On 5 October 1992, IBM also introduced the ThinkPad 300, actually made by Zenith Data Systems. It was powered by a 25MHz 386SL processor and fitted with a monochrome 640 x 480 display. Again, it shipped with 4MB of memory and a choice of 80MB or 120MB hard drive. And it too had an Ethernet port.
If the 700 series' selling point was performance, the 300's was battery life. The laptop was said to be capable of running for up to ten hours - unthinkable by today's standards. The suggested retail price for the 80MB ThinkPad 300 was $2375, while the model with the 120MB drive cost $2575.
The ThinkPads 300, 700 and 700C defined the core design of the laptop line, defining the way their successor would look right up to the present day. That arguably makes them the first true ThinkPads as we understand the brand name today. But they weren't the first IBM machines to carry the ThinkPad moniker.
That honour goes to the IBM 2521 ThinkPad - known at the time as the ThinkPad - a pen-operated portable that Big Blue actually announced on 17 April 1992, but which didn't ship until the following July - hence, according to Lenovo, today's anniversary. It comprised a 20MHz 386SX processor, 4MB or 8MB of memory, a 10in, 640 x 480 monochrome display and a built-in 2.4Kbps modem. Serial and parallel ports, and connectors for an external floppy drive and a keyboard, were part of the spec too.
Amazingly in an era long before the current debate over the future of hard drive technology and the emergence of Flash-based alternatives, the 2521 incorporated a 20MB solid-state drive. The 2521 ran PenPoint, an tablet-oriented operating system from Go Corporation.
Come 5 October, IBM renamed the 2521 the ThinkPad 700T to bring its naming into line with the three new laptop models. It also tweaked the design slightly to make it more robust.
The following year, on 4 May, IBM rolled out the ThinkPad 720 and 720C, upping the original 700-series models' 25MHz processor with a 50MHz version.
Yes, Lenova made Thinkpads for a while under IBM's badge. The point is they were manufacturing an IBM design.
They now own the whole brand and business and get to make their own design choices (eg where the ports are located, materials to use etc)
It's a real shame when something well designed and well built goes downhill for lack of attention to detail.
Didn't Lenovo already make them?
IIRC, Lenovo was already making the ThinkPads for IBM when they took over the whole business. Production quality should thus be the same – unless, of course, some bean counters wanted to lower costs …
(Or am I mislead about them doing the work for IBM for the past few years?)
Just to add to all the fanboydom, my first laptop was a PoS NCR (servicable, but only). Then I got the 701 "butteryfly". Even after having it for months I'd still sit opening and closing it watching the keybboard fold in and out.
It was the perfect design for a regular traveller - light, and compact (so you could use it on an economy class plane seat and actually have it fit on the tray table), but with a nice big keyboard for my fat fingers.
My next laptop years later was an X40, a great machine that survived infinite abuse.
The two best features of ThinkPads are the fact that the lid has a bezel that keys into the base when it's closed (protecting the screen and hinges), and the "Think Light", a small white LED in the lid bezel that can shine on the keyboard when it's dark (surprisingly and amazingly useful).
And the trackpoint is simply a vastly better pointing device than the trackpad.
What's to add? Anyone who's ever had a ThinkPad for any length of time knows just how solid and reliable they are. I'm on my third.
One thing that no-one seems to have brought up is the quality of the keyboards: they're the best around.
I received two old 760 ELs last year when my friend didn't need them anymore. They worked great. Battery life wasn't too bad, drivers weren't that hard to install, and I had a portable box to play DOS games on. :)