As some supplemental material for the “Think Design Stories” episode I did with David Hill on the subject of wallpaper, please find below a collection of resources. If you haven’t seen the video yet, or want to hear the story again, please find the video below.
For those that want a good look at the original map David Hill used, see the image below.
I first encountered the name Steve Hamm when I was doing research on a ThinkPad to track down and cover for the channel. I had consulted several lists to see what would be some fun and unique models to try and acquire that weren’t overly expensive. There are some really cool ThinkPads out there, but some are simply not being sold online or if they are, go for significant amounts of money, ready for museums.
I settled on learning more about the ThinkPad X300 and quickly, after a few searches in a variety of places, one of them being YouTube, I found there was little in the way of recent coverage and discussion about the X300 and its underappreciated role in laptop design. However, one of the items I did find was a talk that Steve Hamm gave on the Microsoft Research channel. You can find the full video below.
After watching the first hour of Steve’s talk, I was intrigued. Steve had been a technology journalist for over 20 years at the point to wrote “The Race for Perfect: Inside the Quest to Design the Ultimate Portable Computer.” Then I saw the cover of the book and found a digital copy of the dust jacket. The book was primarily focused on the X300, I thought I couldn’t have asked for a better resource. At the end of the project, it was a tie between the treasure-trove of the book and talking to David Hill (who was the head of design at the time for IBM/Lenovo) about the X300.
One thing you need to understand is the book is more than just about the X300. If you want to understand the history of portable computing or ThinkPad development, you need to read this book. The stories and people that he interviewed for the book at first might not seem interconnected but it helps you build an understanding and appreciation for what Lenovo was able to accomplish in the X300. Going all the way back to the early days of portable computing up to what was the present day at the time of publishing gives a crystal clear picture of the significance of computers like the X300. This isn’t just about one laptop, it is a history of mobile computing.
Steve had exclusive access to multiple key people on the X300 project, David Hill included. Originally he was at Lenovo to interview the chairman who just recently completed the purchase of IBM’s PC division. His schedule was packed, but he had a few minutes where he was taken down to the design lab, this is where he and David would meet for the first time. When I spoke to David Hill, he told me about how far Steve’s access went.
They brought him down to the design lab and said, “Hey, this is Steve Hamm, he is from BusinessWeek Magazine, he’s got like, 20 minutes, can you show him something?”
I’m like, okay. So I said, “So what can I show him?”
“Well he’s on a Non-Disclosure-Agreement so you can show him anything.”
So I showed him what were were doing and he was so fascinated with it, he said, “I want to write a book about it.”
So we gave him a complete, insider view of exactly what was happening. He went to Japan and he went to Italy and he met with Richard Sapper, he met with Naihtoh-son. It was kind of funny, I had an interlock call with Naihtoh-son we had a regular kind of call when meeting about various kinds of topics and he said, “Hey do you know this guy Steve Hamm?” and I said “Yeah I do.”
“I met him in Japan, he knows everything.”
I said, “Yeah, he does. We’ve been talking to him and showing him all this stuff. What did you do?”
“Well I figured it must be okay, so I showed him everything.”
David Hill would go on to say that this was completely counter to anything that IBM would have ever allowed. If you haven’t seen my video review of this book, please consider watching it below.
Steve mentions this in the Microsoft Research video above when he talks about the book, but one of the great things about “The Race for Perfect” is he was able to interview and get these accounts first hand from the people that were there with very few exceptions. I will leave the final word with Steve Hamm as it personifies how I felt when I sat down with David Hill to talk to him regarding his role in the X300.
These people are incredible inventors and they need to be remembered.
I hope you enjoy the interview, it was a lot of fun talking to Steve and I am infinitely grateful for the generous gift of his time and sharing. For those looking for an audio version of the interview, you can find it below or click here for the mp3.
Running benchmarks and tests of this nature aren’t my normal thing since these tests are somewhat theoretical when it comes to real-world usage, but I can appreciate that people like to compare the numbers. For me, the main purpose of these tests was to push the laptop from a thermal standpoint to see how well it did under load.
As shown in the Day 12 video update, thermals remained very acceptable, not climbing higher than 35.0C at the CPU underneath the laptop or at the vent exhaust port.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Thermals
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Thermals
For more information on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano, if you haven’t seen the first videos in the series, please consider checking them out below. If you’d like to buy one for yourself, please consider visiting Lenovo’s website through the links on my Affiliates page as I can earn a small commission that goes back to supporting the channel.
Rumours have been circulating for a while now that Titanium will be used on the new X1 and X1 Yoga models. In a recent contest on Twitter, Lenovo has essentially confirmed that they are coming, probably at CES 2021.
Our 6-day countdown until #LenovoCES announcements begins NOW!
Follow the TrackPoint, spot the highlighted letters, and then unscramble the word. Comment the answer below for your chance to win a surprise! #CES2021
However, as I discuss in a recently released video on the channel, this isn’t the first time they have used Titanium on a laptop.
I really hope that Lenovo has learned their lessons on how to best use this material as it does have some significant drawbacks as seen in the video. Granted manufacturing technology has improved significantly since then, I would be very mindful about what sort of abuse I would put a chassis that has this metal at its core.
Another thing to consider is that materials in engineering, even from my limited understanding, are rarely interchangeable and equal. I occasionally watch Ian McCollum’s Forgotten Weapons YouTube channel to hear about design decisions in the firearm industry. While I don’t have a major interest in firearms beyond interesting trivia, I feel like one can learn a lot about design from a fellow like Ian. He is involved with a joint venture with a firearms manufacturing company to create a polymer lower to the AR-15 platform and has documented that it isn’t as simple as casting the same part using a different material.
All that to say, I’m curious to see what, if any considerations exist between the build process between the regular X1 and X1 Yoga variants and their newer Titanium counterparts.
ThinkMods have announced one of their next products on their Discord today. It is a better-built version of an existing mod that puts a USB port inside of your compatible ThinkPad.
This is really handy if you have a USB module for a mouse or keyboard that you use all the time but don’t want to use up an external port. Instead, it plugs into an absent SmartCard plug found on the motherboard. To be clear, this mod is only possible on the X220/X230 and T430 machines. The Tablet variants of the X series listed should be compatible.
While this mod currently exists and can be found on several websites, there are some key differences that the ThinkMod version will provide.
Unlike the Chinese one, these will both be available for $5, and the X220/X230 one actually has a full 5V voltage regulator, so it provides a proper 5V unlike the Chinese one which only provides 3.3V.
(some USB devices, like logitech unifying receivers, are ok with 3.3v, but not all are)
So in summary: Higher quality, cheaper, and ships much faster than the Chinese variant.
While the main focus remains on getting the TM-E2M finished, it is exciting to hear what they have in the works. For more information, consider dropping by their website, https://thinkmods.store/