Research revealed recently that teachers in the United States thought that the photocopier was the most useful piece of information technology hardware. What on earth will they make of these unusual machines?
The cheaper 950 model looks like a printer but is actually four machines: a printer, a plain-paper fax machine, a scanner and a copier.
This is an ink-jet desktop machine and its performance is first class, although it is not meant to out-class the top-of-the-range machines in any of its categories. Nevertheless, for the small office, or a department in a school, it could be a very sensible option. Just think of the space it saves.
The A4 printer at the heart of the machine is HP's ink-jet technology - 600 x 600 dots per inch for black and white and 600 x 300 for colour.
The scanner works on single sheets, so you cannot put a book through it. Caere OmniPage is its optical character recognition software. Feed text in and very soon it will have been transformed into text that can be used in your word processor.
The copier, like the scanner, will only work with single sheets and in black and white. Like all good copiers, it is simple to use. There are none of the sophisticated facilities such as reducing and enlarging and you would have to think twice about undertaking long print runs.
The fax is for plain paper, and you can set the machine to pick up fax calls. It is a splendid concept, a great machine and has a startling price.
If you are irked by some of the restrictions, look to the 1150C - a copier, printer and flat-bed scanner. This does the same as the 590, except for the fax. It scans from books, and scans and copies in colour. It is an ink-jet and out-performs the 590 both in clarity and speed, which is why it costs more.
Providing you follow the clear instructions, you should be copying and scanning in less than 15 minutes. You just connect a single lead.
Are they suitable for use in school? Provided they are used sensibly and within their capacity, they can extend, expand and enhance what you do for your pupils; they can make a significant difference to what is possible in a classroom. And they are probably the first step on the way to making a classroom what it ought to be - a multimedia workshop.