Paper, Screen, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail - an Allegory

By Warren Volkmann, Editor
HP Developers' Portal

Paper: “I’m not dead yet.”

Screen: “You will be soon.”

It is one of the funniest scenes from one of the funniest movies of all time – Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It is set in the dark times of the Black Plague in England in 932. People were dropping like flies, sparking a growth industry for a new kind of collector – the Dead Collector.

Bring out your dead!

SCENE: A squalid, filthy street in plague-ravaged Britain. 

DEAD COLLECTOR:  “Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!”

A large man with the body of an old man slung over his shoulder approaches.

LARGE MAN: “Here’s one!”

OLD MAN: “I’m not dead!”

LARGE MAN: “He will be soon…he’s very ill.”

OLD MAN: “I’m getting better.”

LARGE MAN: “No you’re not. You’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

When the old man won’t cooperate, the Dead Collector whacks him on the head with a mallet, ending the inconvenient interruption of business as usual.

The allegory

This comical scene serves as an allegory for the choice that developers face when considering whether to add a printing function to their app.

“Paper will go away,” the screen advocates predict. They have been making that forecast since the 1960s. Half a century and more than a billion printers later, paper still can rightfully assert, “I’m not dead yet!”

People still find paper useful – often in combination with the screens around them. Paper has great utility. It’s not right for every application – you wouldn’t use it for tweets – but sometimes paper is the perfect portable media to hold, fold, carry, mark, and share.

Who holds the mallet?

It is you, Dear Developer, who holds the mallet in this allegory. If your app has a logical place for printed output – to make your app more useful, practical or convenient for the End Users – but you skip the code that makes printing possible, then you have made a choice for your End User. By taking away the print option, you hasten the decline of paper. Whack!

If, on the other hand, you want to include a printing function, then you have come to the right place. This developer portal has been created by HP to help you build that paper off-ramp into your code. Check out our Mobile Print SDK and the web-print tutorials on our Printing Fundamentals page.

Let us know what you are trying to do with print, and we will help you get the code tips, tricks, and techniques you need. If you have already figured out how to make your apps – especially Android apps – play nice with printers, please do share your insights with our community.

P.S. For your amusement: Monty Pythons quotes on the Internet Movie Database.


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