A disposable printing assembly includes a memory element in which data characterizing the assembly can be stored. This data can characterize the identity of the assembly, or one or more of its operational characteristics. Such operational characteristics for an illustrative ink jet printhead assembly may include the color of ink in the printhead, its amount, or the position of the ink jet orifice plate on the printhead body. This data can then be read from the printhead by a read/write element in a printer and can be used or displayed as desired. The datum characterizing the position of the orifice plate, for example, can be used to controllably delay certain of the firing signals provided to the printhead to compensate for any misalignment. The datum characterizing ink amount can be updated by the write head to reflect use of ink during printing and can warn the user of an impending exhaustion of ink.