2369: All-in-One

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Changes with this update: If you use the combined scan-shred function, it now performs them in that order instead of the reverse, saving a HUGE amount of CPU time.
Title text: Changes with this update: If you use the combined scan-shred function, it now performs them in that order instead of the reverse, saving a HUGE amount of CPU time.


This is a parody of an all-in-one printer, a printer which typically can perform several functions, usually printing, scanning, copying, and faxing. This machine starts off with fairly standard printer functions but quickly becomes absurd. The machine is accordingly oversized, making room for all the status indicators and (presumably) the extra internal parts required to accomplish the uncommon functions.

The title text reads like a software update's patch notes; the mentioned feature says that if both the "scan" and "shred" options are selected, it now scans documents before trying to destroy them. This indicates that, prior to this update, the machine destroyed documents and then scanned the pieces and tried to reconstruct them, identifying the original location of each shredded piece on the original sheet(s) of paper, which takes a large amount of processing power. Such a matter SEEMS like an unrealistic oversight on the developers' part, but real developers of both games and machinery have made similarly huge errors both before and after this comic was uploaded.

List of functions

Certain functions are lit green, indicating they are in use. To show which ones are in use, they are highlighted green (selected).

Functions that most all-in-one printers do

  • Print (selected): The most common function that a printer needs to do. A digital document or graphic exists on a computer, is sent to the printer and the printer transfers the document onto paper using ink or toner.
  • Copy: A copy function allows a user to place a document on the integrated/linked scanning bed and the printer will immediately make a copy of the document as if it were a traditional 'analogue' photocopier.
  • Fax (selected): A fax function sends a scanned document by telephone to another telephone number. The receiver fax machine will reconstruct the document and print it. A machine that has this function is usually also able to act as a receiver for faxes sent from elsewhere, though that setting wouldn't be visible in this configuration group.
  • Scan: A scan function is used to optically scan images or documents into digital forms so that they can be used by computers. It can be seen as the reverse operation of the printer function.
  • Collate (selected): To sort multiple copies of printed documents into sequences of individual page order, usually across multiple output trays having one sequence for each copy, especially before binding.
  • Staple (selected): To staple together multipage documents, especially for each collated copy. This function is usually found only in high-end printers.

Functions that relate to printers or scanners, that most cannot do

  • Staple Removal: Although mechanical removal of staples can be done by various devices, it's often not a simple task. Staples can be bent and mangled in many ways, and detaching them from paper without causing damage can require fairly complex intelligence.
  • Shred: A shredder function is used to destroy paper for privacy or security by cutting it into strips or fine particles. Normally this task is handled by another specialised machine called a shredder, but this time it is already inbuilt into the printer.
  • Translate: If the paper text is in another language, this would presumably translate it for you — after scanning and OCRing. This would actually be a helpful function and may be available on recent scanner-printers, although usually in the software that comes with the printer, on the host computer, rather than inside the printer itself.
  • Add those perforated edge strips that are so fun to tear: In an earlier era, dot matrix printers and line printers were the common standard, and used a type of continuous stationery, which was manufactured with perforated strips along each side, with regularly spaced holes which allowed spiked wheels to advance the paper through the printer. Tearing these strips off after printing was once a standard task when using a printer. This type of stationery is now obsolete, but many people of Randall's generation become oddly nostalgic about removing the strips from the old style of paper -- the strips are kind of fun to play with. Note that the old stationery was designed such that the remaining page typically had a "standard" paper width, with the strips adding additional width. It's unclear if this function is adding perforations to standard paper, which would leave it too narrow once the resulting edge strips were removed, or is somehow adding perforated strips to it.

Functions completely unrelated to printing or scanning

  • Summarize: Presumably this function would summarize a printed material for the user. Similar to the translate function, a document would need to be scanned and OCRed first. Then a machine learning algorithm would comprehend the text and reduce it in length while keeping the important points. Automatic text summarization does exist, although the technology is not as widely used as automatic translation.
  • Plagiarize: This function is unclear. Maybe it would plagiarize a paper for a certain subject? It would also be legally questionable. (Maybe it plagiarizes printer techniques, in which case this might be useful, though only in edgecases)
  • Roll: This function would probably roll up paper into a roll, like how the newspaper is rolled up for distribution by paperboys.
  • Burn: Perhaps the printer has this function for greater assurance that sensitive information will be irretrievably destroyed. Historically, some printers could be at risk of catching fire if they jammed in a particular way, and so the "lp0 on fire" error code was created to signal that it should be investigated urgently.
  • Eat: A printer is often said to "eat" paper by mangling either the input or output. Printer failure is also the modern descendant of the classic excuse for late homework, "the dog ate my homework".
  • Fold airplane: This function makes paper airplanes out of paper stored in the printer, or documents being printed. Paper airplane folding machines are a thing, so it'd be possible to design something to fold an origami flower, as well.
  • Origami flower: Similar to the previous one, this function makes flowers using the origami paper folding process.
  • Corrugate: Corrugated fiberboard or cardboard is a kind of crinkled paper sandwiched between two sheets. This provides structural strength for low weight. Printers that jam can produce a paper that looks corrugated, but this is not an intended function, and corrugated fiberboard is not made with printers.
  • Papier-mâché: (Literally "chewed paper") is a composite construction material consisting of paper pieces, bound with an adhesive, often a flour paste. The printer could use its "shred" and "eat" functions to produce the necessary materials, and any leftovers could be composted with the "biodegrade" function.
  • Découpage: An art form where paper printed with decorative images is glued onto an object (typically boxes, but also furniture) and covered with many layers of varnish so that the images appear painted onto the object.
  • Notarize (selected): A notary public is a person certified by a government to attest that certain kinds of legal documentation are legitimate and executed. All-in-one printers and scanners may be able to recognize certain signs of legitimacy (e.g. the EURion constellation), but unless this printer has some tactile sensation, it cannot certify the identity of the person who signed the document as a human can.
  • Biodegrade: This would biodegrade the paper. Whether this would send it to an organic waste plant (which would be helpful) or actually house a composter inside the printer (which would be gross[citation needed]) is unknown.
  • Crumple and throw at trash like basketball (selected): Many people, when done with a piece of paper, will crumple it up and throw it into a trash can from a distance as if playing basketball. This wouldn't be a very useful feature in a printer, especially relative to its complexity.[citation needed] For one thing, it would prevent the person who printed the document from using it (even if the user intends to throw away the paper eventually, presumably they need to use it at least once or they wouldn't print it), and it would also deny the user one of the few pleasures available in the office environment. The specificity of this function name could suggest that other models of this printer (Even-More-In-One?) could imitate other sports, such as paper football.


[A large printer-like machine, with the label All-in-One Paper Processor on the top left of it. There are three columns of functions, with a few of them having a green light. At the top of the machine is a "paper feed" tray. At the bottom of the machine, is a large hole, for outputting the paper.]
Column 1
  • Print (lit green)
  • Copy
  • Fax (lit green)
  • Shred
  • Scan
  • Translate
  • Summarize
  • Plagiarize
  • Collate (lit green)
Column 2
  • Staple (lit green)
  • Remove staples
  • Add those perforated edge strips that are so fun to tear
  • Roll
  • Burn
  • Eat
Column 3
  • Fold airplane
  • Origami flower
  • Corrugate
  • Paper-mâché
  • Découpage
  • Notarize (lit green)
  • Biodegrade
  • Crumple and throw at trash like a basketball (lit green)

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Is the title text a reference the Librareome project in Rainbow's End (Vernor Vinge)?

See, e.g., [1]

-- 18:06, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

I wonder if Randall took inspiration from [this Dilbert](https://dilbert.com/strip/1994-04-25). Moosenonny10 (talk) 18:52, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

I don't think "eat" and "corrugate" are intended as malfunctions. People sometimes eat paper -- it's a common trope in spy parodies where someone will eat a document to prevent someone from getting access to it. And corrugate just sounds like it's making corrugated cardboard from the input paper. Barmar (talk) 19:22, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

I changed it. What do you think? welp, i Donthaveusername (talk) 19:37, 7 October 2020 (UTC)
I made you a document but I eated it... 08:13, 3 November 2020 (UTC)

Seems like plagiarize would be somehow related to scan and copy.

I imagine the internal sub-functions would be: Scan (or read from prepocessed page data from an original document 'sent to printer'), OCR (as necessary - implied in Translate but not mentioned as a function, despite being an actually popular 'one touch' function with appropriate desktop software involved), Comprehend (natural-language processing), De-Source (remove references that indicate the true source, including headers, watermarks, logos), Re-Arrange (optional shuffling/re-wording in places, maybe even synonyms), Re-Source (personalise back up again, for the plagiarist's benefit), then Print (if scan-for-copy/printed) or Save (if scan-for-storage, maybe even 'print'-to-storage via the device). 00:21, 8 October 2020 (UTC)
plagiarize seems to be related to summarize. I'd envision the same logic which extracts the meaning from a document to create the summary would take that same meaning and insert it into another document (presumably the user's document).

shred and scan (or scanf) are also unix and C functions. Shred overwrites a file on disk, deleting it and preventing any subsequent recovery of the lost data. scan reads input according to a format string. Should one take a standard file and scan a string per the format '%s', the program will read in the variable until an end-of-line character is encountered. If the file were shredded first, resulting in a random set of bits, this end of line character might never be read. This seems to be more of a memory problem than a CPU problem, thus might not be the full explanation of the alt-text. -- 21:10, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

Potentially related fun fact: in the olden days when copiers are slow and generates a lot of heat (the copies would actually be warm to touch), the "copy" function is often referred to as "burn". This is why making CD copies etc. later also used the term "burn". I read somewhere about an IBM intern setting an important document on fire when he was asked to "burn a copy", but can't find the source anymore. 22:45, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

The incomplete template mentions that there might be a reason for Randall making this topic, but I don't think there is other than just making a funny joke. 22:42, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

What, it can fold but not spindle or mutilate? :( 23:14, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

Is staple removal a real printer feature? BunsenH (talk) 23:17, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

Doubt it. 23:39, 7 October 2020 (UTC)
Staple-detection is (fairly) trivial, but consistently extracting them 'nicely' while preserving the paper as much as possible might be beyond a device (it's tricky enough for a person, sometimes). 23:51, 7 October 2020 (UTC)
It's not beyond a staple remover. 00:52, 8 October 2020 (UTC)
Even for a staple remover, it's sometimes not a trivial task, sometimes requiring some "intelligence". I don't think this feature is available in off-the-shelf tech. BunsenH (talk) 01:25, 8 October 2020 (UTC)
Back in the 1990s you could buy industrial staple removers which sensed and cut parallel to the paper face, with cutting surfaces that open and move up under the first ten pages or so. Maybe one in 20 times they would mangle the paper. 13:33, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

I'm disappointed there's no "jam for no particular reason in the most difficult place to access" option. 23:18, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

I thought there should be Paper Cranes in the right-hand column... But your suggestion is also an obvious omission. 23:51, 7 October 2020 (UTC)

Regarding the "possibility that this printer is a complex computer": most printers are. Any printer which can process postscript OR is connected to network obviously contains computer more powerful than first IBM PCs, not speaking about the computer used in Apollo. -- Hkmaly (talk) 00:35, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

Well, it's more complex now. 00:53, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

Is it just me or is this printer not as absurd as the normal XKCD devices (like the phone)? I mean, this printer has no _really_ absurd features... You could say that this printer is almost sane. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 10:48, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

Agreed. The most questionable "Crumple and throw at trash like a basketball" feature, while making no sense in a printing context, is perfectly sensible in a scan or feed-through mode and may be useful for those with with bad aim, a distant trash can, and a close printer. Staple removal can probably be done reliably with AI these days. Origami features could be useful in party context. Plagiarism and summarization are 100% useful and doable by GPT-3, even better than an average human would do. Translate would be wonderful, but needs a year or 2 more before we can automate it well.

I wonder what would happen if you used the Paper Airplane and Origami Flower settings together. 17:26, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

Could those strips that are fun to tear be comb binding instead of tractor feed strips? EHusmark (talk) 08:26, 9 October 2020 (UTC)

Notebooks with spiral binding and blank pages can have TWO 'fun-to-tear' actions. The first is the act of tearing the page from the spiral leaving the lumpy, ragged edge. The second is the neat perforations that are seperated to leave the paper at its final width. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 00:34, 11 October 2020 (UTC)

Well, I for one am horrified by a lack of "Laminate" function. Despite that, I'd like to order one. It will need to be a UK edition, running on 240V and fitted with a fused three-pin plug...although having said that, I'm sure I could live with having to use an adaptor, and I'm old enough to know how to wire a plug. I'm afraid I'd need to insist on the correct spelling of "Aeroplane" though.Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 14:15, 9 October 2020 (UTC)

The list of verbs reminds me of Bill Gates' Personal Super Secret Private Laptop: A Microspoof by Henry Beard and John Boswell. Solomon (talk) 06:15, 5 December 2023 (UTC)

Multi-function machines in pairs

I used to work for a temporary services company. At a tech-company, I noticed several instances where there were two multi-function machines close to each other. I asked about that. I was told company security policy forbade having a copier connected to a communications line. So, one machine was used only for copying. The other machine was used as a fax machine. The security police came about because, in the past, some people trying to copy company confidential pages sometimes mistakenly faxed them. 01:00, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

Accessibility adjustment

I added "(selected)" to all items that are highlighted in green, for the benefit of readers who can't see the green highlight. While one may argue that such readers could refer to the transcript, which has the text "(lit green)," there is no reason to force readers to scroll back and forth between the explanation and transcript sections to discover this, and it would be onerous for those using a screen reader to listen to the page multiple times. Thisisnotatest (talk) 08:29, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

I like that. It was neither green nor annotated when I was last here and I think both elements are nice touches, I'd like you and the greening editor to each know. (I changed "lighted" to "lit" in the transcript version, and it seems nobody has reverted that yet, which was always possible. I'd considered "illuminated", but "selected" is a good one if there remain any future objections.) 09:15, 8 October 2020 (UTC)

Does "fold paper airplane" really need 2 links to the same thing? I think the first link should be removed <shruggie>-- 13:02, 8 October 2020 (UTC)Bumpf

Done. Goodbye, world! (talk) 02:02, 9 October 2020 (UTC)

Example for the "fold airplane" function

I'm not sure if it's worth mentioning in the article, but Gaston Lagaffe once created a device with this function.