By 1989 two companies, Computer Concepts and Calligraph Ltd, both came up with the stylish solution of removing the computer hardware parts of laser printers and writing software to enable Acorn's RiscOS computers to do all the sums prior to sending data to what was now a dumb machine.
The Direct Drive system, as it became known, did not reduce the cost of high quality printing, but it cut the printing times from tens of minutes to seconds.
Today, as inkjet printers challenge their laser siblings, Calligraph continues to produce a direct drive A4 system at the same price (Pounds 999) but at the higher resolution of 1,200 dots per inch. Computer Concepts, on the other hand, has firmly pinned its colours to inkjets, which it now sees as the future for home, school and small businesses. It produces a range of "turbo-drivers", software that optimises the printing process and speeds up printing by returning control quickly to the computer, letting the printer get on with the task in its own time. The saving in time is substantial enough to make this system the de facto standard for the Acorn A-Series and Risc PCs. But in order to achieve these savings, Computer Concepts has rewritten aspects of the operating system to optimise printing and some software doesn't like this.
The inkjet printer has a healthy future, but instead of searching high and low for a discount of Pounds 10-20 on the printer, buyers should consider the running costs, because they will probably spend two or three times the cost of the printer over the next three or four years, in the cost of ink cartridges.
One solution is to re-ink cartridges yourself, using one of the proprietary re-inking kits on the market. Be warned though, choose a reputable company, such as Themis (UK), as using the wrong ink type in a Canon BJC600 will guarantee blocked inkjets. Using the Themis system for re-inking is quick, clean, simple and can save up to half the cost of a cartridge.
Chris Drage * Calligraph Ltd, 53 Panton Street, Cambridge, CB2 1HLComputer Concepts, Gaddesden Place, Hemel Hempstead, Herts, HP2 6EXThemis (UK), 11-13 Godstone Road, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 6RE