Jurassic Tech: The Ghost of Christmas Past

Back in 1988, Todd Ogasawara had a very different list for Santa. And the gifts he wanted? You’ll have to see them to believe it.

HP Deskjet Times Roman cartridge.

If you were a tech geek back in 1988, one of the best possible holiday gifts you could want was the first black and white inkjet printer from Hewlett-Packard: The HP Deskjet 500 cost ONLY $1,000 — it was the smallest, fastest and quietest home use laser printer available at the time.

By fast, I mean two pages per minute.

HP Deskjet font cartridge front panel.

If you already had one of these printing wonders, the next thing on your list was a collection of font cartridges. The Deskjet 500 only printed Courier in a couple of point sizes back then. Printing the Times Roman face or even doing something like trying to print in landscape mode meant you needed even more cartridges. Crazy.

HP Deskjet font cartridge connector.

You can check out my collection of HP Deskjet 500 font cartridges among the photos in the piece. In addition to those and the landscape printing cartridge, I also nabbed a fixed-spaced Prestige Elite cartridge. It looked so much better than Courier. That Epson FX-80 emulation cartridge was a must-have for compatibility with the then defacto standard consumer printer.

HP Deskjet font cartridge cases.

The LED lights on the front panel of each font cartridge gave you visual feedback so you could tell the printer drive selected the correct font and typesize.

HP Deskjet font cartidge case back.

As you wander through my photos, you’ll note that HP font cartridges came in very nice looking cases with custom molding for each cartridge. The back of each case displayed every character, font, type size, and pitch available for the cartridge. Nearly a quarter of a century later, my cases and cartidges look to be in pretty good shape. There is a hint of oxidation on the metal connector fingers that plugged into the Deskjet, though.

HP Deskjet font cartridge in form fitted case mold.

No one has to worry these days about getting hardware to add fonts to their systems. But this was the norm back in 1988. It wasn’t all bad, though. Today, in the age of skin-piercing plastic blister packs, it is nice to think about those sturdy font cartridge cases and how each was shipped in high-quality packaging that stood the test of time.

Got a memory to share? Send me an email!