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An Interview With the Woman Who Takes Photos of Abandoned Printers

Fucking printers, how do they work?

For the last year, Brooklyn-based photographer Alyssa Blumstein has been taking photos of abandoned printers that have been left by their owners to rot on curbs of New York City. Her Tumblr Printers Are the Weakest Link in Technology features those photos and a handful of others submitted by her friends from around the country. As someone who tossed his printer into an electronics recycling heap and never looked back, I felt I could commiserate, and so, I called her up to have a frank discussion about mankind's relationship with our inkjets.

Motherboard: Let's talk about printers!
Alyssa Blumstein: They Suck!

Fuck printers. Why take pictures of printers and not, say, VCRs? I see those all the time.
I was driving recently and outside a school, there were truly four dozen overhead projectors sitting on the street. It was so sad, I thought about grabbing one but thought, "No, you don't want that shit, keep going." The thing is, overhead projectors are bad and the technology has gotten better. But with printers, they're still terrible. Your printer will always fail you and you can't fix them, you just have to get a new one.

Give me your worst printer horror story. You must have one.
I think of college having to go to the computer lab to print something. They'd had a bay of seven laser printers and they would all down that day. It's weird, because if you did a paper and your hard drive crashed, the professor would never take that excuse. But if you said 'Every printer on this campus didn't work today,' that was somehow an acceptable response, because it often seemed like it was true.

Image: Alyssa Blumstein

Are you surprised you see so many trashed printers? Or do you think you're just like predisposed to noticing them now?
I'm not surprised because I've been shouting into the abyss that printers are the weakest link in technology, and that so many people are throwing them away is just validating what I have always said about them. I'm not sure I'm looking for them or if I'm sadly very perceptive of New York trash piles. People are shocked at how many I see and I'm shocked they're not seeing them.

What is your perfect printer? Does the perfect printer exist?
I have a laser printer because I thought veering away from inkjet would be a safer means of printing, but it's not. It doesn't always print clearly through each line. We've set the bar incredibly low. We expect so little of printers, so the perfect printer is one that just prints when you ask it to print. That's it. It just does its job effectively and efficiently. That's the perfect printer.

I have a printer story I want to tell you.
I'd love to hear it.

Earlier this summer, VICE got a new printer, and it took like three days for it to be installed. Three days! They had a whole team of people installing this printer. They put the old one in the bathroom in the meantime. It got set up for a day, and then the next day, the old one was back. And then the new one was back. It was the craziest thing I've ever seen. Also, to print front-and-back on this printer you must go through four sets of menus, including one called "Fiery Features."
That's just it. People set up entire networks of office computers in a few hours, and you can't get your office printer working for days.

Image: Alyssa Blumstein

How do you feel about 3D Printers?
They seem awesome. I don't have much experience using them, but I think 3D printers are probably the future.

I'm sure they'll have the same problems regular ones do. OK—so do all of your friends think you're nuts? If we want to contribute, what do we do?
A number of my friends send me images, so i think that if they secretly think I'm crazy then they're cheering it on I suppose. I'm not ranting some sort of insane prophecy here, I'm just speaking the truth for everyone to see. I would love love love if more people posted and contributed online to this idea. You can use the hashtag #printersaretheweakestlink on Instagram and I'll put it on my Tumblr.