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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 09:32 GMT
Customised computers for sale
By Andrew Webb
BBC News, Hanover

Modder Stephan Krummme with 'Slame's Flames'

Computers have traditionally been beige, dull boxes. But some enthusiasts and big companies are turning PCs into works of art.

For some, a computer is simply an essential tool to get work done. But for others, it is a way of life.

As with classic cars, computers have their own enthusiasts who do precisely what hotrod fans do - decorate, paint and tailor their beloved possessions.

Case modding, as it is known, takes customisation to a new level and there are even competitions to find the best modders.

The European championship finalist entries are on display at the Cebit technology fair in Hanover, Germany.

Commodore Chief Executive Bala Keilman next to PCs

Another hot favourite is Projekt Area 51 by Martin Blass. It cost 800 Euros (540) to create and resembles an elaborate bomb shelter.

1950s TV

There are also stylish cubes that seamlessly change colour and a PC with what looks like a 1950s TV mounted inside.

Stefan Krumme has a small stand selling the water-cooled Blue Steel with flip-out monitor and flashing wall for 15,000 Euros (10,200).

"We have 600 LEDs", he tells a bemused businessman in a suit - perhaps not the ideal target buyer.

"So I just press a button and right now it works with Winamp", he says, making the multi-coloured display flash in time to the music player.

Neon-lit modded PC
Modded PCs are seen as an expression of individuality
There is no sale this time, but Krumme is not downhearted.

He knows in his heart of hearts that there is someone out there ready to become Blue Steel's rightful owner.

"It's just exclusive because nobody else has it. The gimmicks we build in, we just build once and we don't tell people what we do and how we do it."

Commodore returns

It is not just small businessmen who are chasing case modding fans - Commodore computers see customisation as a major marketing tool.

Eastern-styled modded PC
Modded PCs are being used to attract attention at Cebit
Among the top contenders is Walker, which resembles a Mechwarrior game character or a Star Wars At-At walker. Stefan Blass took 150 hours to build it at a cost of 500 Euros (339).

The classic 80s brand has re-launched at Cebit with graffiti-emblazoned cases, housing high specification machines.

"The target audience we're talking about - it's an expression of youth today," explains Commodore's chief executive, Bala Keilman.

"We've worked together with a street artist and it's an expression for him. It's a nice way for them to get their work shown and also develop exclusive artwork towards our target audience."

Commodore plan to organise artwork competitions.

The move is a sign that modded PCs are a well and truly entrenched part of computing society.

Modded PCs on display

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14 Mar 07 |  Technology

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