ChannelPro December 2017 : Page 8

CHANNELGEAR Lenovo’s special 25th anniversary notebook begs the question of whether there’s such a thing as computer hardware nostalgia. By Matt Whitlock THINKPAD RECENTLY CELEBRATED 25 years in existence, and I was invited to the other side of the planet for the birthday party. It was much more than cake, ice cream, and a game of pin the red nub on the keyboard, but a rare opportunity for a few select press mem-bers from around the globe to enter Lenovo’s testing facility in Japan, speak with people involved in bringing the very first ThinkPad to life, and witness the unveiling of Lenovo’s retro 25th anniversary edition notebook—the ThinkPad 25. That ThinkPad now qualifies for a massive discount on car in-surance is cause alone for celebration, but a retro laptop indicates that ThinkPad is more to its users than a long-lived brand. Is there something about it and its features that generate genuine nostalgia in people today, like vinyl records, classic video games, and (what seems like) every entertainment franchise from the 1980s? More important, is there really some segment of this market will-ing to spend money on a retro ThinkPad? Lenovo’s Laptop Throwback ThinkPad 25 isn’t about bringing back old features to a modern notebook, but about bringing back how ThinkPads made [people] feel. Does Hardware Nostalgia Exist? Some believe it’s a stretch, but ThinkPad executives don’t. I re-member sitting at a bar after ThinkPad 25’s unveiling with several Lenovo executives, who were all discussing the coverage online. The critics’ reactions ranged from tepid to confused, but not many were outright positive. CNET’s Lori Grunin, for one, largely panned it. “I really don’t get why anyone would want to spend $1,900 for a laptop done up with a bunch of design features from yesteryear,” she wrote. “We’re not talking cool retro … we’re talking all the most unique design aspects of different generations of ThinkPads on a single system.” “She doesn’t get it,” said one executive to another. “She’s probably in her early 20s and had an iPhone before a com-puter,” quipped another. Indeed, Grunin’s reaction isn’t surprising. If a person doesn’t feel nostalgia for a throwback like the ThinkPad 25, how could they be anything other than confused and cynical about it? I suppose that’s what makes a retro ThinkPad so polarizing. Most of those execs at the bar came over to Lenovo through ThinkPad’s acquisition from IBM, so their view makes sense given their history. This isn’t a special release for ThinkPad staff though, but a product meant for the general public. So it begs the question of whether it’s even possible to have nostalgia for a notebook line. Only ThinkPad Could Have Released a Retro Notebook, and There’s a BIG Reason Why ThinkPads, which continue to carry many of the design elements of the very first models, cannot be mistaken for any other laptop. The original ThinkPad’s design was inspired by the classic Japanese ben-to box, where sharp lines and understated looks highlight the beauty of the contents within. Over its history, ThinkPad’s design has rejected fashion, which by its very nature changes with popular culture. ThinkPad eschews all of that for simple black (at least until very recently), with a slight red (technically “IBM magenta”) accent in the center of the keyboard that adds a period to a design sentence that has been neither loved nor hated for a quarter century. Which is exactly the point. ThinkPad has always focused less on flashy looks than on purpose. The challenge for ThinkPad engi-neers isn’t cramming in every feature, but knowing what’s impor-tant. Every change, feature, and part of a ThinkPad is scrutinized, 8 DECEMBER 2017 ChannelProNetwork.com

Channel Gear

Matt Whitlock

Lenovo’s Laptop Throwback

Lenovo’s special 25th anniversary notebook begs the question of whether there’s such a thing as computer hardware nostalgia.

THINKPAD RECENTLY CELEBRATED 25 years in existence, and I was invited to the other side of the planet for the birthday party. It was much more than cake, ice cream, and a game of pin the red nub on the keyboard, but a rare opportunity for a few select press members from around the globe to enter Lenovo’s testing facility in Japan, speak with people involved in bringing the very first ThinkPad to life, and witness the unveiling of Lenovo’s retro 25th anniversary edition notebook—the ThinkPad 25.

That ThinkPad now qualifies for a massive discount on car insurance is cause alone for celebration, but a retro laptop indicates that ThinkPad is more to its users than a long-lived brand. Is there something about it and its features that generate genuine nostalgia in people today, like vinyl records, classic video games, and (what seems like) every entertainment franchise from the 1980s?

More important, is there really some segment of this market willing to spend money on a retro ThinkPad?

Does Hardware Nostalgia Exist?

Some believe it’s a stretch, but ThinkPad executives don’t. I remember sitting at a bar after ThinkPad 25’s unveiling with several Lenovo executives, who were all discussing the coverage online. The critics’ reactions ranged from tepid to confused, but not many were outright positive.

CNET’s Lori Grunin, for one, largely panned it. “I really don’t get why anyone would want to spend $1,900 for a laptop done up with a bunch of design features from yesteryear,” she wrote. “We’re not talking cool retro … we’re talking all the most unique design aspects of different generations of ThinkPads on a single system.”

“She doesn’t get it,” said one executive to another.

“She’s probably in her early 20s and had an iPhone before a computer,” quipped another.

Indeed, Grunin’s reaction isn’t surprising. If a person doesn’t feel nostalgia for a throwback like the ThinkPad 25, how could they be anything other than confused and cynical about it?

I suppose that’s what makes a retro ThinkPad so polarizing. Most of those execs at the bar came over to Lenovo through ThinkPad’s acquisition from IBM, so their view makes sense given their history. This isn’t a special release for ThinkPad staff though, but a product meant for the general public. So it begs the question of whether it’s even possible to have nostalgia for a notebook line.

Only ThinkPad Could Have Released a Retro Notebook, and There’s a BIG Reason Why

ThinkPads, which continue to carry many of the design elements of the very first models, cannot be mistaken for any other laptop. The original ThinkPad’s design was inspired by the classic Japanese bento box, where sharp lines and understated looks highlight the beauty of the contents within.

Over its history, ThinkPad’s design has rejected fashion, which by its very nature changes with popular culture. ThinkPad eschews all of that for simple black (at least until very recently), with a slight red (technically “IBM magenta”) accent in the center of the keyboard that adds a period to a design sentence that has been neither loved nor hated for a quarter century.

Which is exactly the point. ThinkPad has always focused less on flashy looks than on purpose. The challenge for ThinkPad engineers isn’t cramming in every feature, but knowing what’s important. Every change, feature, and part of a ThinkPad is scrutinized, all to answer one simple question: Does it really make the experience better?

That drive for purpose has shaped a history of engineering feats like the butterfly keyboard on the 700C and the Helix’s over-the-top “owl wing fan” cooling solution. But it’s the attention to the things that truly matter, like the typing experience and long-term durability, that has allowed ThinkPad to endure.

This isn’t to say that Dell, HP, Apple, and others haven’t released great computers in the past; of course they have. ThinkPad, however, is the only computer product line to enjoy both a consistent purpose and design language over time.

For example, an Apple computer from 1992 doesn’t look like an Apple computer today, nor does any HP, Dell, or other notebook from any other company.

ThinkPad 25 Is NOT an Expensive Oddity

Vinyl diehards and ThinkPad 25 purchasers have something in common, and it’s not nostalgia for hardware. After all, nobody misses scratched LPs that skipped and the limited features on their turntable (other than being able to skip to a specific song instantly. Take that cassette tape!) It’s about recapturing a feeling. Buying vinyl records isn’t about playing records any more than buying a Think- Pad 25 is about booting Windows. It’s about how these products impacted your life.

Records and turntables connected many to a changing culture, pulling them through tough times. Those who seek them today want to feel that music experience again, which involves more than simply sticking a needle on a piece of plastic. The experience of music on vinyl can’t be replicated on cassette, or CD, iTunes, or an AI voice command.

Young reporters who see ThinkPad 25 as an oddity can’t understand that for many, a ThinkPad wasn’t a tool to manipulate spreadsheets, but a reliable business partner that changed the course of their professional lives. ThinkPad 25 isn’t about bringing back old features to a modern notebook, but about bringing back how Think- Pads made them feel.

And Maybe More?

Change is inevitable. Many of the things that made a ThinkPad feel distinctive have given way to other design elements over the years. The multicolored IBM logo disappeared, the green-backlit power button has become a button on the side, chiclet keyboards are the standard, and so on.

But change isn’t always good. Part of me hopes Lenovo is using the ThinkPad 25 as a check on what’s changed over the years, and whether those changes are for the better. Typing on ThinkPad 25’s seven-row classic keyboard was like wrapping my fingers in an old, cozy quilt that didn’t have rigid walls between each square of fabric. Those notches under the arrow keys felt like little launchpads and landing zones. The blue enter key subtly entered my periphery, making it easier to navigate the keyboard without looking directly at it.

Of course, those who never enjoyed these features at a time when they mattered wouldn’t know the difference, but in another 15 years there’s a good chance this same naysayer crowd will be lining up for a retro iPhone with a physical home button, or a retro Super Nintendo with HDMI output.

Wait? Didn’t one of those already happen?

It did, in fact. And here’s what CNET had to say about it:

“Nostalgia this perfect is a rare thing.”

That writer must have had one at some point. What else could explain his appreciation?

Read the full article at http://digital.channelprosmb.com/article/Channel+Gear/2949867/457412/article.html.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here