In Memory

I have too many computers.
My main laptop computer, the one I’m most likely to use for serious work, is a Lenovo Thinkpad X280. It’s a slim, sleek black machine. Black has always been a trademark identity for the Thinkpad range. Going back to when it was owned by IBM, their image was the computer for Serious Business. No neon-effect boy-racer gaming lights under the keypad here, no flashing colours or polished surfaces, just a solid matte-finished box made to carry its weight, a workhorse.
Past its best, but there’s a solid powerful chip under the hood, and it will process image editing and, even more important in the last few years, audio editing for podcasts. That’s what I’ve been doing with it for the last week. Recording audio and video, and editing the audio files for podcast.
It’s old now. The keyboard is gone, though that was really a self inflicted wound. I broke the firmware doing some repairs, when I should have known better and let it alone If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, or you end up with new breaks you can’t fix. So without a touchpad, I have to use a mouse. No big deal, I mostly did anyway. Fingertip control isn’t really precise enough when you’re editing audio clips.
The battery life is poor. With earlier thinkpads, I could have just switched it out for a new battery. The early thinkpads were chunky boxes, on purpose. Not just because it sold their solid business image, but because they were built to a modular design. In theory, any part of the machine could be replaced, or upgraded.
Newer boxes work on the Jonny Ives model. Steve Jobs in his later years decided thinness was how to distinguish Macs and phones to look futuristic, and where Apple leads, everyone else eventually follows, even the solid black boxes from Lenovo.
Eventually, shortly after Lenovo took over the Thinkpad range from IBM, they finally caved to the Jonny Ives design hegemony, and redesigned their range for a more modern and slimlined look.
So this is a thin thinkpad, with a locked in battery which, which it could in theory be replaced, is so wedded to the machine that it’s probably going to be cheaper to replace the machine than take it apart.
I have other machines. A smaller Lenovo, an Ideapad, all bland silver with a smaller screen, indistinguishable from any of several smaller notepads and chromebooks, but with a battery life that makes it the best choice on the road or reporting from a courtroom or other news event. An the desktop, big and imposing, for some even more heavy duty work than the X280 on occasion. And there’s one of the older, boxier Thinkpads, which these days is near the end of its useful life, and mostly serves as a sort of searchable backup drive holding copies of synced cloud files I need to access quickly without waiting for downloads.
But the Thinkpad X280 is special. I don’t want to replace it. The X280 model was launched in 2018, but I bought mine second hand in 2019.
I arranged the purchase over Twitter, and I drove to Belfast to pick it up from Lyra McKee.
She was in a rush. We talked about Donegal and meeting her partnerthere in the Summer when I was on holidays, and she apologised she didn’t have time to stop for a coffee and a chat, but work and deadlines were pressing.
It was the last time we spoke in person. A few weeks later, she went to observe and report on a riot in the Creggan in Derry, and someone fired a shot into the crowd, killing her.
So I won’t be getting rid of the X280 any time soon, even if it is superceded by newer machines.
I miss you, kid. Here’s looking at you.

One of the first pieces I wrote on the X280, the day after Lyra’s death.

Categorised as 200 Words

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.