This article has been updated on 27 June 2021 to include new information.

It appears last year Lenovo filed a new Butterfly-style keyboard patent and it was recently approved earlier this month by the US Patent Office. You can look it up on your own using the #11,029,723 and unsurprisingly it references John Karidis’ existing patents for the original. I have also linked it below.

New Butterfly Patent

One of the original Patent drawings of the John Karidis design.

The gear design present in the newer patent looks similar to the original meaning it would possibly still be driven by the opening and closing of the machine. It has been made even more complex with the use of magnets and a more compact design. The patent appears to be specifically for some kind of wireless keyboard that would be intended for use with tablets, like the X1 Fold, which certainly has a small keyboard and even then, no TrackPoint.

It could also be possible that this patent is being filed is to possibly safeguard this iconic design on a modern keyboard so somebody else doesn’t lay claim to it. This is the first step of many into the realm of speculation.

While the patent may be intended for a wireless keyboard, the creation of this could lead to it being included on a dedicated machine. Who knows, maybe even a 30th Anniversary Special Edition. There are few ThinkPads that are more iconic. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is also a trial run to see how difficult it would be to manufacture as the original was incredibly difficult to build and had many problems to overcome. But that is a story for another day.

Whether this means we will see a new Butterfly ThinkPad from Lenovo is yet to be seen. This could lead to a final product or end up on the cutting room floor of the Yamato Labs.

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.

The original map that David’s design team used to create the iconic wallpaper.

ThinkPad ThinkCentre Active Desktops

  • The above link contains both Active Desktops for ThinkPad and ThinkCentre machines that support Active Desktops. They display key system information for your wallpaper.

TP_ssaver_setup

  • A collection of ThinkPad screensavers.

WallpaperWebPage

  • A modern, lightweight program that allows Windows 10 to run a website as a background image. While it is far from perfect, it is the closest thing I’ve found to do the job.

world.time.wallpaper

  • The original dynamic wallpaper remake originally hosted on axofiber.info but occasionally the host does not work. The highest supported resolution is 1680×1050.

world.time.wallpaper.lenovo.edition

  • The same as above but with Lenovo branding.

ActiveTimeZoneWallpapers

  • Three original installs of the Time Zone wallpaper. North American, Europe and Asia variants.

For higher resolution Timezone wallpapers, check out nitrocaster’s recreation. Max resolution is 1920×1080/1200

For more ThinkPad related wallpapers and such, you can visit http://www.mocom.ru/Wallpapers/ibm.htm

For other OEM goodies like wallpaper and screensavers broken down my  OS and model number, check out https://sites.google.com/view/oemfiles

ThinkPad 20th Anniversary Wallpaper Collection 1080/1200

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.

The front cover of the book featuring the Lenovo ThinkPad 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. 

-Steve Hamm

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.

PassMark Rating

PassMark Software – Display Baseline ID# 1373050

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.

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.

ThinkPad Announcements at CES 2021

Below find the new ThinkPads joining the lineup in 2021. I might add additional thoughts in future articles.

ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga (13.5″)

360-degree hinge with Titanium construction. Intel Evo CPUs. 3:2 aspect ratio with 2K display.

ThinkPad X12 Detachable (12″)

The long-awaited return of the X1 Tablet. Intel 11th generation CPUs. 1920×1280 (3:2) 440 nit screen with Gorilla Glass. Optional folio keyboard with TrackPoint of course.

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 (14″)

Intel Evo with 16:10 and a wider touchpad to match. A larger battery still makes room for internal pen storage.

ThinkPad X1 Nano (13″)

Starting at $1900 CAD, the lightest ThinkPad yet at 1kg. Intel 11th Gen CPU, TB4, 16:10 screen and IR camera with a 2K screen as standard.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (14″)

16:10 display. Intel Evo vPro and everything you’ve come to like about the X1 Carbon. A wider touchpad and a larger battery are now included.

 

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.

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/

Why ThinkPads?

Anyone that watches the channel will know that the majority of the laptops featured so far have been ThinkPads either made by IBM or Lenovo.

Here are some of the reasons they are featured:

  1. They last. ThinkPads are designed for business customers first and not the consumer market. That means after their service life, like any piece of equipment, it gets surplused by the company. A lot of surplus is generally written off for scrap, recyclers and tinkerers. What makes a ThinkPad different is, most of them have plenty of life left to give and their original value drops significantly. This is thanks in no small part to the Yamato Design Labs “torture chamber” and the MIL-STD tests that these laptops undergo. Most consumer-grade devices, if they last their life-cycle are often difficult to repair and source parts. A quick search on eBay reveals that parts for ThinkPads however are easily found.

    Yamato Labs from Digital Trends tour in 2017
  2. Maintenance Manuals are readily available. They show you step by step how to service each part of the machine, have images and part numbers. You can read them before or after you buy your laptop to see what you are getting yourself into. Never taken apart a computer before? It tells you how. Not sure if that “for parts” eBay listing is worth your time? Check the manual for costs and price out what it might cost to fix. Screws are also standard so no need for specialized drivers to open the computer.

    Cover of the Maintenance Manual for the T470s
  3. Drivers can be found. Every driver is available on one of thetwo driver websites that Lenovo maintains. No discs required and no hunting sketchy third-party websites for drivers. Get them right from the source. Not only that, but Linux support is infamous on ThinkPads and in the year 2020, you can buy them new with Linux installed.
  4. Design matters. ThinkPads aren’t just a black business laptop. When IBM was sold to Lenovo, one of the things that had Lenovo drooling was all the patents they were buying. Several iconic features were included in that deal. To say nothing of the innovations of swappable Ultrabay drives, the ThinkLight, TrackPoint, the amazing keyboards (both classic and new) would be a mistake. When you spend over 25 years designing an object, you learn a lot. Granted you make mistakes, but the benefits and knowledge over time outweigh the setbacks. David Hill told me that Lenovo knows everything about making a keyboard and that makes sense given how long they have been doing it.

    Graphic from “ThinkPad Design Spirit and Essence.”
  5. Tinkerer’s Dream. Don’t like the ThinkPad you bought? Chances are good there is something to be done about it. Whether it is swapping out factory parts, building an ExpressCard eGPU or seeking our third-party parts to enhance your computer, the ThinkPad community has you covered.

In short, if you are in the need of a laptop, as many are at the start of 2021, if you are willing to take the time and learn about your options, you really do stand to benefit from some used ThinkPads out there.