The evolution and revolution of storage: how ThinkPads transformed information exchange
For many outside of the tech world, CDs and DVDs tend to conjure up nostalgic memories of burned playlists or the complete boxset of Friends. And while storage methods radically changed how the world consumed multimedia content, they also packed another punch — completely transforming the way data was saved and shared. In the mid-90s, the intuitive ThinkPad development team was on the forefront of this cultural shift and released the first laptops with built-in CD and DVD-ROM drives.
In the very early days of storage, old-school punch cards and magnetic tape were the only options before the first hard drive arrived on the scene in 1956. Over time, hard drives eventually upped their storage while shrinking their size, but the machines were still big, clunky, pricey and not at all easy to carry.
Then in 1971, the floppy disk came along. While in today’s modern world, it wouldn’t even be able to hold a 3-minute pop song in MP3 format, it soon became the primary way of storing data on personal computers and the standard method for distributing software. But as computers began using bigger programs and larger files, another innovation was soon needed — setting the stage for CD and DVD-ROMs.
Ushering in a shift from analog to digital for the music industry, CDs first hit the market in 1982. Growing into CD-ROM two years later, the devices made it possible to easily share and save large amounts of data and install applications. Showcasing this leap in storage abilities, the first product to be released on a CD-ROM was the entire compilation of the Grolier’s Electronic Encyclopedia. Out of the 9 million words of the digital transcription, only 12 percent of the disk’s space was used.
In the midst of this multimedia revolution, the ThinkPad development team released the first laptop with an integrated CD-ROM drive. Launched in 1994, the ThinkPad 755CD was groundbreaking with its multimedia capabilities, finally giving users mobile access to larger files. A year later, DVDs emerged with movies and TV, bringing along even more storage capacity at the same size. Again, the ThinkPad advanced with these developments with the ThinkPad 770 — the first portable PC to feature a DVD-ROM drive. Released in 1997, the laptop gave users improved access to more data and high-quality video.
Being able to effortlessly access multimedia data at any time and from anywhere was a huge breakthrough for people in the working world. Instead of being confined to their company network or having to lug around CD or DVD peripherals in addition to their laptops, traveling salespeople, executives, or anyone who needed to take useful data with them, could now easily tap into this information outside the office. Just using their own laptop, multimedia files could be accessed at home, projects could be finished at the airport and presentations could be shared beyond company walls.
By simplifying how people and organizations began to carry, store and transfer large amounts of data, ThinkPads set a new standard for data mobility. Adapting with industry and cultural changes throughout the years, the ThinkPad development team has continued to show its passion for the needs of their customers while always being prepared for the next big idea.