Books about computers are a curious thing. Working on a web site you really get a sense of the speed at which the industry moves, with new developments occurring every day. Even with a magazine, though it will by be out of date by the time it hits your hallway mat, this is tempered by the fact that you know another one will be along in a month. A book though is a one off and as such has a sense of permanence.
It was with some trepidation then that I approached Digital Hot Rods authored by Ben Hardwidge, News and Features Editor of Custom PC Magazine. As the name suggests, this isnâ€™t simply a book about regular computers - itâ€™s about the craze for modifying and personalising PCs, know as modding. In fact our sister web site, Bit-tech.net, is on the favourites list of all the best modders and gets several mentions in the book.
As the blurb emphatically states â€“ the beige PC box is dead - and the pimped out, massively overclocked super beast has taken over. While owners of ridiculous super-miniâ€™s decked out with lights, scoops, spoilers and four tons of stereo equipment are often ridiculed, the creators of the Digital Hot Rods have the same enthusiasm and dedication to creation of their own creations, though thankfully these systems are confined to bedrooms rather than disturbing the neighbours at one in the morning down the side streets.
This scene is an area that moves faster than any other, so the worry is that a book about it will be outdated and quaint before itâ€™s even been delivered by Amazon.
Fortunately though Digital Hot Rods has been produced with so much care and enthusiasm by technology publisher Ilex that youâ€™ll most likely forgive any overly dated references when you come back to it in a few years.
Pick it up now though and anyone whoâ€™s interested in PCs will find it an involving read. This is in no small part down to the authorâ€™s natural enthusiasm. He's no outsider looking in, he's one of us, and his passion really comes across throughout. The book manages to impart advice on modding and overclocking while treading the fine line between being too technical or being overly patronising to those who already know a fair bit about the subject, which considering the target market is more than likely. The high quality photography used throughout also means that you won't mind leaving it out on the coffee table.
The book itself is split into six sections. It starts with a brief history of the computer industry and along the way the author successfully states his case for the obsession that is case modding. With a slight hint of tongue-in-cheek, the author observes how since its niche origins, being a hardcore PC enthusiast is now so mainstream, that itâ€™s even socially acceptable to start a techie conversation in a bar. Wow, imagine that! Whatever next? Soon, it could be ok for techies to share buses with non-techies or even get the vote! Who knows what they could achieve?