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Think Retro: An iPhone in Newton's clothing?

Christopher Phin | July 1, 2015
Last week, the vice president of design for Lenovo, the company which a decade ago bought IBM's computer division, floated the idea of creating a computer which is both thoroughly modern and yet which "embraces the original design details [of 1992's 700c] in the strongest way possible." Basically, he wants to make a retro ThinkPad with modern guts, and he wants to know if you'd buy it.

I also find the MessagePad Charging Station inexplicably pleasing too. Well, I say "inexplicably," but I've written before about my love of a good dock, and I got quite overexcited when I saw Henge Docks' fabulous horizontal dock some months back, with its motorized ports so redolent of sci-fi.

I don't think I'll ever stop being tickled by the idea of slotting a portable computer into some kind of desktop dock and having its capabilities expanded, even simply, as here. That's not to say that the idea won't ever pass out of currency and usefulness, but just that now, in my mid-thirties, having been exposed for such a long time to the idea of docking--usually necessary because technology hadn't advanced to a point where a portable computer could be powerful and flexible enough in itself--it will always make a kind of instinctual sense to me.

But no. No, even I don't want a modern Newton with an iPhone's guts. Ultimately, there is no solution to the dichotomy--that of liking computers that are slim, light and powerful, but missing the delicious physicality of vintage machines with their buxom forms and their hinges and their clasps and their industrial-looking ports--and nor am I even seeking one. I would just encourage you to pick up a MessagePad one day, feel its presence in your hand, and realize, as I have, that while you wouldn't trade it with your iPhone for all the sapphire on all the Watches in all the world, its friendly, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-like bulk is in many ways more gratifying and affable.

To realize, in other words, that not everything about computers was worse in the past.


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