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ThinkPad Butterfly: Lenovo might bring back foldable ThinkPad keyboard

ThinkPad Butterfly: Lenovo might bring back foldable ThinkPad keyboard (picture source: pc.ibm.com)
ThinkPad Butterfly: Lenovo might bring back foldable ThinkPad keyboard (picture source: pc.ibm.com)
The IBM ThinkPad 701C with its foldable TrackWrite keyboard, also known as the ThinkPad Butterfly, is one of the most iconic models of the series. The impressive design was only featured in a single model, however. A new patent may be a sign that ThinkPad manufacturer Lenovo is considering to bring back the concept.

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There are not many laptop brands of the 90s left, which are still relevant today. ThinkPad is one of them. Probably the most iconic ThinkPad laptops of this time period is the IBM ThinkPad 701C, also known as the "ThinkPad Butterfly". This 1995 model had a foldable keyboard, which would unfold when the screen was opened - and fold back to the original state when the display is closed. This unique design enabled IBM to build a compact laptop less wide than a full size keyboard, while still equipping it with a full sized keyboard. It was so iconic and stunning that it is featured in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

Despite the ThinkPad 701C being a marketing and sales success, it was already discontinued in late 1995. The raison d'être was no longer there, as bigger screens made full sized keyboards the new standard. The Butterfly keyboard was simply obsolete.

With this in mind, the contemporary owner of the ThinkPad brand, Lenovo, has never resurrected the idea. Its use in the commercial context (after all, ThinkPads are business laptops) is probably small. Still, there is a reason for hope: For the 25th Anniversary, Lenovo released a ThinkPad with the classical IBM keyboard design and retro color scheme - the ThinkPad 25 shows that Lenovo can do special projects from time to time.

Next year, the ThinkPad will celebrate its 30th birthday. If Lenovo will release a special celebratory product and how it might look, is still completely unknown.

However, there is a new patent that might be a hint. As originally researched by the Youtube channel Laptop Retrospective, Lenovo has gotten a new patent this year, which combines the butterfly mechanic of the ThinkPad 701C with Lenovo's more recent ThinkPad keyboard design. Curiosly, the patent describes an external keyboard, which might be used alongside a tablet, for example.

Will Lenovo release a product with such a keyboard? At this point, we can only guess. Doing something like that as the "ThinkPad 30" could be fitting however - what would be a better ThinkPad 30th Anniversary edition than a ThinkPad with a butterfly keyboard?

ThinkPad X1 Nano, available from Amazon.com

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picture source: US Patent
picture source: US Patent
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Benjamin Herzig
Editor of the original article: Benjamin Herzig - Managing Editor - 922 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2016
I was an ardent reader of Notebookcheck’s laptop reviews even back in school. After writing reviews as a hobby, I then joined Notebookcheck in 2016 and have worked on device reviews and news articles ever since then. My personal interest lies more with laptops than smartphones, with business laptops being the most interesting category for me. Technology should make our lives and work easier and good laptops are an essential tool for that to happen. This is why laptop reviews are not just my work but are also my passion.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 07 > ThinkPad Butterfly: Lenovo might bring back foldable ThinkPad keyboard
Benjamin Herzig, 2021-07-14 (Update: 2021-07-14)