The ThinkPad Who Came To Dinner

by David Parmet Jan 30, 2006

We were an Apple house. A house filled with Mac goodness. My wife and I, typing away on matching PowerBooks while the kids bang on a couple of old school ‘bullet’ iMacs.  A Mac family.. a happy family.  Last week that all changed.  My wife bought a ThinkPad.  There.  I’ve said it.  Go ahead and mock me if you will.  There’s a honking big fat chunky ugly hunk of plastic and obsolete ports sitting across the dining room table from my sleek and elegant Titanium PowerBook.  I’m worried my kids might get the idea that the it’s OK to use a Wintel box. I’m worried it will lead to harder drugs. I’m worried most of all that I’m going to have to beat it into shape enough for it to be usable. I’m a husband, not tech support.  To begin with, it’s ugly. The PowerBook is the Flesh + Blood era Roxy Music to the ThinkPad’s David Coverdale era Deep Purple (dating myself there).  The black (“you can’t get any blacker”) exterior is already scuffed and covered with the fingerprints of curious children. The battery actually sticks out of the back of the computer for crying out loud!  And then there’s the sigh. If you spend any time around Windows users using Windows, you’ll hear it. That sigh of resignation when something freezes up, pops up or chokes up. When email is being downloaded and every other process grinds to an intelligent halt. The sudden ‘unexpected’ reboots, the demands to upgrade and install patches again and again, the Blue Screen of Death - the fun stuff us Mac users never get to experience.  I’m convinced it’s not Microsoft that’s putting out a bad product. It’s the vendors - the Dells and HPs of the world - who subsidize cheap hardware with bundled ‘demo’ software. So 14, 30 and 60 days after you bring home your new baby, you get your ‘reminders.’  Which makes me appreciate the marriage of hardware and software that is Apple Computers. PCs come in gray boxes. When I worked in the PR agency of one of those big PC manufacturers, the guys in design used to bemoan the coming comiditization of the PC.  PCs, it seems, have become toasters.  Big honking ugly toasters that spit sparks and burn your bagel. You buy the PC toaster at Costco and when it gets so full of burnt crumbs that it’s a fire hazard, you throw it out and buy a new one.  The Mac, by comparision, is a toaster from Williams Sonoma. Sleak and sexy and beautiful to look at on your kitchen counter, it has individualized settings so your wife can have her toast lightly toasted and you can have your well-done bagel. And there’s a special, easy to remove for cleaning crumb catcher.  Face it folks, we scoff at our friends, coworkers and neighbors with their Dells and HPs but we don’t really know how good we have it until we have to spend some time on the dark side.


  • Was there something like a reason for your wife to buy it?

    Quite honestly, I like thinkpads. They used to be nice hardware, very good keyboards… you just had to have thing for “industrial” looks.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Jan 30, 2006 Posts: 371
  • Before “switching” I carried around the original X-Series ThinkPad on business trips.  3 pounds and I kept the external optical drive in the suitcase.  It was small - only a 10” display, but it did the job quite well.  While I started my switch when the X-Series started getting old I’m still impressed with the form factor and would actually like to see the finger print feature added to the PB in the future.  It might actually help sales to business people who carry sensitive data on their notebooks.

    The battery, by the way, was an optional extended life battery.  The standard battery was internal.

    MacKen had this to say on Jan 30, 2006 Posts: 88
  • “That sigh of resignation when something freezes up, pops up or chokes up. When email is being downloaded and every other process grinds to an intelligent halt. The sudden ‘unexpected’ reboots, the demands to upgrade and install patches again and again, the Blue Screen of Death - the fun stuff us Mac users never get to experience.”

    Funny, I work with about 15 Macs ever day and that paragraph describes my life. smile No one make perfect computers and Macs are nowhere near as stable as one is often lead to believe.

    Still, a ThinkPad? Why not a Dell, they at least look cooler. ThinkPads are ugly (I’m a graphic designer) and bulky. Dell’s look nice, as do Acer’s.

    Acer -

    Dell -

    Too often people use ThinkPads to show how ugly PCs are and ignore the nice looking Dells, Acers, and VIAOs

    dsiglin had this to say on Jan 30, 2006 Posts: 4
  • ^ You should listen to that guy. He’s a graphic designer.

    He also works with Macs, which demand constant patches and upgrades and that have blue-screens-of-death!

    David, reading your article, I feel there is only one thing for it: get a divorce.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Jan 30, 2006 Posts: 299
  • I’m the lone Mac user in a PC organization. I won’t give up my Mac, but the PC’s work fine. There are advantages to both platforms.

    How many people really care how a PC looks if it gets the job done?

    It ain't over had this to say on Jan 30, 2006 Posts: 6
  • Come on Dave. You gotta tell us. Why?! We figure it was work related. Else she’s a masochist and living with you wasn’t tough enough?! smile (Just kiddin!)

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 30, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • The software makes all the difference for me. I’ve never cared much for Apple’s minimalist laptop designs. From a hardware standpoint, I much prefer my Centrino-based, widescreen Toshiba notebook.

    I agree about all the *extras* tossed in by the vendors. My Toshiba shipped chock full of redundant utilities for all manner of things. Each and every one insisted on “taking charge” of the system. In contrast, the System Preferences app in OS X is a joy to use.

    Now, if I could dump Windows and install OS X on the Toshiba, then I’d have the best of both worlds.

    Lucky13 had this to say on Jan 30, 2006 Posts: 11
  • Chris / BB - honestly .. she owns a small business and it’s a Dell shop. She figured it would be easier to take the ThinkPad to work and transfer files back and forth from the server than her PowerBook.

    Now she lives with regreat wink

    David Parmet had this to say on Jan 31, 2006 Posts: 10
  • I’m a tech who works with both Macs and PCs in design/print/media companies.  I have less heartache with PCs than with Macs.  More often than not, the old saying that on a mac it either works or doesn’t is true.  With a PC there are things I can try, poke around here and there, workaround somehow.  On a Mac, not so true.

    Whenever anyone asks me if I think they should get a Mac, my answer is always “it depends what is it going to be used for?”.  And when the question, “does it really have less problems than a PC” comes up, the answer is always “no, Macs and PCs suck equally”.

    In the PC world, if you use quality parts, you have a quality machine.  If you try and save a buck and go down to a subpar piece of hardware, then you end up with a subpar machine.

    If your wife just wanted more ease connecting to the servers at work….. why not just have IT setup “appleshares” on all the shares on the servers?  Its what I did at one Media firm who wanted Windows Servers, but Apple workstations for its employees.  Works like a charm.

    whodisbe had this to say on Jan 31, 2006 Posts: 6
  • As a “switcher”, a 3 year owner of a 17” PowerBook, and the owner of a Cube, I can understand your comments and your feelings. However, my office purchased a ThinkPad X32 for me at my request 6 months ago, and it has been a wonderful piece of equipment. It’s everything that my wife’s iBook (and the 12” PowerBook) should have been. Small, 2.6 lbs of weight, removable optical drive (in a docking base), and up to 8 hours of battery life with the optional battery (5 hours on the standard battery). It may not be pretty, but it works. I don’t have a huge issue with fingerprints on this model either.

    If Apple would build a powerbook with this feature set, they would have a purchase from me. This X32 makes the current 12” iBook and Powerbooks look like a brick in comparison. That being said, I still prefer the PowerBook for day to day use because of it’s screen, and because of OS X.

    sfuller had this to say on Jan 31, 2006 Posts: 1
  • In the area of general suckiness, “whodisbe” is correct—hardware is hardware, and it ALL has problems from time to time.

    Having said that, my experience with IBM ThinkPads is that they are generally superior to just about ANY other PC-based laptop. They’re VERY sturdy (thanks to their composite covers, my old TP has survived a number of drops quite nicely), relatively quiet, have lots of thoughtful features (like a button to instantly turn off the display without having to wait for the power-saving feature, a built-in keyboard light, etc.), and very reliable.

    What makes ThinkPads suck is Windows; and while XP is, by far, the most stable and reliable OS that MS has come up with, XP is still lacking in the overall XPerience due to poor third-party hardware & software, and a lack of imagination on the part of MS’s programmers.

    I won’t go into the whole security thing, because the simple fact is that if we had ALL been using MacOS instead of DOS/Windows, all the hackers out there would be writing MacOS viruses and exploits right now. The only secure computer is the one that’s turned OFF.

    Having said all of THAT, am I still trashing all of my PCs and buying Macs? Absolutely.

    KingRocky had this to say on Feb 01, 2006 Posts: 1
  • why is everyone saying thinkpads are ugly although they may not be quite as sexy as mac portables they are still way ahead of some other computers if you look at the old black dells with the ugly blue buttons or the annoying plastic black toshiba laptops with the wierd hinges (portage and stalite) ibm thinkpads actually looked way better id say anything from the T Series, R series and X series are all great and very powerfull laptops, i am actually writing this on a 2001 ibm T22/900 with 512mb ram and its extremely study and has one of the best keyboards ive ever used also the little curser nipple is great to and i love the red and black design here is a picture of the desktop i use untitled.jpg. One of my favorite apple laptops would have to be the g3 ibook dual usb, they were the best looking laptops availiable in 2001 and i do think i may have enjoyed a ibook more but for anyone who loves to make there own applications they may not be so worthwhile

    ryan_90 had this to say on Jul 15, 2007 Posts: 1
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