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27 Years of ThinkPads

A ThinkPad wallpaper with my shark avatar.

Let's think about tech from the last 27 years. From then to now, CDs, DVDs, Zip disks, PowerPC-based Macs, iPods and feature phones have all come and gone. Almost all personal computer ecosystems from the '80s that survived into the '90s collapsed. In 1992, Sega was trading blows with Nintendo but now they are a husk of its former self. From 1992 onwards, we have seen the launches of Windows 3.1, For Workgroups 3.11, NT 3.1, NT 3.51, 95, NT 4.0, 98, 98 SE, Me, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, and 10. Linux went from being a relatively obscure project from the previous year to a powerhouse slowly clawing the desktop OS market share, leading smartphones through Android, and completely devouring the web server and supercomputer OS usage shares.

That's a huge amount of development, and yet our beloved ThinkPads survived all of that. Upon launch in 1992, IBM struck success and captured an industry-leading role in mobile PCs. In 2019, Lenovo enjoys that same success as ThinkPads continue to be heralded as the ultimate portable PC experience for business, governments, space agencies, and even consumers alike if they think about substance over form. It remains the oldest surviving descendant from the original IBM Personal Computer (5150) and played no small part in ensuring PCs survived the mass adoption of laptops in the 1990s.

ThinkPads have enjoyed an illustrious history, being the first laptops to become a permanent part of an art museum collection (701C, 1995), first "ultrabooks" (560, 1997), first laptops with a DVD drive (770, 1997), first laptops to match the power of a desktop (A30p, 2001), first laptops with a fingerprint scanner (T42, 2004), first 2-in-1 laptop/tablet (X41t, 2005), first modular laptops (X60, 2006), first laptops made with carbon fibre shells (X300, 2008), first laptops with a pop-out secondary monitor (W700ds, 2008), first laptops to be recognised by UL Environment as environmentally friendly (T420, 2010), first laptop to pay homage to its 25th birthday (T25, 2017) and soon to be the first foldable laptops (X1F, 2020). It will be curious to see how ThinkPads continue to develop into the next decade – I know personally I would love to see a dual-screen revival on the P7x platform sometime soon!

Anyway, I wanted to make sure I had a few words out for this occasion. It is fantastic to think about how many industry changes the ThinkPad has endured. Hell, it has survived longer than me and is in far better shape… So here's to many more years of ThinkPad!

Note

This article was originally published on my old blog that I no longer update as of July 2020. Whilst the two versions of this article are mostly the same, there may be subtle differences between this and the original. This one is the most updated version and takes precedence.