The ThinkPad at 15

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...

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TOPICS: Reviews
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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.

Topic: Reviews

About

Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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  • The ThinkPad at 15

    I only started using my first ThinkPad about 6 years ago but I have been a convert ever since. I have not always had the luxury of being able to select my own laptop for work use, but based on experience of using ultra-portable machines from Dell, HP and Toshiba - the ThinkPad is a design classic.

    They seem to be unique in showing a unique appreciation of user needs for an ultra-portable. To my knowledge they were the first manufacturer to truly recognise that ultra-portables needed to combine excellent usability with robust construction. For example, they focused on incorporating a good quality keyboard and dispensing with the touch-panel interface (preferring the nipple). The case design seems to offer more protection to the screen and internal workings than other more 'flashy' designs.

    Attention to detail has also been shown for little features like power buttons, port location and key layout.

    The Audi A4 of laptops...
    James B-c7f32