Today, Lenovo launched its new ThinkPad X300 - which many newspapers have named to be a serious contender to the MacBook Air. "PC Pro" even went as far as to say "The X300 is an astonishing piece of design that brings something entirely new to laptops". I have never heard so much crap in one day.
Notice: This post is a rant against ThinkPad's design. I have long felt an inner urge to "give my ThinkPad a good beating", and this post is my way of controlled "anger management". You have been warned... :)
ThinkPad computers are not "cool" and certainly not something that should be associated with design. They are - all of them - hideous pieces of junk.
The ThinkPad was first made in 1992, a time where computers were "cool for engineers". It was a time where nobody ever thought of designing a computer - but rather all computers were put into "some box" that happen to fit the components. All desktop computers were beige and all laptop computers were black.
ThinkPad was no different. IBM never tried to design it, they merely put the components into a black box (like everybody else) - hence the ThinkPad 700, from October 1992, was born. It had a screen surrounded with a slightly raised edge (to keep out dust) and a keyboard with a red dot in the middle.
This was how it looked in 1992.
Many things have changed since that, although IBM never seemed to realize it. In 1993 the ThinkPad 720C came to the market and it looked exactly the same:
In 1995 came the ThinkPad 760C which featured a very similar looking laptop, but they completely failed to center the screen.
In 1997 came the ThinkPad 770 with the same design - but at least they tried to put the screen back in its proper place. Which they failed at and placed it slightly to the right rather than way off to the left.
Then in the year 2000 they made the first of the "T-series" - the ThinkPad T20. It featured a rather strikingly new design direction for IBM in the way that the screen was now centered and some of the edges were rounded just a little tiny bit.
Then came the T21, T22, and T23 in 2001 which all looked exactly the same.
But then in 2002 they made the T30, and what a difference... it actually looked like ... oh wait a minute... it looks the same, the trackpad just got bigger:
Then IBM/Lenovo made the T40, T41, T43, and T60 in 2006 which again looks exactly the same as the ones before them.
Then came the T61, and with it they reinvented an old design flaw. The Screen on a T61 computer isn't centered. Just like the ThinkPad 770 from 1997.
The ThinkPad computer looks practically the same from 1992 to 2008. It began looking like every other laptop of the period, and while all other laptop manufacturers updated and experimented with their design - IBM stood still.
Sure the screen is bigger on the T61, because of which they added some space in front of the keyboard, and the edges has been slightly rounded. But to say that it is designed is an overstatement of gargantuan proportions.
The ThinkPad series is a conclusive statement of "status-quo", "non-design", "never trying", "no innovative spirit" and complete dullness for your eyes.
You want a ThinkPad if you want your employees to turn into mindless drones. It is not something you want to give to a cutting edge, highly innovative and motivated work-force.
Since all the newspapers are comparing it to the Apple MacBook Air, it is also relevant to compare the design evolution of Apple Laptops with the ThinkPads. While Apple is known for its design, ThinkPad certainly shows nothing of the sorts.
Apple created its first laptop in 1991. It was the PowerBook 100 and like all other laptops of the period it was black with a slightly raised edge. Compared to the first ThinkPad it looks strikingly similar.
But from this point, Apple constantly tried to create better looking designs - while ThinkPad stayed fixed using the "design standard" from 1992.
Note: I have a ThinkPad T61. It is the "standard" computer at work, and as such I have no choice. But I hate working with it, and I always bring my Dell when I am presenting something important to other people.
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