Can this printer be saved? one line of multistruck gibberish per page
August 18, 2014 11:59 PM   Subscribe

It feels like a part went out, but I don't know which. Can I replace it? It's a fantastic workhorse printer. Photos: Full page -- close up of text

My beloved old HP Laserjet 5 (just 5, no extra letters) suddenly stopped rendering pages. No matter what computer (PC, Mac) or software, it outputs several pages per desired page, but each one has only a single line of text, overprinted two or three times, with no intelligible meaning. There are dingbat characters mixed with numerals and letters.
posted by msalt to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The output you describe is a common malfunction-symptom with HP Printers. I see that HP's website does not even have firmware posted anymore for your dinosaur. Assuming you have already attempted to reset the device's settings and configure from scratch, you probably need to replace your beloved beast.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:12 AM on August 19, 2014

Looks like bad communication between the computer and the printer.
Before ditching it, I would try finding (Google it, since I don't know what OS you are on) and re-installing the driver. Even better if you happen to have that driver still.

Can't hurt, might help.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:23 AM on August 19, 2014

I've seen that kind of thing on laser printers with parallel port interfaces, of which I seem to recall the Laserjet 5 is one. Noise on the interface causes a single character to be dropped or an extra one injected, corrupting the introduction sequence for a block of PCL graphics data, which the printer then attempts to render the rest of as plain text.

Try cleaning up the plug and socket connectors with a carefully wielded pencil eraser and/or a bit of contact cleaning spray.

Your Laserjet might be networked rather than connected to your computers with a parallel printer cable - I believe the Laserjet 5 does have a slot for a network adaptor. But I've also seen HP JetDirect plug-in networking modules that connect via the parallel port. If yours has one of those, try unplugging it and cleaning the connectors as above.

If your Laserjet 5 has one of the native network adaptors, try doing a cold reset.
posted by flabdablet at 1:48 AM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

It would help to know if it was networked (and specifically with which JetDirect) or not, because as others have noted, it has all the hallmarks of a comms issue. On the other hand, at this point it is an ancient printer. Definitely look at pulling and resetting any JetDirect card, cleaning contacts, etc.

If it insists on printing from the loony bin:

We replaced the (originally very expensive) HPLJ4's and a 5Si here a few years back with some smaller color CP2025dn's, and while the build quality of the new units isn't great, getting color and faster rendering more or less makes up for it. If it comes to that, make sure you're paying attention to any trade-in rebate programs that HP is offering. We got the CP2025dn's on sale for $250 and HP footed the bill to haul the 5Si out of here AND gave us $75 for it, plus $50 each for some other junk printers, putting our total cost for gorgeous new lasers at less than $200 each.
posted by jgreco at 5:02 AM on August 19, 2014

I service printers in a high dust/humidity environment as part of my job. I see this occasionally. It's never not been cleared by up by:

1. opening up the area of the printer that has the interface card for USB/parallel/network printer card and blasting all the dust and dirt out of it. This works more often than anything else and i rarely make it to...

2. removing and reseating all the cables. Then replacing the cables. Then unplugging/plugging the cables like 50 times to knock out any potential corrosion of pins.

3. completely delete the printers profile from the system(s) it prints from. Add from scratch. Usually a 1-2 punch of 1 and 3 is my go to and just works.

If you do end up having to get a printer, do NOT get an HP. Oh my god they are so terribly made now. Get a lexmark, trust me. Samsung and brother are also solid choices.

I have no idea why 1 works so consistently. Does the dust get conductive? heat? who knows. But it works. I've also gotten weird garbage like this out of ancient lexmark dot matrix/impact printers when some optical sensor or pressure switch had crap in it. And i feel like that HP is old enough that it might freak out if it got conflicting signals from sensors especially if it was very intermittent, rather than just stop. It's like it's not realizing that the paper is moving, or only is intermittently, or thinks its in two positions at once, etc so it just overprints.
posted by emptythought at 5:23 AM on August 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Will try solutions tonight. The printer is not networked.

I do get that this machine is way past its expiration date -- I actually found it in a closet at my old coop building in San Francisco around 1994. And it was used and abandoned then. Hence my reluctance to let go.

Recommendations for new ones are great, too. One thing is I absolutely do not want is a deskjet printer of any sort, the cardtridges are a scam. Any laserprint (or newer tech, if any) is great. Thanks.
posted by msalt at 3:11 PM on August 20, 2014

« Older Help me find a professional soccer game to watch...   |   Miscarriage resources? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.