Twenty five years ago, one of the best and iconic computing devices of our generation – The Thinkpad was born in IBM. It’s mother was a mainframe and the father was a Maserati is what people say about the combination of actually what was at that time a futuristic product that turned personal computing on it’s head. Since the first ThinkPads were introduced in 1992, they’ve collectively sold over 130 million units worldwide.
It had a design that was inspired by a “bento” box – something like a compartmentalized lunch box that people carry with themselves today. Back then, there was a serious push by many computer makers to try and make “tablets”which came with their own stylus. The issue with that was the fact that the technology that existed in the early nineties was not conducive to making it luggable or portable by any stretch of that word.
The famous German designer, Richard Sapper was tasked with designing this and this was quite a break from the trends that existed those days where engineers designed stuff and the best that you got was functional designs.His brief was to make it beautiful and functional. In many ways the 1992 Thinkpad 700c that you see in the picture above was a path-breaker. But then IBM quickly realized that when you give people something portable in the form of a computing device, they treat it as an extension of themselves and most of the time, that entails quite a bit of rough handling. So the next few iterations to the Thinkpad became durable and tough with every new model.
Over time, there were many things that came to be part of this iconic device, the red trackpad, the blue enter key and what was arguably the earliest implementation of a fingerprint scanner on a laptop were all added one by one. At IBM, the father of the Thinkpad is Arimasa Naitoh, who joined IBM in the 1970s. He has been spearheading the ThinkPad from the beginning, setting up the Yamato Development Labs (in Yamato City, Japan) and its key engineering functions.
Getting back to the timeline, the years rolled by and it was now 2005 – the year when IBM was looking to offload it’s PC business. Lenovo came into the picture, bought the PC business and from there on went on to take the Thinkpad from strength to strength and made it a veritable part of computing history.
I would credit Lenovo with a large part of where the Thinkpad stands today as a brand. Lenovo has diligently gone to work on the product line and evolved it into the defacto gold standard for enterprise and personal computing. The Thinkpad is still the high water mark that any new laptop has to live up to and Lenovo is the reason why.
Lenovo thought of every possible way in which the Thinkpad can be unique, practical and elegant all at the same time. They added value by making it light, tough and flexible. There are Thinkpads that bend a full circle and become really thin tablets. They come with stylus input so that you can treat it like a standard A4 paper and just write or sketch with it. But the key is that while doing all this, Lenovo has never once compromised on the sheer computing power of the Thinkpad. The Thinkpads look like butterflies and punch like dragons if you get what I mean. I have been a Thinkpad user for a decade and a half now and I am yet to see a Thinkpad that has any performance issues. Greased lightning is what comes to mind when one works on a Thinkpad even it is running under massive load.
A lot of things make the Thinkpad unique, you don’t have to worry about carrying it around. I move around on a wheelchair and it is the best computing device for me on the move. I have a teenage son and his life centers around streaming and media consumption, he swears by the Thinkpad. There are instances where I asked him if he wanted a Macbook and he told me “It’s not Lenovo Thinkpad, so I don’t want a Mac” and you see, those happen te be my thoughts too exactly. There were instances where the data was corrupted or accidentally deleted and the built-in recovery option stood us in good stead.
The new age Thinkpads with the foldable keyboards that retract into the body when it it is tent mode of tablet mode are a stroke of genius. This makes them fit in lesser space and easier to use when you are out on a business trip. And then there is the tent mode where you just flip the screen backwards, play or stream your content, sit back and relax! What more do you need to make your computing life easier and smoother?
There is no question about the fact that at 25, The Thinkpad is very clearly one of the best laptop experiences around whether you are business user, a techie or a young person on the move. Here’s looking forward to Thinkpad 50, 100 and 150! Live long and prosper Thinkpad!