The builders of printing presses have always survived. From woodblocks to engraving, to etching, to Gutenberg’s first, through lithography and offset and on to screen-printing, they were never afraid of innovating; but were always careful to wait until their markets were saturated, only then building us something new.
By the time of the photocopier, they had learnt a new trick – forget the presses, sell the ink. And for a time this worked, and they gave us dot-matrix printers, and then ink-jets, lasers, and then ways to print our own CDs and DVDs. And into our hands they put the powers once held by industrial barons.
But by the dawn of the 21st century, we were beginning to sneer. “Physical media,” we rolled our eyes, “is obsolete.”
But the printmakers cannot be stopped so easily. And so they started to build printers which could print any thing. 3D printers. Electronic printers. Food printers. And with them, all sorts of wonderful new inks.
And for a time, we printed our own furniture, and food, and computers, and everything in-between. But gradually we grew bored, and our computers grew impossibly small, and a new market was needed. “Circuits, seats and sausages,” we turned up our noses, “are so 21st century.”
But the printmakers cannot be stopped so easily. For while we were printing our own little chairs, and eclairs, and retro ZX Sinclairs, they were building printers to print living things. Cell by cell, you could make whatever you dreamed – a new pet? A furred couch that purred? Easy. A living house; a tree perfect-formed with indoor plumbing? No problem. A new arm? Take two. And for a while, the printmakers had entire genera of inks to sell.
And then we reformed ourselves; into beings of light, or sound, or heat, or hope, or whatever we wished. “Organicism,” we curled our no-longer-lips, “is so pedestrian.”
But the printmakers cannot be stopped so easily. For while we were printing dragons, and unicorns, and wings, and all manner of living things, they were eyeing the heavens; the stars, the comets, the nebulae, and counting all the wonderful inks we’d need.
And so the cosmic printers began to whirr.
Impossible? Not hardly.