My main machine is an early-2011 Macbook Pro. It's an unquestionably great machine and I do 90% of my work on it. But I still keep a Thinkpad T43 as my backup. Can we talk about this laptop and why I love it so much?
I acquired it somewhat late in its life and for a long time I kept it as a server. I mounted it underneath the only table in our apartment (inspired by decluttered.com) where it made for a compact media server for a couple of years in New York. But I first got to know the machine when I took it to South East Asia last year and completed the first draft of this site (and this blog entry) using it. Through that experience, I've found that, after all these years, it is a thoroughly capable machine, and I have grown quite fond of it.
Let's be clear: it is a business machine. It's right there in the brand name: I.B.M., International Business Machines. As such, it looks quite businessy: deadly serious with sharp edges, matte black all around, and a confident, oddly concave, lid. Still, it's quite small—almost cute—especially for a laptop from that era (circa 2005), and the lid has a reassuring texture. On the ThinkPad, every bit of hardware has its affordance. The hard drive and optical drive have small bumps that say "hey, I am where your storage media is". Contrast this to the throughly smoothed over MacBook, where nothing is really distinguished from anything else. I can see the desire to eliminate bumpy hardware for normal humans, but for a person who spends his days speaking to computers, a little body language in response is welcome.
To keep it fit, I've added 2 gigabytes of memory and swapped out the included DVD-ROM for an UltraBay which houses an SSD. The operating system is Ubuntu 12.10, and the machine starts up and shuts down wicked fast. Graphics performance is not as stellar, especially in my preferred desktop environment Gnome 3, but it's quite usable if you limit it to just a few programs running at a time (say, Chromium, emacs, and terminal, but what else do you really need?).
Of course, this can't last forever. I'd love to move on to a new ThinkPad. Sadly, while modern ThinkPads share many of the superficial design elements of this beauty, some aspects of ThinkPad design have regressed. My wife's newer ThinkPad has an awful trackpad which has not held up at all after only about a year of use. And despite its newness, it is bulky in ways mine is just not.
For now, though, this works for me. Here's to old hardware!