe 200%) had finally jammed it and bent something. However, there is no point forming judgements and striking knowledgeable poses – the printer is needed for homework and stuff, so it was necessary to do something about it. I used to be pretty good at jobs like this, and in a former life the Contesse worked in a technical support role in a commercial PC environment, so she is very good indeed, though our knowledge is probably a little off-the-boil, and the old eyesight has not improved over the years.

I had a search online, and was lucky enough to find a description of exactly this same problem in a Canon user forum – some fellow claimed that almost certainly there was a foreign object in the workings (nonsense, we cried) and he had solved this on his printer by reverse feeding (manually – I hope you are taking notes here) a sheet of paper through the track, by dint of getting his finger deep into the works and slowly turning a knurled wheel with his fingernail – eventually, the reverse-fed sheet pushed out the foreign object. Now, because it is a combi printer/scanner, the machine is a bit like the inside of a clock when you open it up, nothing quite opens wide enough for a clear view, and reverse feeding a sheet of paper through all those fiddly rollers and past a tiny plastic latch which must be lifted with a penknife blade is not unlike the challenge of inserting a blade of grass into a butterfly’s anus (not that I have personal experience of this, but it seems about right).

Since this was our only possible lifeline I donned my trusty LED headlight, we found a sheet of thicker (less grass-like) paper and began the agonisingly slow reverse-feed job – nadgering the wheel click by click, swearing, dropping things, etc. After a short time, it became humblingly obvious that the proposed solution was correct – the Contesse spotted the promised foreign object in the paper track, and fished it out. It was not a hairpin or paperclip, it was in fact quite a large novelty bookmark of my son’s which Sir Isaac Newton (the rascal) had obviously dropped from the bookshelves above the printer.

I append a picture, with a USB memory stick to give an idea of the size of the offending item. We have all heard of the Ghost in the Machine – this was the Dodgy Character in the Printer.

I need beer.


  1. Huzza ! man triumphs over the machine ! - my own first thought with non working technology is a large axe ! , Tony

    1. Thank you for joining me in celebration. Estimated latest score in this ongoing struggle is

      Foy 3 - Combined Technologies 48,938

  2. Prof De Vries of the Netherlands emailed to suggest that we should get a whole alphabet of such bookmarks, and over an extended period of printer jams we might receive a message from the Other Side - possibly even from Sir Isaac. Interesting idea, but I doubt whether even the immortals would have an attention span sufficient for such a project. We had a short attempt to get a satisfyingly witty name for this experiment around the theme of Ouija Canon and similar, but failed dismally. If it needs that much work it probably isn't worth bothering with.

  3. Back in the stone-age I used to be in charge of the computer systems for a moderately sized mail order company. We had three Bull printers (the type that churned out continuous paper sheets and used huge ribbon cartridges - tell your son that!) and I found that all paper jams could be fixed by shoving a flexible metal ruler down the back of the roller, usually with the power still switched on (we didn't really do health & safety). More recently I applied this same technique to a much loved Brother laser printer belonging to my wife and broke it - she still goes on about it to this day!