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The Hardcopy Peripheral Market is still growing: Why? Just stop it!


via Flickr © Coconino National Forest (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • The paperless office is still a dream
  • Printers are still being manufactured at a hectic rate - in fact more so than ever
  • What can stop this madness?

In my first job, back in the 19[muffled]s everything was done on paper. There were no computers, in fact no office technology of any description. I assume the ‘bosses’ had their letters and memos typed up by secretaries who were instructed to cc where appropriate (cc, by the way, means carbon copy), so there was very little in the way of paper consumption. Our organisation then didn’t even have a photocopier and if, for some reason, I needed to produce a copy of something, I would proffer 5 cents to the receptionist at the more up-to-date business next door and return clutching my single copy.

Our office wasn’t particularly Dickensian - the infotech was just based on typewriters like most other places (electric ones).

But all that was about to change. Office computers arrived and one of the most magical things about them (magical in the Arthur C. Clarke “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” sense) was, in my humble opinion, the dot matrix printer.  Perhaps it was because you could actually see what it was doing; perhaps it was because it made a noise like a very small but demented chainsaw; but mostly because it cost only a very few hundred pounds or dollars and it could do in a few seconds what it would have taken a typist many minutes to do going at full tilt. Magic is all relative.

So it’s not surprising that printers were popular then and for the next couple of decades consumed paper at an ever-increasing rate.

What is surprising is that in this era of cloud and networks and infinite storage, people still feel the need to print out what can clearly be seen on the screen, despite the cries of “tree killer” from all around them and pleas against printing at the bottom of nearly every incoming email. 

My hands are clean, by the way. I didn’t have a printer for many years and only bought one recently for those occasional uses that demand a hard copy. I doubt if I’ve printed out more than a dozen pages with it.

But the rest of you. Shame!

Despite the socially unacceptable nature of printing these days, the printer market continues to actually grow in units, if not in money terms. And perhaps for reasons of shame it appears to have changed its name from the admirably clear ‘Printer Market’ to the ‘Hardcopy Peripherals (HCP) Market’.

At least that’s what IDC is calling it. Latest IDC research has identified a 1.2 per cent year-over-year market increase to nearly 28.1 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017. Shipment value, on the other hand, decreased by 1 per cent to $13.7 billion in the quarter.

So as with every magic-infused technology, the price goes down and the units shipped go up, driving just enough extra revenue to keep the pot simmering.

So the paper is still being consumed, the trees are still toppling and the forests still thinning.

Now that all that floating plastic is getting the attention it deserves, perhaps we should turn our guns and thoughts once again to the paperless office, especially as the office itself is on the slide. Don’t use paper  -  there’s no need for it.

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