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A box the size of a small refrigerator arrived yesterday—that would be my new printer, a monster of a thing, equipped with enough hooplah to service a small country’s paper currency needs. I needed a practical replacement for my ancient GCC XL 608 tabloid laserprinter (loved so much I got myself another GCC)—a workhorse purchased in 1996 as the very first postscript tabloid printer available, and now so outmoded that in its last days the poor thing was jury-rigged to within an inch of its life, simply to keep it connected to a modern personal computer.

As a composer, and for many years as a copyist as well (more on that sometime later), this old dog got a workout. Scores, proofs, parts, covers, more scores, more proofs, more parts … I estimate that the 608 went through about a dozen toner cartridges (each at more than $200 a pop), outlasting 4 different computers. Officially, it printed 38,908 pages for me. Considering that at least half of those were 11×17 pages, we can conservatively estimate that that it actually printed something in the ballpark of 60,000 (letter-size) pages, most of those containing many horizontal lines in groups of five… The manual, still extant and on the shelf after all these years, tells me that the printer’s life was 30,000 letter-size pages. Hmm.

Built before every printer was equipped with ethernet and usb ports, this sucker featured only serial and parallel offerings. Thaaaat’s right. Serial. Remember that? That little round cable with those pins (that broke) which you couldn’t unplug while the computer or peripheral was ON? You could even use them with telephone cable for a network connection (of sorts). Apple killed the serial port, oh, about 7 or 8 years ago. But I was undeterred. For a while, the printer was connected through a separately-purchased serial port I installed myself into a non-serial-equipped G4, just to thumb my nose at the computer manufacturer gods and what I considered to be their fickle connectivity designs. When operating system software no longer supported the port, I resorted to this, a nifty little number which actually allowed the 608 (remember, armed only with a serial port) to connect to my network. It was slow (you have no idea) but it worked. And so I reached around to slap myself on the back for my ingenuity and ability to eek out another few years of service from this relic.

When the 608 finally began to occasionally and randomly blink with scary hardware error messages, and when I started to receive e-mails and messages from GCC informing me of a recall/retrofit program due to their discovery that this old model might spontaneously burst into flames, I began to think that perhaps it was time for a new printer. It was time quite some time before, of course, but I’m not one to impulse-buy. I marinate over these matters for years.

So here the new beauty sits. Sturdy. Capable. Connectable. Eager to save me from shaving another year off my life by sparing me the evils of manual feeding and doing the double-sided printing for me. It’s a fantastic printer—Mackey has the same one for all of his composerly needs, and has given it exemplary marks … but as I look at that old 608 on the floor, forlorn and abandoned, awaiting sale, donation, or the Best Interests of Mother Earth (whichever comes first), I can’t help choking on my regret. Really, what did it ever do but endlessly print a rainforest-worth of pages for me in the Greater Service of Music? This puppy deserves a better fate.

But, no Mom, Old Yeller’s my dog. I’ll put him down myself…

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