My First PC Page 3

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Even so, more time passed before I took action on my decision. The turning point proved to be a discussion I had with a trusted friend and computer guru (who is not a family member), a guy who had has helped several others build their own rigs. I loved the sound of that, “rigs”, so familiar and confident. Like I’m a long-haul trucker who could do just about any repair when broken down by the side of the road a long ways from anywhere.

My mentor and I had had several discussions before about the fate of my Intel motherboard and processor. His point was that I needed to take some action, preferably to make a computer out of them, but action no matter what. It was apparent to him that left on my own I would continue my inaction. And so, he took action.

Seeing that I was well-intentioned but clueless, he took it upon himself to spec out the other components I would need to make a pretty darn potent computer for under $800. I had assured him on several occasions that it was not possible to get something for under $1,200 to $1,500 and that I didn’t want to spend that much, especially since I already had a pretty good system. Under $800 got my scruffy ears to perk up.

Then I saw the parts list, and I was impressed (see the component list at the end of this article). It was becoming apparent to me that if I could somehow do the impossible and breathe life into my creation, it would be a bit of a screamer. Not cutting and bleeding edge, but quick, much quicker than my “old” system, due mostly to the motherboard, processor and video card. Eye-candy land, welcome to my house. My hand moved almost without my knowledge to my wallet and began to twitch.

With a Zip, Zoom, Fly, the components were ordered and my credit card was smoking. I found myself researching online articles on how to build your own PC and browsed extensively through several online forums, including, of course, our own Hardware / Software Forum. I went through them at length, trying to understand what it was they were talking about. At some level, some of it sunk in. "The Devil with the Blue Sheet On."But I also began to see clearly that people of good character and roughly equal expertise could disagree about almost anything involving computers. I made the decision early on to keep this conflicting idea thing to a minimum and pretty much go with the advice of my computer counselor buddy.

I eagerly awaited the arrival of the box with my case, video card, hard drive, DVD RW drive and sound card. Of course, they arrived at the house exactly the same time I was scheduled to go out of town for a few days. Nuts, I said to myself, as I unpacked the big box that contained all of the smaller boxes. Nuts. After an initial inspection to be sure everything was there that should be there, I got a clean blue cotton sheet, and carefully covered everything up for another day. And for many days to come, I covered up my project with that blue sheet. At night and during weekdays, whenever I wasn’t actively working on it. I began calling the whole thing “The Devil with the Blue Sheet On.”

I returned home several nights later exhausted from my efforts to assist Las Vegas in extracting the last few pennies from my pockets. The following morning I stumbled into the kitchen searching for coffee only to find a miniature Devil’s Tower Richard Dreyfus would be proud of. Only this one was blue, made of cotton, and was on my kitchen table. Instead of planter box soil, rocks, and sticks, underneath this Tower were my computer parts. Maybe “The Devil’s Tower with the Blue Sheet On”.

Hours later I was peering inside an Antec computer case. I had already opened and inspected the boxes with the motherboard and processor (no Illudiom Pew 36 Explosive Space Modulators were found), my new ATI graphics card, Audigy 2 sound card, Western Digital hard drive and Sony DVD burner. I opened a bag full of microscopic screws that were inside the case, and immediately dropped a couple onto the table where they disappeared.

Oh well. I was sure they included some extra screws in case that happened. Sometimes they did that with the cheap screw-together furniture I had assembled that ended up with one less leg than the drawings indicated they should, so it made sense here.

I had been warned about the dangers of static. Electricity, that is, we all know the dangers of the other kind of static. First, my work shop was in the kitchen, and the floor was tile, or it was at some point in it’s long history. Better than carpeting anyway. I always had bare feet, no socks, and I always made sure I was totally discharged and grounded before working on any valuable components which would react poorly to stray voltage being introduced into their circuitry. Stray cats and stray dogs, no problem, but voltage where it didn’t belong, that was a problem I intended to avoid.

Wires and more wires...I reached inside the case and uncoiled a mass of wires which then fell out and began stretching themselves like a bunch of multicolored snakes. My son walked by just then and snorted a “I can’t believe what I’m seeing” kind of a snort. Somehow I talked him into removing the top drive bay metal blank. He got it out, cut himself, said, “I knew it” and left.

I was able to proceed at my snail’s pace and managed to install the DVD burner into the top bay in only a day. I began to understand some of the terminology involved — things like “jumpers” and “jumper configuration”. Turned out jumpers were just little plastic pieces with holes in them. I would have preferred the naming convention to be “little plastic pieces with holes in them”, but jumpers was appropriate, because I dropped one and it jumped off the table and onto the floor.

And I had my first encounter with the “piece that should be included, but isn’t”. When I ordered the components, my consultant friend had told me there was a little wire that ran from the DVD to the sound card. I asked him if it I really had to have this thing. He told me it was only necessary in the event I wanted to hear sound come out of my speakers.

Zip Zoom Fly had it listed, at no charge, but it was out of stock. Well, maybe it came with the sound card. It did not. Maybe it came with the DVD drive. It did not. I began to realize: I was going to need a computer parts store.

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