Planned obsolescenCe in Canon printers

There are two things I definitely hate: mediocrity and people/companies playing with our hard earned money. Today I will write about a bad experience I had with a printer -or rather a multi-function device- from Canon.

One way corporations play with their customer’s money is by Programmed Obsolescence.

Planned or Programmed Obsolescence

If you look on any search engine for these terms you will run on millions of articles on the subject.

“In economics and industrial design, planned obsolescence is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life or a purposely frail design, so that it becomes obsolete after a certain pre-determined period of time upon which it decrementally functions or suddenly ceases to function, or might be perceived as unfashionable.”


For those of us not cursed by the lack of good reasoning that characterises Millenials, we do remember those days in which you bought a product -any product- and it lasted for many years!

I remember when I was a recent graduate working for Philips in Europe. My income was quite modest; I was a young expat engineer living alone almost 9,000 kilometers from the place I was born. At the company’s outlet I bought a medium washing machine from one of their B-brands. I got it at a discount because it was dented in one side. To make the story short, twenty years later (20) I was at the laundry/bathroom when I remarked to my then girlfriend “Wow! I can believe this has lasted 20 years without servicing or degradation!” and that same day the washing machine broke down! Yes, talk about Murphy’s Laws! I called the service man and he fixed it in an hour, total cost €20 and the washing machine lasted another 8 years before I sold it fully-functioning for half the price I paid when I was relocating abroad for the 5th time.

Now, detaching myself from the brands mentioned above, I would say that kind of quality is not something you can expect today. Back then corporations took pride when people used their products for years. Nowadays the companies make you pay much more than a product actually costs and give you poorer quality and specifications in many cases.

Nowadays corporations want to create a false necesity by making you believe you need a newer product when what you have actually still fulfills its duties. They want your money and that sort of companies don’t care for the environment despite what they usually write in their sites about environment friendliness and social responsability.

Having sunk that thought into your minds, let’s talk about the bad experience I recently have with this planned obsolescense.

Bad Practice on Canon Pixma MG56XX

This post is about my experience with a Canon Pixma MG5610 multifunction device. By multifunction it is understod that the same product was a printer, copier and document & photo scanner. I refer to it as MG56XX because it goes by other numbers in other regions, for example MG5620, MG5650, etc.

My dad previously had it in his posession but it started giving him problems so I took it over when he bought yet another Canon (MG3610). One day -all of a sudden- I wanted to scan a document. I turned on the printer and after much clacking and kwacking the small LCD screen on the printer said in red:

Error 1403: The print head is wrong or damaged

It couldn’t be wrong because it had never been changed, so it had to be damaged, but why? the printer was not used heavily and was always treated with much care!

Most disturbing was the fact that I needed THIS “multifunction” device to scan a document but thanks to this error the entire printer/copier/scanner was rendered useless. Even though the error concerned the printhead which is used for printing or for printing during a copy operation, their firmware (the software that governs the device internally) disabled ALL buttons. In other words, it was not possible to do anything else with it. You cannot use the navigation buttons to check the configuration, nothing at all except turning the device off. The print head is not needed for scanning a document, there is no print operation during scanning.

So there I was, needing to scan an important document with a printer that had been paid for (we did not get it for free) and all I had left with was a big black paperweight and three perfectly good ink cartridges! And you would be amazed at the amount of plastic -bad for the environment- that would come out of this.

I looked on the web for solutions to this issue. I tried all sorts of “fixes” including removing and cleaning the print head. None of it worked. I called Canon support and it turned out that the cost of the printhead (not including service charges) was much more than the actual cost of the product.

Given that the printhead is not needed for scanning -and that is a fact- why would they disable the entire device and force you to throw it away when part of it could still serve a useful life? Obviously their software developers are partly to blame and I don’t think it is because of mediocrity but simply company policy. I know because for many years I developed and reviewed embedded firmware. Lucky me, I was never forced to compromise my moral integrity by having to implement built-in obsolescence.

Worst of all, I thought I was alone in that tragedy of a big corporation giving me a low blow. I mean, if they had given me the device for free I wouldn’t be totally entitled to complain. As it turned out there are thousands of people around the world running into the same problem! and no, it was not only with the model I had, if you search the Discussion Forums and YouTube you will quickly realized several other Canon multifunction devices suffer from the same flaw. A programmed flaw that is convenient for them but not to your pocket.

If you want to see how this tragic adventure ended do watch the YouTube video to the end. Don’t forget to follow the channel and subscribe to it.


While these corporations are making millions of dollars with unprecedented monetary gains, they are polluting the environment with all these products with planned obsolescence. At the same time they are making customers to stop to believe in their companies. I for one thing vowed not to ever again buy a Canon product.

And in the manner of a closing anecdote, this terrible Canon product I had it replaced by an HP multifunction device I bought fourteen (14) years ago! its printer/copier functionality no longer works (I will have a word on that in a follow up article!) but despite that, their excellent scanner function still works like a charm.