failing like never before


The Amazing Thinkpad

I was helping my uncle move last Saturday, and as we were loading his crap into the moving truck I noticed a laptop sticking out of a box full of cables. I pulled it out, and was surprised to find that it was an IBM Thinkpad T21.

I asked my uncle why he had thrown, what appeared to be a perfectly good laptop, (sans battery) into a box full of junk. He replied that the screen had stopped working years ago, and he had simply thrown tossed the laptop into his garage. He was about to throw it away, since he was moving, but I offered to take it off his hands. Luckily, we were also able to find the AC adapter for the T21 stuffed away in one of his boxes.

Its hard to understand why Thinkpads are so popular with large companies, until you've actually used one for an extended period of time. The old IBM Thinkpads were built to last forever, to suffer amazing punishments and just keep on ticking like nothing had happened; I don't think any other company makes laptops like IBM once did. It is still possible today, to buy a refurbished Thinkpad T20 online for about $200 (US), even though the laptop is close to eight years old. My dad didn't quite understand why I liked the Thinkpad line so much, so I showed him just how sturdy the old T21 was by pushing and pressing against various parts of the laptop's frame and screen, to show how it didn't flex at all, and then proceeded hit it a few times against the ground for good measure. Most other laptops will bend like a sapling in a light wind, the instant some pressure is applied to their screens, whereas I could probably use the lid of my Thinkpad as a hammer.

I view my laptop as a testament to the quality of the IBM Thinkpads: here is a laptop that is close to seven years old, has spent most of it life being shuttled around like a regular laptop and then has spent the past few years sitting in someone's garage enduring less then ideal conditions. It has survived the summer's heat and the cold of winter, has had junk stacked on top of it, and then has been forced to suffer further indignities as I pounded it against the floor. But it still works perfectly! (except for the screen, which, albeit, was broken to begin with) Apart from the scuff marks on the lid, my Thinkpad might as well be brand new. I don't doubt that many other laptops could have sustained such a passage through time, but only an IBM Thinkpad could have emerged almost unscathed and, metaphorically, smelling like a daisy.

While not altogether common, a broken LCD screen is not unusual. Now mind you, the screen on the T21 wasn't cracked or shattered, it apparently just didn't work. I was pretty sure that the problem was either a bad inverter or CCFL backlight, both of which are fixable. But even if I couldn't fix the LCD screen, I could still plug the laptop into an external monitor, install Linux, and use it as a server. Happily, when I got home, I turned out to be right. The laptop worked fine; it had no problems outputting video to an external monitor, and although the screen's backlight was broken the screen itself was still working. Windows 2000 simply will not suffice for my purposes, so I wiped the hard drive and installed Arch Linux.

Throughout this article, you might have noticed that I keep referring to the IBM Thinkpads, and not Lenovo's. About four or five years ago, Lenovo purchased the Thinkpad line from IBM, and since then I have felt that the Thinkpad brand has suffered. This is all of course, a matter of opinion. I have never owned a Lenovo Thinkpad or used one for an extensive period of time; my experience with Lenovo laptops is limited to in-store usage. Of course, I may very well be wrong and Lenovo may be doing an excellent job with their new Thinkpads, but from what I've seen the non-IBM Thinkpads are not quite as sturdy of their predecessors.

I realize that this article is a bit of a mashup of my random thoughts, so I would like to emphasize my original point: the old IBM Thinkpads are built with amazing quality and are far more sturdy then any other laptop that I have seen to this day.

That is all.

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