There’s nothing quite like the utilitarian brilliance of classic IBM ThinkPad laptops, inspired by Japanese bento boxes and beloved for their toughness. And none is so beloved as the ThinkPad 701 series from 1995. With its two-part fold-out keyboard that squeezes a full-sized typing surface into a design under 10 inches wide, it’s an unmistakable classic. But it is almost 30 years old, so good luck using it for anything except Space Cadet Pinball.
Enter modder Karl Buchka. This fan of the original design took a broken ThinkPad 701C and replaced its motherboard with the one from the Framework Laptop, a modular design that’s become all the rage in maker and right-to-repair circles. In a modding project that’s taken six months to complete, Buchka has made the 701C’s housing and keyboard/Trackpoint mouse work with the Framework’s modern Intel guts, including USB-C, USB-A, and gigabit Ethernet ports, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. His project was spotted by Tom’s Hardware.
Because the 701C’s 640×480 LCD screen leaves something to be desired by modern standards, Buchka took his mod one step further and replaced it with the screen panel from an iPad 7, connected to the motherboard via an internal eDisplayPort adaper. The fold-out “butterfly” keyboard and its Trackpoint mouse are plugged into a Teensy microcontroller running QMK. It looks like the build uses a Framework laptop battery, too.
So far the modder has had to create a new lower case and hinge bracket via 3D printing in order to make it all fit in the ThinkPad’s original dimensions. When the mod is in its final iteration, he says he’ll post the design files on Github for others to emulate.