TBT: Using the ThinkPad T42 as a daily driver… in 2018

Everyone talks about the “retro challenge”, but one time I had no other choice but to use my IBM ThinkPad T42 as a daily driver computer in parts of my freshman and sophomore years of college.

In December 2017, I received the IBM ThinkPad as my first “vintage” or collectible machine. Since, using the term “vintage” to describe the T42 has been shadowed by the 1988 Macintosh SE and 1991 Macintosh Classic, which are officially described as vintage computers. Regardless, I purchased the T42 from a seller in Canada to use as a machine to play around with – despite running Windows 7 on only 512 MB of memory.

I acquired the IBM ThinkPad T42 in December 2017

In March 2018, my actual daily driver – the ThinkPad T420 – was often getting very hot and was acting really sluggish. I decided to clean the fan and reapply thermal paste to the heatsink on the T420 over my spring break in an effort to get it to run slightly cooler.

After disassembling the T420, cleaning the fan, reapplying thermal paste, and putting the machine back together to a point where I could test it – I plugged the T420 for testing. I pushed the power button and… nothing. The machine showed no signs of life… no power light, no display backlight, no fan noises, nothing. I took the machine apart and everything looked connected and in good condition, so the news wasn’t good – I must have accidentally killed the machine.

The T420 worked before disassembly, but unfortunately didn’t work after

Instead of bringing my MacBook Air back with me (since my dad uses it as his daily driver), I decided to try to stick it out with the IBM ThinkPad T42 – kind of like a “retro computer challenge” yet with no other good choices.

While I was able to do homework and other things on the iMac I had at work, the T42 was the only computer I had at home.

The T42’s options for browsing the internet was limited to Internet Explorer 8, since other browsers were too new or required more memory, and Pale Moon was really unstable on Windows 7 with not a lot of memory to work with. However, IE 8 worked well enough to allow me to keep the blog updated and check my email. Though I couldn’t use social media or access sites which were more “complex.”

Internet Explorer 8 works, but has lots of limitations and won’t render most pages properly.

During that time, I mostly used the T42 for taking notes in class… something it was relatively good at. I used Notepad to take notes in classes, creating .txt files. In hindsight, I could’ve probably used WordPad with better results.

Eventually, in June 2018, I was able to purchase a replacement computer – a ThinkPad T450. Unfortunately, I had to use the T42 once again as a daily driver after the display in that computer failed in October 2018. This time I was only stuck with the T42 as a daily driver for only a little bit, as I eventually brought the MacBook Air back with me to use until I got the ThinkPad W541 in late November 2018.

Since getting the W541, the T42 has went back to it’s roots of being a “for fun” machine – doing things such as playing MIDI files in OpenMPT or playing around in DOSBox

Unfortunately, the ThinkPad T42 has only become more obsolete since then. The university WiFi no longer works with the T42, and with only 512 MB you’re limited with software you can use with it. Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever have to rely on the T42 to be my daily driver machine again.

Next week I plan on producing an update post on the T42, since December 13th will mark the three-year anniversary since I received the machine.

This post was written on the IBM ThinkPad T42.

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