Wacom Pen Tablets: The Gift That Keeps on Taking

Dear Wacom:

I know there are people who sigh sentimentally when they hear your name and gush about how they still use the first Wacom pen tablet they ever bought back in the Cretaceous or something, and it’s made of dinosaur bones and rainbows and has always worked perfectly. I am not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong: I couldn’t get on without my Wacom pen tablet. That, in a nutshell, is the problem. Because I need the tablet every day, it all gets a little bit problematic when the damn thing goes mad suddenly and without warning. This happens far more frequently than it should.

Here is my Wacom history:

Wacom #1: Graphire (now discontinued). Worked for a year or two, then stopped.

Wacom #2: Bamboo (now discontinued; basically the same thing as the Graphire but with a completely inexplicable name). Worked for two or three years, then started behaving oddly. During this time, I had to replace the USB cable six or seven times, as after a few months of use, any cable would inevitably become loose and jiggly and lose its connection every time the tablet moved slightly.

Wacom #3: Another Bamboo. Worked for maybe two years, then died. Same problem with the cable.

Wacom #4: Yet another Bamboo (a quite old one, possibly even a Graphire, but bigger than the others I’ve owned), though to be fair, this one was inherited from someone else and was acquired after I had purchased Wacom #5. Wacom #4 lives in my office and still works…I think.

Wacom #5: Intuos 5 Touch. Technically a better tablet than the Bamboo, but had ever so many more problems. The cable still needed to be replaced every few months. In addition, the driver decided it did not like my computer, my copy of Photoshop Elements, or, in fact, me. A good quarter of the time, I would turn on my computer and get a “Tablet driver has stopped working” message. The only way to fix this would be to reboot, though that would only work occasionally. Sometimes, I had to reboot seven or eight times in a row. If I was using Photoshop, I would only be able to let my computer go to sleep once; if it did so more than that, the tablet would lose its pressure sensitivity, and I would have to reboot. Occasionally, Photoshop would simply “stop working” in the middle of a session. I know this sounds like a Photoshop problem, not a Wacom problem, but none of this happened when I was using the Bamboo.

Today, two and a half years into its reign, my Intuos decided that it was going to go crazy. It started clicking on everything, drawing random lines across my comics, and working only when it felt like it. I tried a different cable, and the problems remained. Though I really did not want to buy yet another Wacom (yes, I know Wacom does repairs, but I’m pretty sure that sending the damn thing out and paying for the work would take two months and cost about as much as a new tablet), I headed out to Best Buy to pick up:

Wacom #6: Intuos Pro. Luckily, of the three tablets in the store, one of them was an open-box item, meaning it was $90 cheaper than it should have been (all the contents were unopened and, in fact, looked brand new). It took me a good hour and a half to install the driver, as my computer didn’t seem to like it (surprise, surprise). I am not yet sure how this new tablet is going to interact with Photoshop, but we’ll see. The one bright spot thus far is that the damn cable is optional; the tablet is wireless.

Yes, I know I’ve bought too many Wacoms, and I find it kind of embarrassing. However, I do kind of rely on them to touch up and colour my comics. You’ve got a virtual monopoly, Wacom. Good for you. I realise you rely on gullible people like me, but I’m not entirely sure I would be so loyal to you if I didn’t have to be. Someday, someone is going to build a better tablet, and I shall wave you a not-so-fond farewell.

Oh…and have a happy New Year!

Yours behind deadline, mostly because of you,



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