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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Office Culture Prefers Slow Dot Matrix

It's a sign of just how warped my mind has become. Now whenever I visit any Russian organization, the first thing I do is to look at how they use their computers and office equipment.

This week I was at a

local office waiting for a middle-aged woman to print out a list of names. As she printed, her eyes had that semi-gazed expression that says, "This is part of my job, and I don't care HOW long you have been waiting in that queue." The list was about eight pages, and it was taking about three minutes per page. As she printed, she could neither do anything else (she had to feed the pages into the top of the machine one by one) or speak to anyone (above the noise of the printer). I am sure this same frustrating episode is repeated 10,000 times every day in Russia. Action in offices reduces to a crawl as everybody waits for a dusty printer to grind out a document.

This huge waste of time is of course unnecessary -- there is no shortage of printers that can print both silently and at acceptable speeds. Rather than having a noisy dot matrix printer on every desk, for the same money it is possible to buy a shared laser printer that would do the job infinitely better. Today there are also noiseless ink-jet printers sold at around the same price as the dot matrix model that was sitting on that woman's desk. In Western Europe, dot matrix printers are no longer the main office workhorse. Instead, they tend to be used only for more specialized jobs, such as printing carbon copies and specialized forms.

Russia, however, loves the dot matrix printer. Don't be fooled into thinking that all of those machines are just relics of the past. The top selling printer in Russia is today a dot matrix model from Epson Corp. called the FX 1050. This printer has been the favorite printer model here for many years. The dust you see covering those machines doesn't mean that they are old -- it probably takes no more than a week to collect.

But something that many printer manufacturers have never grasped about Russia is that tens of thousands of people like it this way. If a printer is noisily churning out paper, then work must be in progress. Most administrative workers around the country are not paid for the speed at which they work. The office dot matrix printer provides them with one of those all important moments of "suspended animation" during the working day. These are points during which, for a completely acceptable reason, a clerk can reduce effort levels and brain activity to a minimum.

Introduce a strange new piece of suspiciously quiet technology into a typical state-sector office, and my guess is that the reaction will be resistance. First, people will find as many reasons as possible why this machine is difficult to use or why it doesn't work properly. If this fails, their final resort will be to wedge a decaying piece of paper deep inside its body in the hope that after it is taken away this new device will not be brought back again.

Reactions are not purely motivated by laziness. There are psychological factors at work, too. For the benefit of middle-aged workers, a printer should ideally resemble a typewriter. Though typewriters have often vanished from desks, their ghosts live on. In offices, people often place the computer keyboard, the computer monitor and the printer in such a way as to recreate the feel of a missing typing machine. More modern printer designs do not allow you to do that.

So be prepared for more noise. The dot matrix printer is here to stay.

Robert Farish is the editor of Computer Business Russia. Fax: 929-9958. E-mail: