The History of Repairability: The Ancients

I have a hobby where I refurbish old donated laptops, so I’ve seen quite a range of designs from the past two decades and have experienced their varying levels of repairability. There’s of course a general overall trend away from repairability as time marches on, and there are a few standouts throughout the years, both good and bad, but to me, there is one laptop line that shines so much brighter than the rest. It was so modular, so repair-friendly, so built-to-last that I can’t help but wonder if this design philosophy is a direct ancestor to Framework.

I’m of course talking about the early-2010’s era Thinkpads. These things just beg you to take them apart. Screws are labeled with little pictures of what they’re holding in. The documentation is thorough and clear and covers components that other manufacturers’ manuals would just leave at “find an authorized service center”. Drain holes for the keyboard. Removable Intel Core CPU’s! I light up when someone hands me one of these. I love working on them. To me, this was the golden age of repairability.

But I gotta wonder, what other models out there may have been as good, or even better? Has anyone owned or worked on a model as explicitly built to be repaired and maintained as a Thinkpad? Nostalgia is very much encouraged here!


I’d like to point out that at least back in the days when I had to deal with them, not only the Lenovo hotline (just a big waste of time) but also ESC+ (which was done by IBM) was available for warranty replacements if you had a Thinkpad.
ESC+ was what I’d expect from a service hotline - they were fast (had a replacement for my defective HDD in my hands within 48h from my mail), did not waste my time with the usual “did you already try to restart it? have you updated your drivers?” stuff and reliable.
As a customer, I was allowed to change HDD, wifi card, keyboard etc. on my own without voiding warranty. Sometimes they would ask to send back the defective item using the spare box and a supplied return sticker.