If I look around my apartment at all the electrical junk I accumulate, I’m actually pretty happy with most of it. I adore my headphones and earbuds. I love my controllers, my mouse, and my keyboard. Both of my TVs are in great shape, even the one I bought well over seven years ago. I even think of my regular analog watch as tech and I’m thrilled every time I put that on my wrist.
More than anything, though, I’m thankful for my PC. Not PCs in general, but my PC. The one I built. There’s a line in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket that works with a small tweak:
This is my PC. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My PC is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my PC is useless. Without my PC I am useless.
Okay, that sounds kind of sad when I write it out. But it’s not wholly inaccurate, either.
I’ve been building PCs for almost 20 years now, in one way or another, for myself, for family, and for friends. When I was poor, I bought a crate PC off Woot!, but even that had hardware going into it once I ensured it turned on correctly.
I don’t get whole-hog into the rig customization, but I take great care with building my systems, trying to get the best bang-to-buck ratio I can, researching each part and discussing them with friends. I assemble my PCs piece by piece, my operating system is installed fresh each time. Everything on the computer is there because I put it there.
Building the PC is one of my favorite rituals. Laying out the parts and tools, working through them one at a time, checking cables. I tell people new to building that the process is tribal knowledge. YouTube has changed that to some degree, but it’s still mostly true. Most of us who build computers had help the first couple times and have helped other pick up the hobby through the years. Some of my longest friendships started around computer building.
I use my PC not just for games but for work as well. At a very minimum, I’m working at my PC about 60 hours a week. There have been days where I sit at the computer at 7 a.m. and finally leave it for the day around 10 or 11 p.m. For a lifestyle like that, everything needs to be the hardware and configuration that works for me. The perfect mouse, the right keyboard (Microsoft’s Ergonomic 4000 is still my sworn ally despite many mechanical interlopers – I’m on the fifth one now, I think), the right monitors.
When something goes wrong, it’s up to me to fix it. There’s no support line for self-built computers (well, maybe there is, I haven’t used one though). It’s just me, my operating system’s tools, and lots of time on Google. Fixing problems myself, or even by bringing in friends, is massively satisfying.
No piece of computing tech is quite as customizable, or flexible as the PC, comes in as many form factors, or can be used for as many applications. It’s where I write, play Fallout 4, stay in touch with long distance friends, stay caught up on news, and countless more items. My cellphone is my lifeline away from home, but if something needs to get done at home, chances are it’s happening at the computer.
Don’t get me wrong – I get out of the house, I use my couch daily, I see sunlight and other humans. But when it’s time to work, it’s with my PC, and I know it’s going to work just as I like it, because I made it that way.