The vintage MIPS-based IBM “ThinkPad” (the WorkPad) #MIPS #VintageComputing @IBM

Looking at the pictures above, nearly anyone would say that is an IBM ThinkPad laptop. Bright-red TrackPoint and mouse button trim, classic keyboard font, IBM logo on the top. It’s a ThinkPad … right? But it isn’t. Say hello to the RISC ThinkPad that’s not a ThinkPad, the IBM WorkPad z50.

Of the major RISC architectures, though, classic MIPS (as opposed to the modern undead zombie MIPS uncomfortably market-sandwiched between ARM and RISC-V) had relatively poor penetration in the portable and low-power market. Various later Chinese rejiggerings under the Loongson/Godson names are better known to modern audiences, and Richard Stallman famously used such a laptop, but comparatively few portable MIPS platforms existed back in the day.

The WorkPad z50 ended up not setting the market on fire and while IBM continued to rebadge Palm devices for the WorkPad line until around 2001, there was never another WorkPad laptop: IBM withdrew it from the market in February 2000 after less than a year.

For an excellent history of the WorkPad and MIPS portable devices, see the article here.


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