A Good OS/2 Thinkpad
By: Walter Metcalf
Want or need a OS/2-compatible notebook, and don't want to constantly fight with
compatibility problems? IBM--yes, IBM--may have the answer you're looking for.
I was gradually coming to realize I needed a second computer, and while mobility
was a need, compactness was the main issue: my workplace simply didn't have space
for two sprawling desktops. So the answer was a notebook. That made OS/2 compatibility
very important. While replacing a board to solve a compatibility problem may be
an option in a desktop, it's unlikely to be a viable option in a notebook.
Scared off by the price of IBM hardware, I started looking at compatibles, but
while some came close to OS/2 compatibility, all in my price range had serious problems
upon close examination. Finally my dealer suggested one of the IBM
Thinkpad 390E models. The 390E is a new, intermediate level, line of Thinkpads,
and since they're made by IBM they cost quite a bit more. However they do have a
lot to offer, and amazingly, are completely OS/2 compatible. (See below for the
Win-OS/2 limitation.) I found by stretching my budget a bit I could afford one.
I've used it for several months now, and I am very happy with it.
I decided to pass on my experience with this notebook for the benefit of those
of you who might also be looking for a suitable notebook.
IBM Thinkpad 390E
The specific model I purchased was 2626C0U, and the actual numbers given are
for that model.
256K L2 Cache
Pentium II 300 PE
Hard Disk Size
--TFT Active Matrix
Fax Data Modem
Ser.; PS/2; IR Ports
Par. Port (EPP)
2 PCMCIA Ports
With the 2626C0U the memory can be upgraded by the dealer to a maximum of 256MB,
however that much memory is extremely expensive compared to Desktop memory. The
hard drive can also be replaced with a larger drive; the largest available at the
time of writing is 10GB. The shipped Nickel Hydride battery must be drained completely
before being recharged. A better quality Lithium Oxide battery is available as an
upgrade. Complete specifications for the 2626C0U, as shipped, are available at this
As shipped, with 32 MB RAM and 3.2 GB hard drive, the current "average reseller"
price of the Thinkpad 390E 2626C0U is $2,257.76 U.S. Lesser models (with smaller
displays and slower processors) currently start at $1,778.02 U.S.
Complete specifications for other models of the Thinkpad 390E family can be found
from the Thinkpad
Spec Sheet. Prices and other information about the various Thinkpad models can
be found at the Shop
IBM - Thinkpad web site.
ALL devices on the Thinkpad 390E 2626C0U have, believe it or not, OS/2 drivers.
They can be downloaded from the IBM Thinkpad Support site, to which you will gain
access once you purchase a Thinkpad. There is, however, no Win-OS/2 driver available
for the audio device.
The Thinkpad 390E contains an internal Lucent
LT Winmodem. Normally such modems are not usable with OS/2. However IBM has written
a 33.6K driver modem and posted it on the Thinkpad Support site.¹ The modem
is 56K capable as the chart above indicates, but the OS/2 driver as yet does not
support that speed.
The Thinkpad 390E is only available preloaded with Windows 98. Fortunately I had
a dealer who let me reformat the drive for OS/2, so I could try installing from
scratch. Due to the way Microsoft licenses its product, the dealer wouldn't give
me a discount for not taking Windows, something he did do on a different product
I purchased earlier on trial; (and then took back when I bought the Thinkpad). Ironically,
the keyboard has none of the special Windows keys. The engineering and marketing
divisions must have different mandates.
The Thinkpad 390E features something called "Hibernation". This is a very
useful feature that causes the computer, under certain conditions, to save all its
registers, RAM memory, and other status indicators onto a special partition on the
hard drive, and then power down. The user's manual tells you this is only available
under Windows 98. DON'T BELIEVE IT! It works just fine from OS/2. Actually most
of it runs at the BIOS level, and so is system-independent. It can be activated
by timeout, by keystroke combination, or by closing the notebook cover. It is also
one of the most useful features I have seen on any computer anywhere.
This is a private site restricted to owners of IBM Thinkpads. Once you have purchased
a Thinkpad, you can come here, and register your machine by completing the profile.
(Note that to be able to register, your browser must accept cookies.) When the registration
process is complete, you will be granted access to the site, which gives you a whole
new set of tools to help you get the most out of your investment. Three resources
stand out as being the particularly valuable:
The extra value I've derived from this site alone has a long way to making me feel
OK about the extra money the IBM label cost me.
"Hot" information, tailored to your computer. You will be notified when
new drivers, support disks, are released. New tips on how to use or care for your
machine will appear from time to time as well.
Matrix of the latest drivers for all devices for all operating systems, including
OS/2. Complete installation instructions are provided.
The "Discussion Forum" where you can direct a question to a human IBM
representative who is knowledgeable about your computer, and be pretty much guaranteed
an answer within 1 working day. The people who monitor that board are really very
Next time: LPTool
and other nifty tools.
¹One question I put to the Thinkpad Discussion Board was the
best INIT string to use with the LT modem. Here is the answer I received: AT&FE0%C1&D2V1S0=0.
I found using that init string makes using the modem quite a bit smoother and reliable.
Unless otherwise noted, all content on this site is Copyright © 2004, VOICE