Nostalgia ... qualities of very old ThinkPads

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Nostalgia ... qualities of very old ThinkPads

Postby Onsemeliot » 2020-11-29 08:47

I have some old Thinkpads (R50 and T40) from about 2003 at home as backup systems if somebody urgently needs a laptop. (It gets clearer every day that nobody around me wants to use those old devices any more – even in an emergency.) I keep them updated with Debian Buster LXDE. And each time I do the updates I am shocked about how well they are built. Especially the keyboards are a real joy. But even the screens are still very pleasant – if you don't want to do multimedia on it. (I'm writing this on a T40 because my T400s just froze in the middle of writing the first attempt and since I had it switched on already anyway.)

My daily driver, the Technoethical T400s, unfortunately doesn't come close to those older devices any more.

Sure, new light laptops like the ThinkPad Carbon X1, the Dell XPS 13 or the HP Spectre are more advanced in many ways. But they also lost this rigidity and tactile quality. Therefore, I was wondering what you would think of an idea I suddenly had: Wouldn't it be fun to combine new hardware with the old one? Use the old keyboard and case and swap out not any more useful IO with more recent technology. There must be enough space in those bulky cases for that.

But in the end I have to admit it most likely doesn't make much sense to attempt this because it would lead to a not very convincing mess. Nevertheless, it should be possible to accept some weight and and additional volume to gain this old tactile excellence back. Or doesn't anyone still have the means left to produce parts in the quality of those old laptops? Since almost everybody seems to be convinced that they always need to have the most recent and performant hardware, there probably isn't a big enough market for products like that.

And things are moving in the opposite direction now quickly with the new Apple M1 containing everything in one chip. Upgrades and modularity seem to be concepts of the past. Sure, good performance with low power consumption is good. But is it worth losing all options for future upgrades?

Anyhow. It is frustrating that since years now it is getting worse with my T400s. The frequency of freezes is increasing but I couldn't find a good reason for it so far. Even cleaning the fan and replacing the thermal compound didn't do anything. It is especially bad in summer but the problem can obviously occur at any time in winter too.

Therefore, I bought a used Dell Latidude e7470 as a replacement but I couldn't get myself to abandon my old T400s yet. Especially because I can use Libreboot on the T400s but not on the Dell. Besides, the hardware backdoors from Intel Management Engine and AMD Platform Security Processor are something I would rather like to avoid. Am I the only one reluctant to move to newer hardware because it doesn't only bring advantages?
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Re: Nostalgia ... qualities of very old ThinkPads

Postby Head_on_a_Stick » 2020-11-29 17:17

I have an old X201 and an E485 and I have to say that I prefer the newer version, even in respect of the keyboard. It's just as sturdy and *much* easier to dismantle and service and I can play CS:GO and render pretty images with Blender & Mitsuba, which isn't really possible with the 10 year-old X201 (although that does still run GNOME like a champ).

And I am strongly tempted to buy one of the new T14 models (Ryzen ofc), they look even nicer — the 4750U is significantly faster than my 2500U and the Vega 7 iGPU performs at a similar level to the RX550 discrete GPU.

EDIT: for your freeze problems make sure the CPU (Intel?) µcode is installed.
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Re: Nostalgia ... qualities of very old ThinkPads

Postby arochester » 2020-11-29 19:39

I *QUITE* like this site https://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Unoffici ... mory_specs

I have an X200s which officially has a maximum of 4Gb or RAM. Mine is running unofficial 8Gb of RAM. Next stop an SSD.

The downside is that I also have an SL500. It says it unofficially takes a maximum of 8Gb. Mine doesn't. It only takes 4Gb
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Re: Nostalgia ... qualities of very old ThinkPads

Postby Onsemeliot » 2020-11-29 21:44

for your freeze problems make sure the CPU (Intel?) µcode is installed.


Thanks for the hint. However, I suspect this isn't the issue because the Technoethical supporter has taken it apart twice and I expect this is something he would have thought of. I fear it is more related to the fact that I got it with a stronger processor than originally planned. this might cause thermal problems in the long run. On the other hand the service technician wasn't able to get it to overheat and throttle even under extended heavy load. It was one of these problems that never show up if you want to diagnose it.

And it is interesting how the new ARM processors will develop in the coming months.
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Re: Nostalgia ... qualities of very old ThinkPads

Postby NFT5 » 2020-11-29 22:33

I have an IBM R40 which is a 1.9GHz P4 and originally came with a whopping 128Mb RAM. It's done a wonderful job, over the years and has, for some time, been semi-retired to the single task of being the interface for tuning my car. I fired it up a week or so ago and was horrified to see the screen just a jumble of colours/lines, so fear its time may have come.

As I sit here typing this on a Lenovo Ideapad it's easy to make comparisons with the old R40. Boot up time is a matter of seconds instead of 2 minutes, 15" display is wide and clear rather than having visible lines, Keypad is tactile and easy to navigate, without half-size keys and still has a full number pad. Response is almost instantaneous compared to having to wait for even the simplest program to load and wifi at 46Mbps is almost unbelievable compared to the 56K card in the old machine. And how can you compare 1TB of SSD with 40GB of very slow HDD? Or 8GB RAM with 512MB?

Yes, I still have a soft spot for those old machines, they were very advanced nearly 20 years ago. But the advances made since really make the new machines much more pleasant, and productive, to use.

Now my biggest problem is to decide whether to use this Lenovo, switch to the HP with it's 4 core goodness or go to the desktop and be unable to utilise 8 cores at 4.0GHz and 16GB RAM. Ahhh, the old times were good, but the new times are better. :D
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Re: Nostalgia ... qualities of very old ThinkPads

Postby Onsemeliot » 2020-11-30 12:50

I have had the impression in recent years that all the Lenovo laptops I got my hands on had very poor build quality. But this might also be due to the fact that most people buy the cheaper models. And the older devices I mentioned didn't come cheap at the time.
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