I was going to open my inaugural column on personal computing by replacing the word “rifle” in the Rifleman's Creed (think Full Metal Jacket[NSFW language]) with “computer.” In doing so, I realized a few things. First, it turns out an artist named 9000 already did that, with his piece Turing Creed. Second, the metaphor only extends so far. And then it gets kinda weird.
This is my computer. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My computer is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it. I must master my life. Without me, my computer is useless. Without my computer, I am useless. I must use my computer true. I must use my computer faster than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must outcomputer him before he outcomputers me.
—9000, “Turing Creed”
This is my computer.
Okay, most of you have computers. Or you like computers. Or you have a friend who faxes you articles from our website to convince you to get a computer, except it doesn't help because it's like a foreign language to you, which your friend doesn't get because he thinks everyone should instinctively know what the heck a hard drive is and why it matters how fast it goes around in a circle. No? Anyway, let's assume you have a computer. And, because you're reading this on Maximumpc.com, we're gonna assume that your computer is not just a tool to you. Which brings us to part two.
There are many like it, but this one is mine.
Already the metaphor is falling apart. “There are many like it?” Yeah, maybe if you're rolling with a MacBook, chief. Insofar as all computers have certain parts in common (a CPU, motherboard, memory, storage, etc), they're all alike. But to us, they're personal. We know them inside and out. We fine-tune them, paint them, add fans to them, plaster 'em in stickers, name them, rely on them. We wouldn't go quite so far as to say they're our best friends (I hope), but they're ours.
They're personal computers.
Now, on one level a computer is just a tool—something that helps us perform certain tasks. It doesn't need to be pretty. It doesn't need to be personal. Walk into any big box store and you can find computers for sale that do everything that 90 percent of the public requires in a computer. And that's great. We live in a world (or rather, in a part of the world) where computers are a commodity: thoroughly unremarkable and accessible to almost everybody. And because they're accessible, they help promote literacy, open-mindedness, technical skills, and education. Computer (and by extension internet) access is tremendously important, and those of us who can take that access for granted are lucky indeed.
You don't need cold-cathode tubes to learn to type. You don't need an overclocked processor to edit an image. You don't need a $200 keyboard and $300 headset to read Wikipedia. You don't even need them to play Crysis, Dawn of War, or WoW. But do that keyboard and that headset and that airbrushed dragon on your case make your computer more personal? Customized to your every whim and need, like something forged in the depths of Mount Doom itself?
Damn straight. After all, this is Maximum PC.
So here it is. My monthly column is called The Personal Computer, and I'd like to use it to discuss what makes our computers personal. Whether that's something as simple as a custom Rainmeter skin or a sticker for the lid of your laptop, or as complicated as one of Jeffrey Stephenson or Nick Falzone's mods , I want to talk about it. Look forward to simple mod how-tos, semi-coherent philosophical musings like today's, or whatever you guys are interested in.
One Last Thing
Some of you may remember a site called Modshop.net. It was a Maximum PC offshoot, essentially a social networking site / monthly modding competition site. It was an experiment on the part of our parent company, and sadly it went the way of the buffalo after only a year. But for most of its run I was the Community Manager, which put me into contact with nearly every big name in the case modding business. It was a blast, and I wish the site was still up. And although I've gone on to bigger things (like paying rent), I rue Modshop's cancellation. Boy do I rue it. I hope it wasn't my fault.
Also on the list of things I miss: Rig of the Month. We had to stop running the department a while back due to lack of space (and, much as I hate to say it, quality submissions). But some of you clamor for it, and I clamor for it, so I'm going to bring it back. Sorta.
It'll be on the website, not in the magazine, and we can't actually give gift certificates to the winners like we used to. But it's something. So if you want your rig to be featured on Maximumpc.com, shoot us a line at rig (at) maximumpc (dot) com with your name, hometown, 500 words(ish) of build details and inspiration, and a few .jpgs of your rig in all its glory. We'll pick the coolest (by our completely arbitrary standards) for the reinstated Rig of the Month! Hooray!
One Other Last Thing
I don't need another forum to babble about my dumb ideas or maunder on about the Good Old Days. If that's all I wanted to do, I'd post it on my own blog. Or tweet about it. I want this column to be useful to you. So drop me a line at nathan (at) maximumpc (dot) com with "Personal Computer" in the title and tell me what you think we should talk about—from custom themes to case modding to stickers for the front of your netbook. If it makes your computer personal, and not just some beige box or Cupertino snoozer, I'm interested. Heck, if you’ve just got something neat to show off (computer-related only, please), shoot me a line.
One Final Last Couple Things That Have Been Inspiring Me Lately
Some of you may recall that I gave the Thermaltake Level 10 some pretty serious style points when it came out. Jeffrey Stephenson’s done it one better, with his Level 11 Pico-ITX build. Jeffrey’s work is always amazing, but this one is jaw-dropping.
Jeffrey Stephenson's Level 11
Nathan Edwards is Maximum PC's Senior Associate Editor. When he's not reviewing hardware for Maximum PC or writing meandering, navel-gazy prose, he enjoys blowing up Panauan military bases on Kallisti (his gaming rig), writing on Cuttlefish (his netbook), and gazing rapt at his Android phone Zahir. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/thewesterly.