2001 IBM Thinkpad Transnote - £750 + Shipping

As IBM promotional material at the time said; "IBM Thinkpad TransNote is a revolutionary portfolio computer that supports taking notes on the real paper and synchronize it with the associated laptop computer. IBM Thinkpad TransNote won the Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA) 2001 gold medal from BusinessWeek.".

I'm not sure if this ever caught on. Perhaps the fact this is the only IBM computer which explores this idea of being able to use a laptop, notepad (Thinkscribe) and touchscreen tablet all-at-once says it all - plus it only lasted one year! I believe that prior to the release of this machine, another product by the stationary company Cross, called the Crosspad which certainly strikes some familiar poses to this, was released which similarly will capture all your written notes in a notepad and export them as digital files. IBM took this idea, bolted it to the internals of a X20 subnotebook and called it a revolution!

The relatively short retail lifespan of this machine, combined with it's $3000 price and finally the fact that it was perhaps a solution looking for a problem makes these relatively rare machines.

As with many machines of this era it had a hibernation battery which has been removed. 

The computer-side of this machine is in really nice condition. The CMOS battery has been removed, but once you set the clock, it starts up into Windows 98 which has all the correct drivers installed and the pen works kinda well! The notepad side is a bit more of a mystery as the paper is missing and the little digital display on that side doesn't seem to power up. Perhaps it has it's own battery somewhere...

Personal Experience

My personal experience of these machines is mainly that "I don't get it". I can see that somehow somewhere there was an idea that making a physical and digital version of scribbled notes made sense, but I think most people were coping without a $3000 machine to do it - it's called a scanner. I also think most people taking notes keep them as notes and most people making digital files keep them digital. What with the emergence of a camera in every cellphone, a scanner in every printer and just, generally, people not using pens and papers to make notes anymore probably killed this. Also it's hardly a lightbulb moment like a decent browser or music library on your phone.

The issues I've found with these machines are:

The 10.4" screen is completely unique to the Transnote. I have updated the extremely useful thinkwiki TFT page with the exact make and model of the screen (TX26D33VC1CAA) which not only is obviously a touchscreen variant of the LCD used in the s30, 240 and 535 thinkpads but also has it's own unique connector. The panel doesn't tend to suffer from vinegar syndrome but it will sometimes develop a single pixel bar - usually horizontally, which I don't know how to fix.

These machines do have a hibernation battery tucked away which will leak, corrode and destroy. I always remove them and recycle them, such as is the case here.

Finally, I've read in a few places that the Transnote *can* suffer from the 'blink of death' syndrome, whereby a machine will blink some of the LEDs when you try to power it on, but nothing happens. This is caused by a variety of issues and I'm not exactly sure which one is the case with the Transnote line. I don't know if it really is a real issue, as it is with the T2x-series but it's possible.

Most transnotes are missing their main batteries, due to the fact they either don't work or they get removed to simplify shipping. This causes two problems - unlike most laptops where the battery is underneath and not obvious when it's missing, on the Transnote is makes up part of the top of the chassis, behind the screen. So when it's missing it does leave a bit of a gaping hole. The second issue is that you cannot update the BIOS without a working battery. I don't know of any exact reasons why you would need to update the BIOS but it is something I tend to do if I consider it safe.

I consider this machine to be better than most because of the fact it works, the LCD is undamaged (if a little dim on startup, for about 30 seconds) and it has it's original battery and pen. Most of them you see out there do not.


The TransNote consists of a leather-like folio case which contains a computer on one side and a paper notebook on the other side.

The technology is comparable to the CrossPad, which used a similar design as the TransNote.


  • 10.4" TFT FlipTouch display (800x600 resolution)
  • 600MHz Intel Mobile Pentium III
  • Operating system: Windows 98 SE
  • ATi Rage Mobility M 4MB
  • 10GB or 20GB HDD
  • 64MB PC-100 memory standard, 320 MB max
  • CompactFlash dock
  • CardBus slot (type 2)
  • PC Card slot.
  • Two audio controllers: Intel AC'97 Audio with a CS4297A codec / Crystal Semiconductor CS4281
  • MiniPCI slot with one of the following: 3Com 10/100 Ethernet Mini-PCI Adapter with 56K Modem / Xircom 10/100 EtherJet Mini PCI Adapter with 56K Modem
  • ThinkScribe digital notepad
  • The battery pack uses flat Samsung 103450 cells.


Computerworld called it a "failed design" because it tried to blend a large 3M digitized pad with a tiny underpowered laptop in the same product.[9] PCQuest viewed it as an attractive choice for people who travel a lot.[10] TechRepublic called it one of the 25 "unique and bizarre breakthroughs" in laptop innovation.[11]


The TransNote won a Gold iF Product Design Award in 2002 in the product discipline.[12] The TransNote was the winner in the PC category of the PC Magazine Awards for Technical Excellence in 2001.

IBM announced the discontinuation of the TransNote in February 2002, intending to discontinue it at the end of the year.

You can download the hardware maintenance manual here.