Bringing the IBM Thinkpad ‘Butterfly’ again to life

If you’re fortunate sufficient to personal an IBM ThinkPad 701C, with its well-known “butterfly” keyboard, choices are showing that will help you carry it again to life – and a few are fairly dramatic.

IBM’s Thinkpad 701C is without doubt one of the most storied fashions of laptop computer ever made. Nicknamed the “Butterfly” for its ingenious folding keyboard, it is one of many machines highlighted in The Reg‘s twenty fifth anniversary retrospective of the vary. This early subnotebook wasn’t blazingly high-spec, even when it was new: this Vulture’s personal one is the marginally quicker mannequin, with a 75MHz Intel 80486 DX4 (there was additionally a model with a 486 DX/2 50).


Most of us want slightly extra compute energy than that as we speak, which is why {hardware} hacker Karl Buchka is engaged on placing the motherboard of an outdated Framework laptop computer into his.

We have lined the Framework modular laptops earlier than. These are designed with the purpose of encouraging homeowners to take them aside to restore or improve them. Which means there’s a prepared supply of outdated motherboards from Framework laptops which were upgraded – similar to with the Intel twelfth era processor mainboards we talked about final Might.

Buchka’s plan is to interchange the center of his useless IBM Butterfly with a Framework motherboard and battery pack, plus a ten.2″ 2160 x 1620 LCD taken from a 2019 iPad 7. A Teensy 3.6 board interfaces with the keyboard, due to the prevailing QMK firmware.

It is a daring plan, and can contain 3D printing a complete new decrease chassis for the ThinkPad. If you’re both not fairly so intrepid as that, or wish to protect a classic machine in its unique situation, assistance is at hand for that too.

Matt Hrushka has arrange Undertaking Butterfly on, which has guides, elements lists, substitute elements, and extra. He is additionally printed a whole step-by-step information on iFixit, detailing learn how to utterly disassemble – and reassemble – the machine. And he has an inventory of important fixes that will help you troubleshoot what might need gone flawed with a virtually three-decade-old laptop computer.

As Framework's stock pic shows, the motherboard is fairly small, which is how it will fit inside a 10" laptop

As Framework’s inventory pic reveals, the motherboard is pretty small, which is the way it will match inside a ten” laptop computer

In case you’re not fortunate sufficient to have a 701C mendacity round, or simply want a extra trendy, skinny and light-weight laptop computer, Framework additionally sells refurbished models. It has lately expanded its refurb program, which now covers France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Eire within the EU, in addition to its current on-line retailer for the USA and Canada.

The ThinkPad “Butterfly” was well-known for its type issue. It squeezed a full-width, full-travel keyboard right into a iPad-sized chassis (or, to be truthful, right into a chassis the scale of a stack of 4 unique iPads). The keyboard cut up in half through a zigzag line down the center. When the proprietor closed the lid, a cam on the left display screen hinge slid the halves of the keyboard aside and round, rearranging them to suit neatly inside. Once you opened it, the cam did the reverse: the keyboard slid out and rearranged itself to full measurement, overhanging to the left and proper. It was a mechanical marvel that sparked pleasure within the beholder, and whereas the survivors’ 28-year-old batteries can have failed, the keyboard nonetheless works positive. ®