If you’re not in my particular niche communities, you might not know about the community that exists around old ThinkPad laptops. But I’m going to tell you about it, because I think it’s awesome!

ThinkPad laptops from years ago are enduringly popular, because they have great support from free software, and they’re extremely repairable.

Not only are new or used parts extremely easy to come by, people are even designing new parts for these old machines, so you can upgrade rather than replace!

People will combine parts from different laptops to create a “FrankenPad” that’s their favourite combination of different things.

I love this so much because rather than wait for some capitalists to deliver on their greenwashed promise of “modular” computing if we first buy their totally custom thing and hope they don’t go out of business, we’ve de facto standardised on computers that ALREADY exist, and can be obtained fairly cheaply.

Additionally, there’s a social benefit beyond the environmental one — these computers are not luxury hardware at this point. Since a lot of the users of these computers are software developers, they’re much less likely to develop software that only works on the latest premium hardware most people don’t have access to. It’s a stark difference to the new MacBook Pros a lot of us were using previously.

Any upgrade you might want to do has almost certainly been documented online. There’s a community available to help you with it, even if you don’t know anything about what’s inside a computer!

Don’t buy new laptops! Buy old ThinkPads, and never buy a whole new computer again.

Things I can upgrade/customise one at a time in my laptop, relatively cheaply:

• Screen
• Memory
• Keyboard
• Battery
• Motherboard / processor
• Case

Hell, you can gradually work your way to a whole different computer, Ship of Theseus style. But you don’t _have_ to. You can change only the bits that matter to you, and the parts that you’re done with will be useful to somebody else!

• Wireless card
• Cellular modem
• Bluetooth card

The other day I was sitting in the Edinburgh Hacklab watching a friend out together a working computer out of two broken ones that would probably otherwise have been landfilled.

A note: don’t take this enthusiasm as any sort of endorsement of modern ThinkPads. They’re garbage, like every other modern laptop. The point at which this happened is debatable, but barely none of the parts of the latest ones are replaceable without replacing the whole computer.

@qyliss
adjacent question:

does *anyone* make a semi-modular smaller-than-a-desktop computer these days?

Tablet, handheld, laptop...earpiece...anything?

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@eryn not really. Thinkpads are the best we’ve got.

@qyliss
...huh.

That seems intentional on the part of the rent-seeking planned-obsolescence sector of capitalism...

...but it could also just be incompetence?

:scowl:

@eryn I think it’s the former. Nobody wants to sell you the last laptop you’ll ever need.

@qyliss which is a financially ridiculous stance, because with a decent module spec, you can sell upgrades for 20+ years on the original item.

But there's this massive push (in corporate/manufacturing world) for more/higher profit now, ignoring the fact that people stop buying stuff that breaks three months outside warranty...

...ugh.

I could make a raspberry pi laptop for half the cost of an entry level internet machine, and be happy.

Realistically I have enough computers, and mostly just wish there was something to point my tech-unsavvy friend/relative/etc peeps at as a "this will last you until the internet stops being a thing" option.

A light use notebook with all-day battery life (or even two days?) is possible (based on my back of the napkin maths), and current tech levels make it possible with off the shelf parts, but selling units is the mainstream measure of how successful it is...

...time for bespoke modular computers with an open source module interface spec?

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