​Lenovo 'exploring' retro ThinkPad revival

How do you feel about the idea of running an up-to-date Lenovo ThinkPad with the look of a classic IBM ThinkPad? If you want it, Lenovo might just build it.

In 1992, I reviewed a new IBM laptop for Computer Shopper, the over-sized monster magazine of all things PC. It was the first ThinkPad, the 700C. I liked that first ThinkPad a lot. Many others did as well, and even today, the ThinkPad remains one of the most popular of all business laptops.

Twenty-three years later, Lenovo is considering reviving the classic ThinkPad design with a new, updated model.

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1992's IBM ThinkPad 700C gave laptops a new design that's still with us today. (Image: Lenovo)
That first ThinkPad was powered by a 25Mhz 486 SLC and it came with your choice of four or 8MBs of memory. This "performance" laptop came with a 640x480 resolution 10.4-inch VGA display and had a 120MB hard-drive. It weighed just over seven-and-a-half pounds and cost $4,350 (in 1992 dollars). That would be about $7,400 in today's money.

And, we loved it.

For its day, it was a real powerhouse, but what really made the ThinkPad a keeper was its great, award-winning design by Richard Sapper. Over the years, there have been other great ThinkPad designs, such as the X300.

Still, there's something about the look of those first-generation laptops that still grabs the eye. And, Lenovo knows that too.

Lenovo vice-president of corporate identity & design David Hill, has "been exploring the idea of introducing a very unique ThinkPad model."

In a blog post, Hill said:

"Imagine a ThinkPad that embodies all the latest technology advances, however, embraces the original design details in the strongest way possible. I've been referring to the concept as retro ThinkPad. Imagine a blue enter key, seven-row classic keyboard, 16:10 aspect ratio screen, multi-color ThinkPad logo, dedicated volume controls, rubberized paint, exposed screws, a plethora of status lights, and more. Think of it like stepping into a time machine and landing in 1992, but armed with today's technology."

He added: "Although it will not be for everyone, I'm certain there's a group of people who would stand in line to purchase such a special ThinkPad model."

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David Hill's first take on a retro ThinkPad. (Image: Lenovo)

Hill is serious about this. He's written a short book, ThinkPad Design: Spirit and Essence, which explains his logic.

Hill wrote: "In my opinion, there really is no other computer company that has the design DNA and pedigree to do this. ... Historically inspired design only works when the original had the power to move people. There has to be an emotional connection that is somehow rekindled with its rebirth. This design approach has worked for Ford's Mustang, Dodge's Challenger, Fiat's 500 and the Mini Cooper; why not ThinkPad?"

And why not indeed?

At this point, it's just a thought. Hill continued: "Please remember actually bringing a retro inspired ThinkPad to market would require significant sales volumes to justify the development effort and tooling expense. I can't promise anything at this point, it's an idea."

If, like me, you really like this idea, write to Hill on his blog. Let him know what you'd like to see in a retro ThinkPad. If enough of us do, we'll be able to buy a modern take on the first ThinkPads with today's top hardware.

Personally, my reaction to this plan can be summed up as: "Shut up and take my money!"

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