Monday, December 22, 2008


"Why do you build your own computers?" Gloria asked earlier this week. "Why don't you buy just buy one that's already built?"

I gave her the usual answers about using the components I want, setting up everything optimally, all the technical answers that people usually give. That was all technically true, but it wasn't the real answer.

It's because computers are fire.

Computers have changed our world as much as the discovery of fire. Unlike fire, though, their power keeps advancing. What we use today for computing, on our desktop, has more power than the sum of all computing power in the world only a few decades before.

In terms of sheer intellectual power, it's staggering. But there's also something decidedly beautiful about this, an elegant statement about the complexity of the human mind. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but I think motherboards are beautiful. They are a testament to our unfathomable creativity.

Because of that, I don't want to buy a computer. If I was a caveman (I'd be dead, because I can't see clearly two feet in front of myself without glasses, but that's not the point), I wouldn't go to the guy who discovered fire and ask if I get a light off his torch. I might let him explain the process--documentation, as it were--but then I'd go off, hold the torch backwards, cut myself with the flint, and generally do it wrong.

Eventually, though, I'd make fire.

I can't do that, because I'm not a caveman. What I can do, though, is make the 21st-century version of fire.

And I've done that, as I hear the whirring of OS installation going on in the background. However, if this was fire, I would have burned myself to a crisp. In terms of computer builds, it was the defense of Stalingrad.

I'll tell you the gory details tomorrow.

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