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Printing during the apocalypse: why the HP Smart Tank 580 is a workhorse

It’s been three days since the world ended.

There were signs.

My motorcycle riding group noticed… strangeness. Stories of an unearthly stillness on the trails cutting across the mountains, whispers around the provinces describing gruesome, unexplained maulings.

Tall tales.

Then, on the day my HP Smart Tank 580 arrives, it happens.

The HP Smart app is downloading on my phone when the messages start coming in.

Random violence.


Neighbors attacking neighbors, family killing family.

Outside, sirens begin to wail, and what sounds like gunshots can be heard.

A riding buddy sends me a note as the networks flicker and die. I curse as my download fails, hit the notification, and hope it’s worth it.

It’s a map, turn-by-turn directions to a remote trail. He has a safe spot there.

He talks to all of us, but it looks like he only sent it to me.

I have to let the group know somehow.

I’m not going to wait until they get their acts together, though.

Old school. The answer is old school.

I’ll leave printouts.

The HP Smart Tank 580 is a workhorse. It has refillable ink reservoirs, duplex printing, and can do 6,000 pages black & white, or 8,000 in color.

The clincher for me is that all tanks can be refilled for around PHP 540. Black ink itself only costs PHP 145, translating to PHP 0.02 per page.

It’ll cost a deskjet PHP 0.30 to do the same thing, and that’s only up to 120 pages.

At 3,000 pages a month, this PHP 10,500 investment pays for itself in under a year.

But that was last week, when money still mattered.

All that matters now is what it can do.

The feeder can handle 100 leaves. The tray holds 30. I have a ream.

There will be a map in color on one side, and the directions in black on the other. Everything’s going to be in draft.

I don’t have the app.

Cold sweat forms on my temple.

I fiddle with the iPhone, hoping for a miracle.

The Smart Tank suddenly pops up on Apple Air Print. The printer itself has direct network setup instructions in its firmware.

I hit two buttons, and it spits out salvation on a piece of scratch paper.


Time to work.

At 16 pages per minute for color and blistering 22 for b&w, it’ll take around 6.5 seconds per sheet. The 500 leaves will finish in an hour, including 5 minutes to reload the feeder and put 30 sheet batches out of the tray.

My wife and I use those 3,600 seconds to throw essentials into the car. Documents, supplies, dog.

I stop to admire the excellent quality of the draft print. It’ll more than get the job done.

40 minutes go by.

A hollow, moaning chorus reaches our ears.

We’re out of time.

I unplug the printer, grab all the papers, and hurry to the car.

“Set it up,” I yell to my wife. “I’ll get the gate.”

The gate reverberates with a bang before I reach it. A bloody hand grabs the top, then locks tight in a powerful grip.

The dog barks.

I take a step back. This is happening.

By design, the gate opens outwards. Sucking in a breath, I unbar it, but leave it closed. Then I sprint back to the car.

We burst through the barrier and onto the road with violence. The two shambling dead on the gate are catapulted far from us. The noise attracts the attention of a large group, who turn towards our rapidly retreating car.

I exhale.

How long had I been holding my breath?

Our route leads us past as many of our group as possible. We drop ten sheets at every location. Hopefully one will make it into a friend’s hands.

I dodge hungry corpses and stalled cars.

My wife works the printer.

This thing sips power as frugally as it sips ink. It consumes only 3 watts on standby.

It’s printing for its life now, however, and my 256 watt-hour battery says these last 100 leaves better finish in under an hour.

Halfway through fifty, the low ink warning flashes.

“Impossible,” I say.

“So are zombies,” retorts my wife. She peeks in the case, and ink dribbles out.

The tanks have leaked.

“That’s it,” she declares. “We’ve got to work with what we’ve got.”

We divide the remaining maps evenly across the last few stops. After all but one are gone, we hit the gas.

The roads are treacherous and long. We drive for two days before arriving at the safe house.

Not everyone makes it.

But most do.

We’re all battered and worse for wear – including the HP Smart Tank 580. It may be good at many things, but printing while running from a horde of the undead was one thing it wasn’t made for.

We pull it from the car as the sun sets.

Our friends watch in silence, many with maps still in hand.

This amazing machine.

We wouldn’t be here without it.

Magenta ink drips from its tray, staining the leaves on the ground.