I eventually made it to the UK for university, and that’s when I really began to learn about how PCs worked. Up till then I had only been interested in gaming more than anything else, and was too chicken to try messing with tech by myself. I bought an old AMD athlon based system off the university, the first proper PC that was actually mine. It had 256 MB of RAM and a 10 gig hard drive. It came with Windows 2000 on it and the processor was about 1 Ghz. The pentium 4s were out then, but I was incredibly happy with my £30 PC. I noticed that the university PCs were running XP Professional, but had XP Home product key stickers on them. So I figured if they weren’t gonna use them, I would, and installed XP Home on my PC with a product code nicked from a uni PC. It came with a 14″ LG Studioworks monitor, which had built in speakers so I didn’t have to worry about buying external speakers. Because it was actually mine I was happy to open it up and play around with the hardware, finally learning how to reseat RAM and install new drives. My university dorm had just introduced LAN connections for each room, so I was able to get on the net and research all the hardware I now owned. I eventually figured out what RAM I had (PC 133) and over time maxed the RAM in that PC to 1GB, also sticking in a 128MB video card in as well. I also picked up a Logitech Wireless Desktop set that made my life so much easier.
My friends over there, like me, were obsessed with downloading tv shows and movies. The net speeds in the computer labs were way faster than what we got in our rooms so we’d spend time in the labs downloading stuff. Everyone always told me to buy an external hard drive so I could stop burning everything to dvds. I was pretty broke at the time so cheap dvds were all I could afford for a time. After saving up some money I finally made my first purchase of something that wasn’t second hand, an ATMT Media Tank. It was basically an external hard drive, but had a dvd writer and card reader built into it. There were different capacities available, but I got the smallest, 80GB. It was perfect for me, as I’d download stuff in the lab to it, then would burn it to disc in my room. My dvd collection eventually surpassed all the combined storage space of all my friends external drives, put together, and I was vindicated in my choice of not spending on multiple external drives. The dvd writer did fail eventually (I had used it way past its expected life) and I simply bought a new one and replaced it in the Media Tank. I eventually got a 250GB drive and replaced the 80GB one with it. Worked out much cheaper than if I’d bought a higher capacity Media Tank.
I was only allowed to stay on the uni campus for one year, so had to move into a house with some friends my first summer there. This is where the Xbox modding took place. I moved into another house after that, and while trying to figure out how to upgrade my system, placed a bid on a nice looking motherboard on ebay. At the time though, I didn’t have any sense of compatibility, and on receiving it found that none of the components I already had would work with it. I was forced to buy other components. Thus I inadvertently began building my first PC. It was a total learning experience for me, I’d still never installed a processor by then. The motherboard was an ASUS A8N-SLI, and was a very good board, which meant that compatible parts for it were pretty expensive. I had to buy a new part every month for it because I just could not afford to get them all at once. One of my housemates decided to upgrade his system after he blew out his processor while trying to overclock it. So I got a lot of spare parts that he didn’t need anymore (case, drives, RAM, et al). A month or two later, one of the other housemates had a video card fail on her, and instead of replacing it, she decided it would be better to get a more up to date system altogether. So I got all those parts as well. One of those drives had a broken SATA clip, so couldn’t actually be connected to a SATA cable. I decided to send it back to Seagate on the off chance that they would fix it, and got a whole new drive sent back. Score! Between all that and a lot of internet research, I managed to use some parts for my system, and actually built a whole new pentuim 4 based PC as well with the rest. I managed to sell that PC as well, turning a bunch of spare parts and a lot of work into absolute profit.
My system was an AMD based one, and the ASUS board was the first board that I had ever seen that did not have integrated graphics. It had a PCI Express video card slot, and my previous PC had an AGP slot, so there was no using the old stuff. This was the first thing I realised when I got the new board (I now swear by ASUS mobos). I stuck a dual core processor in there, and bought an Nvidia 8400GS video card for it (not the best, but all I could afford at the time). My girlfriend got me my first flat screen monitor for my birthday, and my system was complete. I eventually got more hard drives for it and maxed out the RAM at 4GB. After moving into a new flat, I replaced the case I got from my housemate with a shiny new one with LED lights and stuff. I also got a Zalman fan controller, which made the system look cool more than anything else. I eventually bought a BFG 9800GTX+ OC video card for it, which made me the envy of my friends. To round it off, I found the same model of my monitor and turned it into a dual screen setup. Here’s the final result.
Where I spent most of my time.
In my next post I’ll detail my present setup, where I pulled out all the stops and built myself a proper monster of a PC. After that I’ll start reviewing the tech that I’ve used, I promise!May the Force be with you,V