Daily Archives: May 19, 2006

That time of year again

When a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of. . . Building a new machine.

I have no idea what I would do with it. I started out thinking about just upgrading the motherboard, processor and video card.

But then I thought, “Well, then I’d have this perfectly good motherboard, processor and video card not doing anything.”

Then I priced a case. Then I remembered I had a gigabyte of spare RAM laying around. And a hard drive. So I priced a DVD-Rom drive, because they’re really cheap nowadays.

At some psychological root level, I just want to build one.

I enjoy building machines because it is something physical, something tangible. I have spent over two decades shifting bits, tiny ones and zeros. Insignificant and yet immeasurably significant to our daily lives.

I have seen it come full circle in terms of transferring information. I used to bring plastic magnetized disks to a friend’s house. After that, it was dialing up to an electronic bulletin board. Suddenly it was over wires to a server. Then the wires were gone.

Now, I carry it around on a disk no bigger than a stick of gum that I bring over to my friend’s house.

On off on off. It’s so silly and incomprehensible and magical at the same time.

I do not even pretend to understand how it all works—I merely believe.

Which is why I enjoy building new machines. It is a time to ground myself and put all the parts together. It’s a time to set master slave, to connect a power source, to firmly seat RAM, to connect wires, to screw a motherboard into a case with brass fittings (although not necessarily in that order) and finally end up with a computer that boots up and passes POST.

At the end of every workday I produce no tangible “product.” For me, producing a physical manifestation of my trade is very satisfying.

That, and it can serve as a home theater PC.

That would be totally awesome.