ThinkPad Butterfly: Lenovo might bring back foldable ThinkPad keyboard
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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?