Most of the stuff in the digital traveling circus that accompanies us on trips is quite small. Maybe not Flea Circus size, but pretty portable; a MacBook Air, iPhone, iPod and iPad2. The exception is the circus elephant, the printer.

So why keep the elephant in the act? Well, for carrying around information, and especially for sharing it, the printed page is great. You can get a lot of information on a 0.013 oz sheet of paper. It’s eminently portable and the battery life is stupendous.

An illustration:

On a recent car trip we took along my MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad2 and my Personal Portable Printing Pachyderm, the Canon iP100.  Well, it’s sort of portable. It’s about 1/2 the size of a six-pack of your favorite canned beverage and weighs 4.5 lbs plus another half pound for the 110V power brick. You can get a battery for it, but that adds another pound or so. By the way, there is much to be said of the virtues of the iPad, but printing isn’t one of them. Unlike my MacBook Air, it will not print to my Bluetooth-enabled Canon iP100, nor to most other printers except a handful of HP WiFi networked printers.

We met our friends  Rita and Ed from Port Aransas, Texas, on the Oregon coast after they had toured the Oregon Willamette Valley wine regions. In addition to Myrl’s carefully planned (and compulsory) Oregon Coast Experience Tour,  I knew we would want to send them to some other sights like Silver Falls on their way back to the Portland Airport. This is where a Google Map on a sheet of 8.5 x 11 in. paper trumps your iPad, iPhone, and laptop.

So I was glad I brought the printer along, but someone really needs to come up with something better. Here is my fantasy solution. What we need is a special paper that you could just lay over your iPad or MacBook screen for a few seconds, then peel it off with the screen image on it. Or maybe a flexible electronic pad you could lay on the screen, press a button to capture the image, then peel it off, place it over a sheet of thermal or photosensitive imaging paper, press a button and voilà, there is your screen image. I’d even settle for gray scale (at least in the first generation device). Come on, you geniuses at Apple, stop fooling around with ways to screw up Final Cut Pro and get on this.