I got a new digital camera for Christmas. It is a very nice camera, and I like it very much, but it does have a lot of features I haven’t entirely figured out, so sometimes it can be a little frustrating. But not as frustrating as it was in a dream I had last night.
In my dream I was trying to take a picture of my parents (both now deceased). Though neither of them actually had false teeth in real life, in this dream they did, and for some reason they kept taking them out after I had taken a picture, even though I was planning to try again for a better shot. Finally I decided I would just take a picture of them with their teeth in their hands, figuring that would be a good joke.
But the camera wouldn’t let me! I pressed the shutter, but nothing happened. Finally I think I got some sort of error message and concluded that the camera thought the picture would be in poor taste.
This may not be as farfetched as it sounds. Computer users are accustomed to having the computer refuse to take some action “for your own good.” Apple Computer based one of its highly successful Mac vs. PC commercials on the “Are you sure you really want to do this?” aspect of User Account Control in Windows Vista. But shortly before Christmas I had a really bizarre experience with a printer with a mind of its own.
I had decided to give my son money for Christmas, but I didn’t necessarily want to just send a check. My eye was caught by the “cash shirt” offered by Miles Kimball, and I added that to my catalog order.
By the time my order arrived, however, I had gotten cold feet about sending cash through the mail, so I had the bright idea that I would just scan the bills I had intended to use, print out the images on plain paper, and use those, sending the “shirt” along with a check. This simplified the process in one way because, instead of needing six bills, I could get by with three. I scanned each one and inserted the images into a Word document. So far so good.
Although there was no chance that anyone would mistake this printout for actual money (especially since I was printing only one side), I did use my “good” printer paper and set the printer for “Best” quality. I did want the fake bills to look nice. That’s where I made my mistake, as it turned out.
I sent the job to the printer, and it chugged briefly and then spat out a partially printed page. Below a one-inch stripe of the first bill was the text “http://www.rulesforuse.org/”. This Web site explains the do’s and don’ts of making facsimiles of U.S. currency. Unfortunately, there is no provision for making actual-size facsimiles, and a different size wouldn’t work for the “cash shirt.”
I tried everything I could think of to fool the printer. I drew a heavy black line across the bill. I converted to PDF. Nothing worked until I finally threw in the towel and reduced the quality to “Normal.” Then the bills would print.
Most people I have told about this experience have been incredulous. It is evidence of a much higher degree of intelligence in the printer driver than I would have given it credit for. Not only can the printer detect what kind of paper I’m using (it has an automatic setting that adjusts the amount of ink for the paper type), but it can also detect what I’m printing and disallow it if I’m trying to break a law. Even the Jetsons didn’t predict this!