The ThinkPad at 15

Summary:Lenovo proudly informs us that the ThinkPad is now 15 years old, and is partying tonight in Soho to celebrate the fact. Unfortunately I can't be there, but the anniversary reminder does bring back a few memories...

Lenovo proudly informs us that the ThinkPad is now 15 years old, and is partying tonight in Soho to celebrate the fact. Unfortunately I can't be there, but the anniversary reminder does bring back a few memories...

Back in July 1992, I was working as Production Editor for Ziff-Davis's newly-launched UK edition of PC Magazine, and didn't have time to draw breath, let alone notice that IBM had launched the somewhat eccentric IBM 2521 ThinkPad, which was a pen-based device running GO Corporation's PenPoint operating system.

Later that year came what we would recognise as the first 'proper' ThinkPads — The 700 and 700C models, running Windows 3.1 and including such enduring features as the black livery (based on a lacquered Japanese lunchbox apparently), a superb keyboard and a red pointing stick nestling between the G, H and B keys.

What's remarkable is how broadly similar one of Lenovo's current ThinkPads is to IBM's decade-and-a-half-old systems: obviously the technology inside has changed, but the basic tenets of straightforward and robust design, excellent keyboard and well-judged extra touches — the light at the top of the screen that illuminates the keyboard in murky conditions springs to mind — have kept the brand near the top of mobile professionals' wish-lists for years.

That's not to say there have haven't been a few odd excursions along the way. Neither the expanding 'butterfly' keyboard on the 1995 701 series (a great piece of industrial design) nor 2001's TransNote — a combination of tablet-style computer and conventional paper — stood the test of time; the same goes for the 755CDV with its removable LCD projection panel that could be used with an overhead projector. There was a wearable ThinkPad too, somewhere along the line.

Still, there's nothing wrong with a bit of eccentricity so long as the heart's in the right place, so happy 15th birthday ThinkPad.

Topics: Reviews

About

Hello, I'm the Reviews Editor at ZDNet UK. My experience with computers started at London's Imperial College, where I studied Zoology and then Environmental Technology. This was sufficiently long ago (mid-1970s) that Fortran, IBM punched-card machines and mainframes were involved, followed by green-screen terminals and eventually the pers... Full Bio

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