The ThinkPad takes business computing to uncharted territories
In the Age of Exploration, the vanguards of travel, geography and trade such as Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco da Gama disappeared for months or even years at a time. If — and only if — they survived to tell the tale, the rest of the world reaped the rewards.
We wanted to change that; we wanted great thinkers to be able to use the ThinkPad in all of their workspaces, whether it be a desk or a desert. So we made a computer that would withstand some of the harshest conditions on the planet — and when faced with new challenges, we engineered a solution.
In 2003, renowned adventurer Pasquale Scaturro decided to helm the first full descent of the Blue Nile. The 3,500-mile journey would begin in the highlands of Ethiopia, move through Sudan and end where the river spills into the Mediterranean Sea.
The voyage’s dangers were enough to prevent any other explorers from successfully forging the same route: Much of the Blue Nile is made up of Class VI rapids, choppy and unpredictable enough to easily flip rafts and crush would-be adventurers in the waves. If the explorers survived the rapids, they would then be faced with avoiding crocodiles and bandits. Many lost their lives or disappeared attempting the journey.
Along the way, Scaturro needed to send dispatches to IMAX, which would be sponsoring a movie adaptation of his adventure. He took three laptops along for the ride, and the ThinkPad quickly emerged as his tool of choice. It was housed in a watertight case on a large raft on the rapids, and it unsurprisingly was sent swimming several times. After surviving the water, it was subjected to 130-degree heat near the equator and rough handling by a disgruntled Egyptian policeman.
“It just didn’t break,” Scaturro said. Whatever came its way, the ThinkPad endured. Scaturro wrote 80,000 words over the course of his six-month journey, which became a book enabled by the resilience of the ThinkPad.
Around the same time, Japanese college student Atsushi Yamada told us he wanted to be the first person to use a computer at the peak of Mount Everest. At the time, our hard disk drives were particularly vulnerable to gravity: We knew that if Yamada took the ThinkPad to the mountain’s 29,000-foot peak, the low air pressure would cause the read-write head to drop, touch the disk and crash the system. We also knew that the extremely low temperatures atop Everest — which were often more than 30 degrees below zero — could crash the machine.
We set about making special disk drives with shock absorbers and a titanium alloy frame for Yamada. When he made it to the top of the mountain he successfully booted up the ThinkPad. It only lasted a moment in the punishing conditions, but he had achieved his goal: He had done what no one else had done before.
We began engineering a revolutionary solid-state hard drive system that would make the ThinkPad less vulnerable to air pressure. It became an even more versatile tool, and thrill-seekers and scientists alike began bringing the ThinkPad to further reaches of the globe.
A decade after Yamada approached us with his Everest quest, another climber used our device to brave the mighty mountain. Eric Remza, an American explorer armed with a ThinkPad X220, led an expedition on the mountain and used his computer to stay connected with the rest of the world.
Temperatures would often dip so far below freezing that the water bottles and sunscreen in his backpack would freeze solid. In the same conditions in a previous expedition, seven of the team’s laptops crashed. But the new ThinkPad? “Running like a top,” Remza said.
Remza and his team were able to use the ThinkPad to communicate from their base camp with meteorologists and determine the optimal time to attempt their final four-day climb to the peak. The stakes were high: The wrong weather conditions can make the journey dangerous or even deadly. But with the help of the ThinkPad, they got the information they needed to safely make it to the pinnacle.
Yet others have taken the ThinkPad to rainforest canopies and to outer space to learn more about their world. In all these cases, Lenovo invited scientists and explorers to use the ThinkPad to test themselves and share their findings with the world. The ThinkPad emboldened their curiosity and encouraged their imagination, expanding the limits of what modern exploration can be.