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The Modding Triad... Explaining The Obvious

    I do not imply that I know every aspect of or have done every mod out there, I am however an experienced, skilled and award winning modder with a website dedicated to teaching others step by step how to create modded computers, I have also crafted custom PC's that encompass all three schools of case modding.  If you are new to the hobby and have no clue what case modding is or think all modding is the same you need to read on because there are in fact three distinct schools of modding, before we begin though let's get this bit of nonsense out of the way...

Modding vs. Pre-Mods

    Lowly pre-mod, shameful bastard child on the stock side of the modding triad and only mildly worth mention... a pre-mod case might look like an attractive option for a beginner wanting to get into modding, but the best case mods normally start with more simply designed stock cases. There is a level of satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment that accompanies doing mods yourself, sadly with pre-mods you can't get that because it's all pretty much been done for you. Pre-modding is the absolute bane of stock modding originality, there are far too few good pre-mod cases and most of them just look silly. 'If your PC case looks like Voltron on LSD or Darth Vader in a Power Ranger sex orgy, you might have a pre-mod'... a lame joke sure, but then so are most pre-mods.

The Triad

First, The Stock Mod...

    Stock modding is normally the point at which most modders begin, small at first with windows or lights being added to an existing case or buying a brand new computer case to fully mod as a replacement enclosure, either for existing hardware or an entirely new system. The purist stock case modder will argue that real "case mods" must include an actual computer case, I don't know if I agree with that idealism since anything that houses the PC hardware and components technically should be considered a case... but the moniker of 'case modder' is theirs, if for no other reason than mods being performed on an actual computer case.

    Stock modding makes up the largest portion of the modding community, there are many cool and original case mods out there and I have even done a few original stock mods myself, but as case modding becomes more and more mainstream the originality aspect of stock case modding diminishes.  Take a look at the current choices for stock computer cases on any given web retailer, it is near impossible to find a case that does not ship with mods already done or an included side window.  Thankfully there are a good number of resourceful modders continually finding new ways to create outstanding case mods, thereby keeping things on this side of the triad fresh and interesting.

    Good examples of some really slick stock mods would be anything by Defyant (sans H-1), Tech-Daddy's Boss FX-57, G-gnome's ORAC3, Sheldog23's Must Kill Teddy Bears, TheGreatSatan's Paradise Lost, CrimsonSky's Doom3 Mars City, Wolverine's Biomech 550, Feldm4n's Predatron, Will Kneir's Hamster PC, Mr. Kholl's Silent ContexYZ, David Ledogar's Cammer V8 PC... and too many other great stock mods to list here.

Next, The Object Mod...

    Object modding is the fitting of computer parts into another existing item, anything large enough to house the PC components (other than a standard computer case) is normally fair game. Computers have been built into just about everything imaginable, from trash cans and toasters to toolboxes and toys, the only limitation being the object must be large enough that everything will fit inside. It must also be said that just because you can get a PC to fit into something other than intended that the slapshod cramming of computers into stuff doesn't make it default to being a good mod, ever. The best object modding is a combination of intelligent component positioning and mounting combined with an eye for tight aesthetic detail.

    Object modding makes up the second largest segment of the modding community and some of the most creative mods ever exist because of it, but there are only so many things that you can put a computer into and by now much of it has already been done.  I put a computer into a mannequin, a mod that had been done at least twice before though my design was nothing like the others, I have seen another good mannequin mod since that can also boast originality.  Doing it differently is always welcome in any school of modding and if it cannot be an original object mod it should at least be done in a way better than those that came before it.

    Awesome examples of object modding would be my own HellRaiser PC, ZapWizard's Ammo Box PC, Envador's Guitar PC, Jeffery Stephenson's DECOmputer or Humidor CL Server, Janos Marton's Whiskey Bottle PC, John Kanemura's Attaché Server, Wil Harris' Hummer PC, Chewy's 11th Commandment, Onomy's Philco Predicta, Defyant's H-1 Concept PC, Altmann's Fruitfucker or Gutterslide's Boombox PC.  There are many other good object mods out there... but again, too many to list.

Lastly, The Scratch Mod...

    Scratch modding is starting from nothing and creating a hand built case from the ground up, viewed as the pinnacle of modding it requires a high level of skill and technique, scratch modders represent the most hardcore of the hobby.  Before creating a custom PC scratch modders normally use some type of 3D rendering software when designing their system to help make incorporating the computer parts easier.  Laser cutters, water jets or CNC machines are sometimes used to create these mods, but there are also entirely hand built scratch mods that look every bit as professional.

    Scratch modding makes up the smallest percentage of the modding community, with mods that are genuinely unique there are very few "me too" works in this school and most case designs are entirely original.  It's no small task taking raw pieces of acrylic, aluminum, copper or steel and transforming them into masterful works of modded PC art, if it ever does look easy it's usually because the modder is just that good.  

    Some outstanding scratch mods include G-gnome's WMD, Magnus Persson's PuzzleBox, CrimsonSky's Skunkworks F-117A, Mashie's Y2k-bug, Martin Smith's Donkey Kong, Justin Hatem's Painmaster 5000, Willek's Aluminum Spire, Sheldog23's UT Mod, Sevilorcio's R2D2PC, Katsaya Matsumura's Bikini Babe, G69T's DarkBlade, Qtip42's Batman Begins, Jan Erik Vangen's Bender PC, DeathStarChris' CPU Mag Mod or my own Hellusion mod.

Final Observations...

    There is no way that this article could ever fully encompass all that modding is or show every outstanding mod out there (apologies to all the great modders I left out) but it should help new modders decide upon a modding path and hopefully inspire them at the same time.  Further inspiration for creating killer mods can be found in the guides and work logs of individual modder sites including: MNPCTECH, Bonzai-Mods, MetkuMods, Envador, ZapWizard, Mashie Design, Computer-Choppers, SlipperySkip and TheBestCaseScenario... or larger sites like bit-tech, Gruntville, VoidedWarranty, GideonTech and the [H]ardOCP modding forum.

    I first started modding seven years ago, back then there was no indication that there would ever be anything other than mods performed on stock computer cases, looking back at the humble beginnings of the hobby it's clear that case modding has come a long way and in doing so has somehow also been transformed into something more, technology as art  As for what will come next, your guess is as good as mine, great modders keep raising the bar at every level of the triad and just when you think it has all been done someone will always come up with a new mod and prove you wrong... but that's a good thing.

- Article written by ARTbyTROY