Tray full of tracknubs

P1070005.JPG At CES in Vegas, PC maker Lenovo's weirdest installation was its 'ThinkLab,' a room full of computers and mad-scientist oddities. Alongside bubbling retorts and a stuffed jackalope was a glowing red tray full to the brim with the little red tracknubs used on ThinkPads as pointing devices. Yep, pocketed forty.

CES attendees check out 2011's crop of desktop PCs and laptops from Lenovo, watched by a stuffed jackalope.


  1. Yuk, I always hated those things. Glad to know the proper name for them though. In fact, I might like them a little better now that I know they are called tracknubs. They always seemed like nasty little, chewed-on pencil erasers. :D

  2. Damn. I ordered a couple of new tracknubs from some eBay seller in China a month ago and they still haven’t arrived, and there you have access to handfuls of them!
    I *loves* me the trackpoint though; don’t think I could ever use a laptop without one.

  3. Can’t tell you how jealous I am right now. I had to replace my tracknub a while back, and the cheapest I could find was $10 for an assorted six-pack.

    1. See the second picture with all the glassware?

      Above the people’s heads is a blurry jackalope.

      Basically jackalope are bunnies with antlers and apparently an alcohol fueled creation of taxidermists. Pictures of them populate western postcard stands in small country towns next to cowboy postcards, postcards with knots and folksy pictures.

      In some of these towns the truck stop has a high likelihood of being the “upscale” place to eat. In these areas you may often find stores where you can get bait, beer and ammo at the same stop and seasonally dead animals in the back of trucks or even roped to the hood or roof of a vehicle. It is customary to stand around said dead animals and exclaim, “Sheeiittt. at’s a nice one there.” To which the response is often, “a-yup” or “yeah, got him down in a ravine and had to drag him 300 yards uphill.”

      In many of these small towns the local population values trucks more than other vehicles and the people with the highest social status often drive “cowboy cadillacs” which are large full-sized trucks with duallys. Gun racks are almost obligatory as is a NRA sticker.

  4. CLITS!!! Whenever I used someone’s computer with one of these I always felt mildly naughty. They just seem a little like clitorises (clitori?). In case you’re wondering, the relationship I have with the trackball on my blackberry has an awkwardly sexual dimension to it as well.

    1. Clitorides, since it’s Greek, not Latin, and if it was Latin it would probably be third declension and thus clitores. My spellchecker even puts a red line under clitores, clitori and spellchecker, but not clitorides.

  5. Clit > Nipple > Pencil rubber. Depending on the company I’m in. :-P

    I love mine and think their the best pointing device you can get on a laptop. Especially with middle mouse button + drag scrolling.

  6. I call it the g-spot. It’s a small, red sensor-spot next to the ‘g’ key, and some find it difficult to find/use in a hurry.

  7. I always hated laptop trackpads. Always had to use an external mouse. When I got a Thinkpad a couple years ago, it was great! I could use the computer without bringing a mouse with me. I found myself reaching for the nub even at my desk where there was always a mouse, because the placement of the nub and its three buttons was so excellent.

    But then, I got a macbook pro, about a year and a half ago. The multitouch trackpad is unbelievably good. Hated not having a middle click, but then I found a program that sits in the system tray and enables a three-finger tap as a middle click – perfect (why this isn’t available as a default multitouch gesture is beyond me – though they do still cling to the one-button ideal, so it’ll be a while before we get to three buttons…)

    I still use my Thinkpad as a file server and various things like that. I still appreciate the quality of nub input when I use it, but at this point I couldn’t trade back the macbook trackpad for a nub on my primary machine.

    It kind of saddens me to think that the thinkpad nub is basically a kluge to compensate for trackpads, which to this day are shitty everywhere except on Macs. Once other manufacturers use trackpads as good as Apple’s (which I assume is patent protected, knowing them), there will really be no reason for the nub to live on.

    With that in mind, I too would have pocketed a bunch. I presume that in thirty or forty years my grandkids would find them in with my old stuff and ask me “what the fuck?”

    1. middle click on a mac? What on earth would you need it for? Middle clicking is generally reserved for scrolling on a PC … that’s a 2-fingure gesture on a mac.

      Why would it be required as a default?

      I don’t get it.

  8. I remember at work we were prohibited from using those things, due to ergonomic issues associated with them.

    I lost mine due to an unfortunate encounter with a cleanroom vacuum, and was told it was for the best.

  9. “Trackpoint cap” (IBM’s name) is too many syllables?

    penguinchris, trackpoints were around well before touchpads, so were not designed as a replacement for them. Incidentally, the touchpads on those newer Thinkpads that come with both devices are also multitouch, and work pretty well, though I still prefer the trackpoint for typing tasks.

  10. Ah, I’m getting all nostalgic about my first laptop – a hand-me-down P166, thick as a textbook. With a “nubbie”, of course.

    And my captcha is “Useless whousey”, which fits so very well.

  11. I have to admit, a tray full of clits sounds a lot more noteworthy than a tray full of nibs, especially if you pocket 40 clits.

  12. These were GREAT when first announced many years ago but on subsequent ThinkPads have gotten worse and worse. Plus, the rubber used to be much better, there were prickly bits laid on the top to help increase friction. Presumably it was reformulated to go from “IBM Expensive” to “China Cheap” in IBM’s attempt to make their line go from bulletproof and slow to just like everyone else’s quality and speed.

    Toshiba’s version was always terrible and the rubber nubs never lasted long because they were so weak.

    1. They still make those versions of the nubs, they’re just not the default option. You can find them in the replacement packs.

      Personally I prefer the ones that have a concave bowl.

  13. Want to be fast at using a laptop? Put your hands on the home-row keys (asdfjkl;) and look at where the little rubber pointing device is (if you have one) and note where the mouse buttons are–under your thumbs.

    Now watch someone trying to type and use a trackpad mouse. Back and forth the hands go. It’s a huge amount of wasted movement and time and accuracy.

    Perhaps trackpad users are savoring what it is to mouse. I don’t know.

  14. My first laptop was a Thinkpad- an IBM Thinkpad! A ten year old one at that- my father’s OLD old computer (the simply ‘old’ one had been commedeered by a brother who was in college at the time.) It was lacking the bells and whisles of newer machines (like a cd burner) but ran like a charm. And I loved the tracknub. Which is perhaps a little scandalous as I am by trade a graphic designer some of the time.

  15. You know, I wasn’t sure that Lenovo was actually a science and technology company. Yes, IBM entrusted them with the ThinkPad line, but do they own a random assortment of laboratory glassware filled with colored water in addition to a jackalope? Oh right, carry on then.

  16. Nubs RULE! Toshiba used to be the only one with them, then they gave it up – I bought my last laptop (IBM Thinkpad G40) based solely on THE NUB. I despise the ‘Finger Ice Rink”, the little trackball, and everything else out there.

  17. On that note, does anyone sell (say) USB trackpoint units? I’ve been putting up with the trackpad on my netbook for the past few years, but I really wish I had a trackpoint instead.

  18. The “pointing stick” was originally a PARC idea, but IBM was the first to use them (TrackPoints). This comes from personal experience; I have a 1993 IBM ThinkPad 500 (an early sub-notebook, 486slc CPU, whopping 12MB RAM courtesy an upgrade… it rocked, and actually still does). In my household, we have six, including my vintage models (I just can’t let them go)
    And three of them need new nubs. I am soooooo envious…

  19. They had an authentic stuffed jackalope there and you take pictures of a tray full of freakin’ tracknubs?! I’m reporting this to the Spud Oversight Board.

  20. They used to package several extras with every laptop, so if you were in the IT dept and did lots of setups they would eventually build up in a drawer or closet. Never really thought there was all this pent-up need or I would have saved some.

  21. The track-clit was one of the reasons I stopped using the Thinkpad in favor of the MacBook Air.

    I liked the track-clit as a pointing device relative to others of the day, but after a day of extended use I would find that my finger hurt from the feedback pressure. The trackpads on the other machines I used were cheap, nasty and unresponsive.

    The MBA trackpad on the other hand did exactly what I wanted with zero issues. The multi-touch was a bonus.

    What I really wish Apple would do is to get a clue and make a keyboard with a built-in trackpad. As in one unit, not a keyboard and separate trackpad. A mouse is good for some applications, but for web browsing a trackpad works better.

    Having the two as separate devices is sub-optimal as you can’t build up muscle memory for the location of the track-pad.

    They could also do to fix their drivers so that a bluetooth mouse and a trackpad work properly together.

  22. When Thinkpad was Under IBM we used to get two spare clit covers with every Thinkpad laptop. So those of us who work in IT deploying Thinkpads would eventually end up with large collections of these things lying around. It is a great way to help “freshen up” a somewhat used laptop as the new covers were always a much brighter red than the ones that had seen several months or years of use. For awhile they were shipping two types of spares with each Thinkpad, the older ones with the rough, gritty rounded top and the newer smooth ones with a little finger cup on the top. I used to have so many of these things around that I didn’t know what to do with them and probably threw a few ziplock bags of them out at some point during a cleanup of my workbench. But for the past year or so, Lenovo has stopped shipping any spare clit covers with their Thinkpads and my supply is slowly starting to dwindle.

  23. If you take the first photo at face value, I think Enik is going to be plenty pissed at Will and Holly.

  24. The trackpoint caps come in a variety of shapes, I personally hate the chewed eraser looking ones because they’re always way too hard and abrade the texture off my fingertips. The broad, convex ones have a texture not dissimilar to the wheel on a Microsoft mouse, which means it quickly loses finger traction as it absorbs oil and dirt from your finger. I prefer the broad, concave one: They’re comfortable and they stay clean.

    Whatever asshole thought the trackpad was a good idea needs to die…if I replace a keyboard, there’s good odds I won’t even bother plugging the trackpad back in because I always disable it anyway.

    1. Ye I hate those usability assholes; I much prefer designers that work with flawed, but familiar concepts.

      And while we’re on the subject, who needs colour!?

  25. You stole a bunch of them? a) Why do you think is this ok, and b) why do you think it’s “cool” to brag about it?

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