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Digital Hot Rods

The book starts with a brief recounting of how the PC industry began. Reading this section it occurred to me that with the world of modding and DIY customisation, computers have come full circle. The original computers were really no more the basic kits that required self assembly before they could do anything and even once completed, they didn’t do much. Since PCs have grown up and become basic commodities that you can literally pick up and put in your trolley in Tesco’s, the modding craze is a natural response to this, as individuals strive to reclaim the buzz of the original market. Once again the finished masterpieces are often not particularly powerful machines in terms of specification, but are a towering achievement of creativity.

The next section takes readers through the basics of the PC components and is an excellent read, even for those who deal with these things day in, day out. The section on the histoy of the graphics card was particularly enjoyable for me, taking me back to developments that don’t seem so long ago in my mind but are ancient pre-history for young gamers today.

The next few sections deal give readers the basic ammunition to actually create a digital hot rod system themselves, imparting essential knowledge on cooling, gathering all the accouterments that you need to make it look ‘leet’ and then putting it all together and once this is done, Hardwidge explains the dark art of overclocking.

The final section showcases a range of the coolest systems around. The initial ones, from the likes of Alienware and Dell, look fantastic, but they aren’t really that interesting as these are pre-built systems that anyone with a credit card can order online. The interesting ones are those designed and created by enthusiasts armed with Dremels, sticky back plastic and a PHD in imagination. There are some real crackers too. One of my favourites is the modder who manged to fit a compete working PC into a Windows XP retail box with all the port accessible from the side. The truly awesome bit though is that the whole thing will also slide into a Red Hat Linux retail box and when in this casing will automatically boot Linux instead of Windows - geek-tastically ingenious. I won’t reveal all though, and you’ll have to read the book to read how the modder did it.

Another good one is a PC built into a model of a Ford Focus RS and one built into a guitar. A nod also has to go to the author's own system, shoehorning a modern Pentium 4 into his original Sinclair PC200 housing from the 80’s. I’m actually not too sure about the system chosen for the cover though, since a machine such as the Hypercube looks far cooler.

This book deserves praise then for making what to the outsider could be viewed as no more than a nerds pastime into a fascinating look at projects that represents the best in creativity and dedication.


Digital Hot Rods is an enjoyably written and well put together guide to the seemingly extreme world of PC customisation. Both novices and enthusiasts are bound to get something from this book, though if you’re not careful, it could spawn a long and addictive cycle of PC modding.

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