The Original IBM ThinkPad

This is the notepad (the pencil and paper kind) that in the late 80s / early 90s inspired an IBM researcher to name the company’s new mobile computer the ThinkPad. To me, the IBM ThinkPad was the classic laptop computer to have. At least that was the case until I went full-time Apple and the Chinese got a hold of the brand. At any rate, it is interesting to see the little promotional give-away that inspired a massive brand.





Comments on “The Original IBM ThinkPad

    Mark Matienzo on October 1, 2009 12:50 PM:

    Being the son of an ex-IBMer I saw a lot of these around the house, and even had my fair share… Of course, “THINK” was an early motto for IBM, going all the way back to the 1920s. For what it’s worth, the IBM Archives has some great online exhibits.

    Jonathan on October 1, 2009 1:08 PM:

    Being the son of a current IBMer I have had many of these pads and grew up jotting down all kinds of memos on them *old computer punch-cards as well.

    I also have other THINK desktop accessories such as a bright orange & stainless steel name placard.

    viv on October 1, 2009 1:08 PM:

    Wow, how do I get one of these pads? Pebbled leather is so pretty.

    I’ve used the T series for years now, and I’m never going to get another brand. Nothing beats a Thinkpad keyboard (Mac keys are too ‘shallow’ for me). I haven’t noticed any real changes since the company went to Lenovo — well, except on the packing slips. It seems that their last stop before coming tome (out in Los Angeles) is Kowloon, Hong Kong.

    jook on October 1, 2009 2:32 PM:

    this is so cool, great post. are the refills a regular/standard size?

    Kevin on October 1, 2009 3:15 PM:

    My dad was an IBMer as well. I still have one of these in a box somewhere.

    I worked there for a while myself in manufacturing to pay for college. By the time I got there it didn’t resemble anything I remembered from early childhood. They eventually shut down the plant and I’m sure it went overseas.

    Andrew on October 1, 2009 3:55 PM:

    Lenovo hasn’t done any disservice to the brand

    Think/Ideapads are still solid computers.

    Glenn Vanderburg on October 1, 2009 6:11 PM:

    I have one of these as well. To answer jook’s question: no, the refills are not any standard size I’ve been able to find.

    Darwin on October 1, 2009 7:11 PM:

    No way are Lenovo Thinkpads as good as the IBM models. They look and feel cheaper and the keyboards flex. I had my choice of Thinkpad or Mac Book Pro at work and it wasn’t even a question to go Mac both for hardware and OS.

    Cynthia Waldhoff on October 1, 2009 8:35 PM:

    I had one of these beautiful pads, and a copy of a Think magazine that had the historic pictures of the white tent cities that Watson Sr. had for his sales force. IF you go back in IBM history, you’ll find that he was far ahead of his time with women workers, and would not put facilties in the South where African Americans did not have their rights. He was far ahead of his time with diversity. And the Book “Father, Son, and Company” by Jr is a great family book showing conflict exists within every family. Also shows how Jr. found his own way eventually. The history of this company is pretty amazing.

    don weir on October 1, 2009 9:14 PM:

    I have my grandfather’s monogrammed THINK pad. Never used.

    Nels Christopherson on October 1, 2009 10:36 PM:

    I have a couple of my father’s original pads from the mid-1960’s, but most needed paper refills. I found that if you go to the ‘IBM Logo Merchandise Store” website and click on Corporate then Vintage you can order the paper refills for .86 cents a piece! You can also get the notepad (same as above, but fake leather) for $1.93 per pad. I think its even cheaper if you order in bulk. I still can’t believe that’s all it cost (which was very refreshing) – I stocked up.

    bill on October 1, 2009 10:37 PM:

    Since Lenovo is the factory that made the IBM branded ThinkPads, I fail to see how they would be any worse.

    John Evans on October 1, 2009 11:06 PM:

    My father has a coffee mug that he says is a parody of this old campaign.

    The mug says “SCHEME”.

    Digital Product Reviews on October 1, 2009 11:15 PM:

    Take THAT Moleskine-toting hipsters! I got me a Think pad.

    Ron Adair on October 2, 2009 1:48 AM:

    I’m sure you’ve all thought of this by now, but Apple’s ad campaign in the 90’s came to mind when I saw these pads. “Think Different” must surely have been a direct response to IBM’s THINK motto. Very interesting piece of history I hadn’t been aware of before today.

    And those pads do look terrific. I’d love to get my hands on one.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Phineas on October 2, 2009 3:24 AM:

    “Since Lenovo is the factory that made the IBM branded ThinkPads, I fail to see how they would be any worse.”

    They may change their production practices. Materials used in manufacturing a Thinkpad may change, for one.

    cWj on October 2, 2009 3:35 AM:

    doubtful that Lenovo would do much to lower quality since they’d already been building ThinkPads for IBM for years before the change.

    Chinese govt ownership in the company, however….

    dojh on October 2, 2009 5:15 AM:

    Lenovo T400 sucks.
    IBM Thinkpads where much more reliable

    Simmone on October 2, 2009 8:39 AM:

    @ Andrew i beg to differ, the quality of Lenovo’s machines are inferior to IBM’s machines. I’ve had machines prior to and after the take over and the differences are noteable.

    raves on October 2, 2009 9:31 AM:

    Lenovo reliability is like other chines product.. you can’t trust on them…

    Rob on October 2, 2009 9:36 AM:

    @ Nels… Could you provide a link to the logo merchandise store you mentioned. I can’t find it myself… duh… and would very much like to order one.

    Guairdean on October 2, 2009 10:21 AM:

    I still have a couple of these, but refills are hard to find.

    j on October 2, 2009 10:36 AM:

    First of all IBM still owns almost half of the company. Second, almost everything Apple makes is made in China as well.

    jeff on October 2, 2009 11:17 AM:
    Bill J on October 2, 2009 11:36 AM:

    I have one of the last IBM Thinkpad T60s made by IBM and not Lenovo. I’ve had it for 4 years now, upgraded the RAM once (512 MB to 2GB), occasionally remove the keyboard to dust, and its been great! Solid investment.

    JS on October 2, 2009 12:22 PM:

    Given all the h@ting over at I think that this is a relic of a bygone age. Kinda like an artifact from an forgotten worksite where managers with a human conscious worked at globalized IT companies and the micromanaging by spreadsheet forecasts of today.

    From the inside the slogan changed from THINK to GAME the SYSTEM somewhere back in late 90’s early 2000s.

    IMHO the TP701 is a work of art. Please Lenovo reboot her and bring her back as a netbook!

    Brasso on October 2, 2009 12:23 PM:

    does this have 802.11.b? or 10T? Cause I have this and I keep getting a ID10T error……

    MarcJ on October 2, 2009 12:52 PM:

    Like a lot of other posters, I am the son of two IBMers and remember my dad having these. It was so long ago. I recall that these were great toys for a boy with an imagination. They were great for flipping open as a Star Trek communicator or as a police badge and notepad. I had never made the connection with the Think Pad laptop until today. I remember that most were black but some were also navy. It is rare to have something bring back such a strong personal memory (especially on the web). Thanks for the post.


    Dafoo on October 2, 2009 3:05 PM:

    Apple sucks.

    Wu Ming on October 2, 2009 4:50 PM:

    Dafoo sucks.
    See? That was easy!

    Paul on October 2, 2009 7:08 PM:

    Shame that IBM eventually turned into an Indian bodyshopping/outsourcing factory and a Chinese cheap-as-chips hardware bargain bin.

    Never again will you see the kind of genius that conceived these campaigns. In the race for the bottom, the IBM management have undermined their own foundations to the point of collapse.

    RIP IBM.

    Caleb on October 2, 2009 8:04 PM:

    Interestingly enough there are more IBM production facilities in the U.S. now than there were before the Lenovo buyout.

    It seems a little xenophobic to assume that Chinese management means the computers are suddenly tainted with lead paint and flimsy keypads.

    T on October 2, 2009 8:57 PM:

    I worked on this Lenovo divestiture. IBM sold off the business to Lenovo, and sent over a bunch of employees to make sure the transition went smoothly (also making a bunch of empty promises to the IBMers who subsequently got screwed and alot got laid off, took paycuts, and worked into the ground). I was on the right side of the fence thankfully. Lenovo was basically given the rights to the IBM Thinkpad name for a few years and the right employees to continue production. The Lenovo thinkpads we received as IBM employees were pieces of crap. Lots of small issues. Overheating alot. They would burn your lap after an hour.

    Even before the divestiture….. Apple is truly a superior product. Hate to say it.

    IBM also likes to offshore american jobs without a concern for communities and the leadership has no commitment whatsoever to the USA. “They are a global company” you will here Sam P say over and over. That doesnt mean they wont try and beg for stimulas dollars… and then outsource the business. All that despite strong profits. So sad…. employee morale is extremely low.

    Russell Sprouts on October 3, 2009 10:33 PM:

    My head hurts. on October 4, 2009 8:43 PM:

    Son of an IBM’er who still looks with suspicion upon any businessman NOT wearing a white shirt, but Cynthia’s paean to IBM’s progressiveness ignores the fact that the company, led and micromanaged, even, by Watson, had a strategic alliance with Nazi Germany for all the IT underlying the Holocaust. Punchcard systems, custom software/wiring/application design, consulting and engineering, the works.

    So it’s a bit more complicated than just reminiscing about the good old days at Big Blue.

    The Converter Site on October 5, 2009 7:23 AM:

    A classic of its time. Amazing how big things come from but a tiny thought.

    JB on October 5, 2009 8:39 AM:

    Another son of an retired IBM’er here. We had so many of these babies around the house when I was a kid, I used to think my father was brainwashed by the company.

    With the promise of lifetime employment back then, a little brainwashing maybe wasn’t so bad….

    Nice bit of nostalgia. Thanks.

    MT_Head on October 5, 2009 7:46 PM:

    The original THINK campaign generated a lot of parody, some of which was pretty funny; my dad had a bunch of items in his IBM-comedy folder when I was a kid. My favorite was:

    jesse b on October 6, 2009 1:41 AM:

    excellent. i’m on my 3rd thinkpad, a T series, my wife uses a Z series. we originally bought one because, like a lot of other folks who commented on this, my wife’s dad worked for ibm. even though it’s gone to lenovo, i doubt i’d ever go with anything else. it’s not slick but it’s solid and it’s the same people (according to dad) as when it had the ibm logo on it. plus, i hate touchpads, the mouse is priceless.

    Kirk on October 6, 2009 2:16 PM:

    @Caleb – I don’t know about the lead paint but my impression of the new Lenovo keyboards has nothing to do with xenophobia. It comes from owning 8 IBM Thinkpads over the years and 2 Lenovo Thinkpads… and I’m apparently not the only one who noticed…

    From the Lenovo T500 review:
    “To my great surprise, I found Lenovo had completely redesigned the keyboard, with weight savings as the primary goal. The old design has a much stronger back-plate, which is removed on the new revision. This cuts weight by 25 percent (6oz to 4.5oz) from the old model, but at the huge disadvantage of tarnishing the long-standing ThinkPad keyboard reputation. For now I am leaning towards weight savings, instead of cost savings as the main redesign reason, but I still don’t like it. Anyone who knows the ThinkPad name knows at least two things; boring business notebook and great keyboard. If you take away the keyboard and make other weight reducing or durability reducing changes to the notebook design, you will no doubt alienate many of your followers. I really hope Lenovo takes notice at this, cause I would take a brick glued to the bottom of the case before over a keyboard change such as this.”

    design on October 6, 2009 8:21 PM:

    I had an IBM Thinkpad z50. That was like the first netbook, also super nifty.

    daveg on October 7, 2009 7:42 AM:

    I’m a former IBMer (left less than 18 months ago) and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen one of those (probably because I didn’t work there pre-1990s like all the sons of IBMers above). Had to buy myself a Moleskine to get a decent pad.

    Classics Patriot on October 11, 2009 10:19 PM:


    It’s not xenophobic at all to think that a Chinese-made product will be, in some way or another, inferior if not outright harmful: it’s realistic. As consumers we have so much firsthand experience with shoddy Chinese workmanship, and as newspaper readers we have knowledge of so many harmful Chinese products–poisonous pet food in America, poisonous pot stickers in Japan, poisonous toothpaste in Australia–that it’s only natural that “crappy” is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Chinese products.

    Now, duh, obviously not everything made in China falls apart if you look at it too hard, and not everything they make is toxic. But way too much of it is that bad. Stereotypes are born of reality.

    ThinkSad on October 22, 2009 4:40 PM:

    In short, no — the quality is not the same. Starting with the T400 and its infamously flexy keyboard, Lenovo’s slowly been sacrificing build quality, strength of materials, and customer service in an effort to net more marketshare.

    Unfortunately, it will take a while for the market to realize that Lenovo’s newer offerings are merely riding on the ThinkPad brand name, and share little with their predecessors when it comes to terms of durability, reliability, and support/service.

    I’m puzzled by this, to be honest. Lenovo already has two brands that they could use for their “aggressively priced” offerings. IdeaPads have generally gotten good reviews for what they are — cheap, solid budget notebooks — why not focus their consumer efforts there? No, rather than develop their own brand, it seems that Lenovo would rather go for the quick buck, making ever-cheaper ThinkPads, and banking on people to remember the brand name rather than the quality it stood for.

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