So I have an Epson C84 color printer. It’s cheap, it did its job. I had gotten it because it was cheap and would do its job.

Today it stopped doing its job. The SO went to print a document and the printer said, “Sorry!” What was wrong? It had no color ink.

“But,” I said to the printer, “this is a black and white document.”

“Ah…” says the printer, “about that… my black ink… it’s not really black. I’ve been using the color ink to cover for it, but now that I’m out of color ink I can’t cover up the fact that the ink is not black. I’ve been living a lie.”

“You can’t just print with whatever the hell is in the black ink cartridge?”

“No… my sense of honor wouldn’t allow me.”

Now it doesn’t take long to figure out why this situation came up, and it’s not because the SO needed something printed for class. No, it’s because black ink is cheap, and color is where the money is. There isn’t even money in the printer itself anymore. They just make them to sell the color cartridges. So how do they deal with people like me and the SO, who only really want to print black and white text files? The obvious solution is to set the windows drivers so that even when you say to print in black and white, they use color. Then, just so you can say you aren’t totally fucking over the consumer, put a check box in the “advanced” options, that claims to make it actually print in black ink only. Why? Because using the ink you want is a difficult decision to make, and Epson wants to protect you from the dangerous, and unprofitable, choices you might make. I’m not even sure that the “advanced” option works. It sure as hell doesn’t let me print in black ink when the black ink cartridge is new and the other three are empty. Now, my iBook never used the color cartridges, I just picked black and it was black, the ink in the other cartridges didn’t go down. But now it won’t print anymore either. I guess the black ink Epson sells just wasn’t black enough.

Addendum, two links from the FAQ about the C84, courtesy of Epson.

Why does color ink go down when I’m printing black and white?

Can this printer print with one cartridge empty?

There’s also one answer in there that says black only is impossible in OS X. I find this all darkly hilarious.

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