I remember when I was a kid that I had a certain amount of awe for some companies. I particularly remember that I used to think that HP was cool. I mean, how couldn’t they be? For one thing they made all that fancy scientific equipment but not only that they made all those neat calculators that did the whole reverse-polish thing.

The Mighty HP42s

I owned a HP42s (pictured left) and it was a very very cool item indeed. The ‘s’ stood for scientifc but it had it’s own stack based programming language that allowed you to write simple applications. You could even plot graphs onto its two line display. But only if you were sick and twisted, like me.

In the early 90s I spent a long summer trying to program an HP Deskjet 560c from a DOS program using only PCL5. It was quite a slow task and Windows would make the entire thing a subsequent waste of time but I had nothing but the utmost respect for the hardware.

But everything made by HP I’ve owned since then has been of poor or low quality. I owned an inkjet that broke down before the cartridges ran out. Then I bought a WiFi printer that has lasted longer but never loads a page straight. Then I bought a scanner that:

  • for some reason comes with about 300Mb of software that is garbage and I don’t want but the scanner can’t do without
  • the software doesn’t work very well and has a clunky non-standard interface which makes the whole experience regrettable

Last night a friend ‘dropped’ round an old HP notebook ‘nx6110′ for me to fix. The notebook was not broken just missing a driver, but the entire experience of getting that driver from HP left me sad and demoralised. Once I had discovered the product model number and located the driver I noticed that the driver was 24.7Mb (it subsequently transpired that this package contained the driver for 3 different OSs but still)! When I tried to install it it wanted to install itself into a non-standard folder in C:\ which annoyed me. Nor did the folder get automatically cleaned up afterwards.

After that joyless experience I wanted to install the WiFi drivers but it was impossible to tell from the notebook and the website which one to install. They had at least 5. Should I install one? Two? A combination? Simply unclear. I unsuccesfully tried to install 3 or 4 and just gave up in the end. I was sick, tired and angry of the low quality HP product and support.

What is going on? There’s no joy in owning an HP product anymore, and in fact I would say that this has been true since before the Compaq merger. I can’t remember the last time they made a product that generated desire like Apple or even Dell. So I guess I’ll just polish my reverse-polish HP42S and remember the gold old days and how things used to be. Perhaps new research direction can save them but as a consumer I’m not going to buying any more of their products unless they produce something exceptional.