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In 1980 Sapper was appointed principal industrial design consultant at IBM and began designing numerous portable computers, including the first ThinkPad 700C in 1992, which broke with the company's tradition of pearl-grey machines as a simple and elegant black rectangular box that would reveal a surprise inside: a small red button amidst the keyboard which would serve to control the screen cursor. Sapper continues today to oversee the iconic ThinkPad brand as design consultant to Lenovo after it acquired the IBM PC Division in May 2005.
Throughout his career, Sapper devoted great attention to transportation issues. He worked with Fiat on experimental cars, especially on pneumatic bumper systems, and with Pirelli on the development of pneumatic structures. In 1972 he formed with architect Gae Aulenti a study group for the development of new urban transportation systems, a theme which he pursued further for an exhibition at the XVI Triennale in Milan in 1979 and which included the design of a bus for Fiat that enabled passengers to stow their bicycles in a rack. His research culminated with the design of the Zoombike (no longer in production), a lightweight bicycle designed with aircraft technology to achieve the required strength and speed acceleration, which can fold as quickly and simply as an umbrella and easily fit into a car trunk.