IBM’s ThinkPad 701c’s unique butterfly keyboard rocked the laptop world when it debuted in 1995. This video shows it in action, and you can see more in our Cracking Open photo gallery.


IBM ThinkPads have always been famous for their solid keyboards. In 1995, IBM debuted the revolutionary ThinkPad 701c, which put a full-size laptop keyboard into a much smaller package by using an innovative butterfly configuration. You can see the keyboard in action in the IBM ad shown on this video.

It may look like an amazing feat of engineering, but in fact, the butterfly keyboard was pretty simplistic. It was a simple split keyboard that rode on spring-powered rails. You can see what made the butterfly keyboard work by checking out the IBM ThinkPad 701C Photo Gallery.

This photo gallery was cut short because IBM assembled the unit using  #1 Torx screws across the front of the unit, which holds the base and the top together. These are extremely small screws, and we don’t have any of those in-house. I was, however, able to get the rest of the unit apart so you could at least see the keyboard mechanism in action.

The butterfly keyboard didn’t last very long in the ThinkPads and never showed up in any other laptops. There was a follow-up unit called the 701CS, which just had a few upgrades. Other than that, IBM abandoned the innovation. I’m not sure why, because it was pretty cool. Maybe the mechanical nature of it was prone to failure or the ribbon cables that connected the splitfold keyboard wore out.

Did you ever use a 701C or CS? What were your experiences with it?