Hard-drivin' 'Rods and Mods' on display (photos)

Special program highlights custom computer culture--from beavers to game consoles to ant farms--at San Francisco's Exploratorium.

CNET Reviews staff
1 of 12 James Martin/CNET

Star Wars Sandcrawler

This weekend at the Exploratorium in San Francisco hackers and artists are showcasing their personal styles at an exhibit of modded-out computers.

Designers have crammed speedy hardware into some very interesting shells--from Star Wars to beavers to game consoles to even ant farms--redefining what a computer can be.

This "Sandcrawler" case mod by David "artoodeeto" Benjamin is a relatively accurate representation of the model used in Star Wars, and is nearly the same size. With 143 LED lights and a tiny R2-D2 in the cockpit, the model houses an AMD Phenom II quad core with Zalman 9500 heatsink/fan, 4GB of dual channel RAM, and an OCZ Vertex 120GB solid-state hard drive.

"Rods & Mods: The Kustom Kulture of Radical Computer Modification" opened Friday at the Exploratorium and continues through the weekend.

2 of 12 James Martin/CNET

Unidyne microphone

The "Unidyne" PC case, designed by Jeffery "slipperyskip" Stephenson, is a tribute to the Shure model 55 Unidyne microphone, also known as the Elvis mic. Crafted out of wood and mounted on a cast-iron stand, the case holds a VIA M10000 mini-ITX motherboard with a 1GHz C3 CPU and a 40GB hard drive.
3 of 12 James Martin/CNET


Daniel "d_stilgar" Flesher modded out this Nintendo Entertainment System into a cool retro PC case, complete with the arcade-style NES Advantage controller.

A fixed-in-place Zelda game cartridge serves as the CD drive.

4 of 12 James Martin/CNET

Ant Farm

Bob "BS Mods" Stewart's case, "Ant Farm," was created by transforming an Ultra Aluminus case. A gel inside the side covering provides nutrients for the ants, so as they tunnel through, they work and eat at the same time.

Inside, the Ultra Aluminus case is an FSP Everest 1,010-watt power supply and an Intel DX48BT2 motherboard with an Intel 9400 quad-core processor.

5 of 12 James Martin/CNET
Artist Kasey McMahon's "Compubeaver" houses the CPU inside a taxidermic beaver. McMahon says, "What better creature to house the busiest of machines." Inside the busy beaver is an Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7200 and a 160GB hard drive.
6 of 12 James Martin/CNET

Black walnut

"Mission" is a Mission-style black-walnut end table design built around a standard mid-tower ATX computer. Designed by Jeffery "slipperyskip" Stephenson, the piece was conceived as a living room-based computer, with removable panels that can easily be changed to different colors or designs.
7 of 12 James Martin/CNET

G-metric Nano

The "G-metric Nano," also by Jeffery Stephenson, is a tribute to Art Deco. Built with cherry and inlaid with cherry, mahogany, basswood, and walnut in geometric patterns, the front button is a modified period industrial controller switch.
8 of 12 James Martin/CNET


Ton "TiTON" Khowdee designed this compact "Transformer," as well as his similar "Hello Kitty" and "Ni Hao, Kai Lan" cases, as silent home theater PCs to be used in quiet areas for media viewing. Inside, is a Zotac ION Mini-ITX motherboard, 4GB DDR2 Crucial Ballistix Tracers, and a 64GB Crucial solid-state drive.
9 of 12 James Martin/CNET


"DECOmputer" by Jeffery Stephenson is an example of found-object case modding. The 1938 Calkins Appliance Co. toaster/hotplate, called the Breakfaster, has been gutted and outfitted with a Weston meter made of Bakelite which indicates hard-drive activity, and a period gold-washed sterling-silver brooch emblem made by the Napier Jewelry Company.
10 of 12 James Martin/CNET

Home Sweet Home

"Home Sweet Home" by Brian "Boddaker" Carter was designed to look like the interior of a home, with wood trim and moulding, a wall-like exterior, and an etched side window which is framed and made to look as if it's hanging on a nail. The top features hardwood floors, and a heat registery-like exhaust fan. The main power switch on the front is a standard home light switch.
11 of 12 James Martin/CNET

Battlestar Galactica

This "Battlestar Galactica" themed machine by Brian "Boddaker" Carter features running lights, a landing bay, and an LCD cluster in front displaying DRADIS radar sweeps and a transparent BSG medallion.
12 of 12 James Martin/CNET

Cherry X Pack

Richard "DarthBeavis" Surroz's "Cherry X Pack" is a custom case made to be worn as a backpack. The case was built for AMD/ATI to showcase their Spider gaming platform. The insides feature an AMD Phenom II processor, dual ATI 3870 X2 GPUs, and a Western Digital Raptor X hard drive with Danger Den liquid cooling.

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