invasion of the Hydras likely to be welcomed by offices that don't
want a flock of machines with overlapping functions
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #306 September 5, 1995 High Tech Office
You have a phone. You have a fax machine that sends and receives
documents, and makes so-so copies in a pinch. You have a photocopier.
(In small businesses or home offices, it's a personal model. In bigger
organizations, it's the big machine down the hall.) You have a
one with a fax-modem attached to your phone line. And, possibly, you
have a scanner, to make digital copies of pages of text or graphics.
Almost certainly, the computer is attached to a printer--a small one
for your personal use or a larger one attached to a network.
wrong here is
that your battery of office hardware duplicates and reduplicates many
of its functions. For instance, your scanner copies pages, making
digital copies for your computer, which can then send the copies to
the laser printer. Sounds rather like a photocopier. In fact, Hewlett-Packard
bundles a copier utility with its computer scanners, giving you a
photocopier-like interface, letting you use your scanner, in concert
with your computer and printer, as a very slow, very expensive
for a photocopier.
makes copies. The fax modem and the fax machine both send and receive
faxes. And the scanner and the fax machine both create digital
of pages. Need a copy of your signature to add as a graphic to
documents, so you can fax signed letters from your computer? Sign
a letter, and send yourself a fax, receiving it on your computer.
an office full of gadgets with overlapping capabilities, and, not
surprisingly, a number of companies have decided there may be a market
for a gadget which can combine all these functions ("It slices, it
dices, it chops, it purees, why it even..."). Somewhere along the
way, these multipurpose machines were dubbed "Hydras," after the
monster of Greek mythology. The manufacturers, of course, prefer less
evocative names like "multifunction devices."
So take a
add a scanner and a phone, and you can replace an office full of
with a single unit--potentially a money- and space-saver for small
offices or people working from their homes. A typical example is Canon's
Multipass 1000, built around one of its well-regarded Bubble Jet inkjet
printers. Attach it to your computer and use it as a near-laser-quality
black-and-white printer. But it includes fax capability for plain-paper
faxing--no more rolls of thermo-paper twisting into curly documents
that fade away over time. And since it's connected to your computer,
it can also send documents directly from your software, or send faxes
as digital documents to your computer, with or without printing them
scans your printed pages for faxing is used to scan them for editing
on your computer. They can be edited as graphics, or, by using Optical
Character Recognition (OCR) software (a separate purchase), you can
read or edit them as text. Combine a scan and a print, and you've
got a photocopier. Total cost? About $1,000.
can be seen in Hewlett-Packard's OfficeJet, and at a somewhat higher
price in the Xerox 3002 (which includes OCR software.) Xerox
has the most copier features (not surprising given its corporate
but the HP model has friendlier software (and a friendlier price).
want real laser-printer
output rather than the "near-laser" quality promised by the three
inkjet models, check out the Brother MFC-4500ML. At about the
same price as Xerox's inkjet, it gives you a six-page-per-minute,
300-dpi laser printer as the basis for its combination
Or wait a while for the promised colour-inkjet unit from IBMLexmark.
remind me of
ghetto-blasters: they stuff what have been a series of formerly
functions into a single, lower-priced unit. Serious audio lovers may
sneer at these all-in-one sound solutions, which clearly have inferior
sound quality and fewer features than separate stereo components,
but they've become big sellers nonetheless. Similarly, you won't get
the same sophisticated output and wealth of options with a hydra as
you would with a collection of separate units. Despite this, these
hydras may be just the solution for many offices where money, space,
and simplicity are valued.