What if you could take a traditional laptop, couple it with a paper notepad that recognizes your handwriting, and wrap it all in a sleek leather binder? More specifically, what if you could do all of this in 2001? That’s what IBM achieved with the TransNote.

The TransNote was one of IBM’s more unusual products that they released in the early 21’st Century. At an original retail price of $3,000, not too many people in the USA were able to get them at the time (particularly because the country was going through a recession). In response, the TransNote’s price dropped all the way to $800 in 2002, where it was sold on retail outlets such as TigerDirect.

Oddly enough, in 2018, the price of a used, fully working TransNote is reaching roughly $800.

When you open the TransNote up, you get this view (I took these pictures of mine in 2017):

On the left-hand side, you see the equivalent of a ThinkPad X20, with a screen that unfolds upward in almost a gyrating pattern. This integrated computer system has several features that could still be considered modern, such as USB Ports (in the back) as well as a headphone jack (before it became trendy to remove basic, proven functionality like that in consumer devices).

On the right-hand side, there is a type of digitizer that can “read” your handwriting, and send it over to the computer side. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here it is in action:

The best part is that you could write on the paper *while the computer part was turned off*. The next time you booted Windows, you could ask it to retrieve what you wrote down. There is one slight negative, though: the digitizer pen requires an AAAA (yes, four A’s) battery, which can be harder to come by than AA or AAA cells.

Of course, they made left-handed TransNotes as well, which reverse the computer and the paper side, but good luck finding one of those!

The TransNote fell out of favor quickly, mainly because the Tablet PC revolution happened around 2002-2003, with laptops such as the Toshiba Portege 3500 dominating the scene at the time. The Tablet PC paradigm took the basic idea of the TransNote, but turned it into a “convertible” laptop, a predecessor of the 360-degree folding laptops and Lenovo Yogas of today.

Finally, here are some pictures, showing it closed as well as with the keyboard removed.

Category: IBM

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