Lenovo celebrates the ThinkPad's 20th anniversary, again

Today, Lenovo is celebrating the ThinkPad's 20th anniversary for the second time, and this time on the correct date. It might seem trivial, but for the Chinese company, it's important as a way of exploiting the brand advantages associated with IBM's name.

Lenovo first celebrated the 20th anniversary of the ThinkPad range, originally developed by IBM, back in August when it unveiled the X1 Carbon and ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But as I pointed out here at the time, that wasn't the right date. As I said, "the ThinkPad line of notebook PCs (not touch-screen pads) was announced on 5 October 1992 at 590 Madison Avenue, IBM's former headquarters in New York."

That being today, Lenovo is celebrating again, which gives me the chance to share one of its photos from the MoMA exhibition. This, apparently, shows "the original design model" of the first IBM ThinkPad, and the photo includes examples of the sort of Think notepad that inspired the name. (See my earlier post, Happy 20th birthday to the IBM ThinkPad: a design classic , for the background.)

IBM ThinkPad concept design
IBM ThinkPad concept design with the paper Think notepads that inspired the name. Source: Lenovo

Lenovo has posted dozens more photos in the Flickr album called ThinkPad 20th Anniversary @ MOMA.

If you would like a short conducted tour of the historical ThinkPads shown at MoMA, Lenovo has posted a video at YouTube. This includes a demo of the famous Butterfly keyboard from 1995, where the keyboard magically became wider than the screen. Of course, it was a short-lived innovation because laptop screens quite quickly got wider.... 

David Hill's ThinkPad Design Book
David Hill's ThinkPad Design Book

At the MoMA event, Lenovo's David Hill gave a talk on ThinkPad design, and he also created a small book to celebrate the event. It's called ThinkPad Design: Spirit & Essence, and you can read a Flash copy online at zmags.com. Hill has also uploaded some pages to Flickr as ThinkPad Design 20th Anniversary Wallpapers.

Lenovo has also been engaging with ThinkPad fans via its Facebook photo albums. For example, ThinkPad - 20 Years of Innovation, is a collection of press photos (mostly) of old laptops, plus a Milestones timeline — see below. Another album, Your Photos: The Oldest Living ThinkPads, enables users to contribute.

All of this might seem trivial but it is hugely important to Lenovo. After the Chinese company acquired IBM's PC division in 2005, it knew it would have to transition to putting its own name on products. Its laptops would therefore lose the benefits that come from close association with IBM: one of the world's most powerful companies, and one that can regard almost all the IT departments in Fortune 500 companies as "shops".

The ThinkPad brand name keeps the association with IBM vibrantly alive. And that gives Lenovo a cachet that Acer, Asus, LG, Samsung and other Asian rivals can't match.

Milestones infographic
ThinkPad Milestones, the infographic Lenovo has posted on Facebook