MANILA, February 2, 2005 (STAR) By Alma Buelva  -  Some current designers of IT products are literally thinking out of the box. They are deconstructing the conventional looks of the computer and other gadgets, giving those new shapes and sizes to make computing more fun.

In last year’s TRON Show in Japan, designers miniaturized a computer CPU to make it as small as an orange. Called the T-Cube, this pocket-sized PC runs T-Engine which is some kind of an operating system (OS) project for networked computers in Japan that started in 2002.

The T-Cube prototype used a CPU from NEC VR5701. The Japanese Personal Media Co. created the T-Cube desktop to support multi- and super- Chinese character sets.

More recently, Intel Technology Asia encouraged PC enthusiasts to express their creativity through the Intel Case-Mod Competition in Singapore. They are called "PC modders" or those who turn state-of-the-art computers into works of art.

The finalists were chosen based on the descriptions and concept sketches of their projects, including the unique features, the processor used and why a high-performance processor enhances the value of the mod design.

In that contest, creativity and originality paid off for those modern designers who turned a guitar, a pyramid and a windmill into a complete desktop computer.

The winning PC Mod entries were exhibited in several countries, including the Philippines.

History of ‘PC modding’

PC modding is described as the act of modifying a PC from a traditional square beige box into something worth displaying in a person’s living room and becoming a conversa-tional piece.

The word "modding" is not in the English dictionary because it’s only an adapted expression from the word "modify."

The origin of PC mod-ding cannot be traced back to one single person, event or website. Many believe that it began when PC users started spray-painting their PC boxes with colors and abstract art images. In the past several years, it has evolved beyond the quick-fix superficial changes and is now an expression of technological know-how and creativity.

Early examples of PC modding can be traced back to PC enthusiasts modifying their PCs to increase performance. When people turn Intel’s Pentium 4 processors to increase the clock speed, it can elevate the processors’ operating temperatures, an undesirable trade-off. To solve this problem, these enthusiasts started modifying the traditional PC chassis to improve the system’s airflow and heat management capabilities. Some enthusiasts went so far as using power drills and electric metal saws to cut additional fan holes in the PC chassis or adding as many as three fans to cool these ultra-fast modified PCs.

Present PC modders need to have a basic understanding of how to build a PC and know-how to use basic tools like a screwdriver, a hacksaw and an electric drill.

The original works presented by this unique breed of modders have lately been getting people’s attention worldwide. Several major PC designers and manufacturers have become interested in PC modding because of its potential to shape the future design of commercially available desktop PCs worldwide.

Phones, MP3s

Computers are not the only ones getting a facelift; MP3 players and cellular phones are also coming out in new form factors.

Station Z and Eratech Co., two small venture firms that specialize in making MP3 players, unveiled last year a coin-sized MP3 player called EMP-Z. If it is shipped soon, it can rightfully claim to be the smallest MP3 player – 42 mm in diameter and 10 mm in thickness – in the market.

Then came the "sunflower phone." With the help of researchers from the University of Warwick in Britain and a materials company called Pvaxx Research and Development, Motorola is looking at a phone cover that can grow a sunflower when discarded. The secret is polymer, a material that looks like plastic but turns into soil when thrown away.

Scientists say that if a sunflower seed is embedded in the non-toxic polymer plastic, it can feed on the nitrates formed when the biodegradable polyviny-lalcohol material for the phone cover turns into waste. Motorola expects this to help its business bloom.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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