Every child has a passion for something in life. It could be a sport, a profession, an activity, or something like building towering blocks of LEGO. As a child, I was fascinated by videogames. I was a pretty shy kid, minimal friends, and minuscule outdoor activity. Art and TV made up most of my formative years until I discovered the greatest invention mankind has achieved after climate change, Computers.
My fascination with computers began very early. My mother owned a desktop and our family had rented a portion of the building to a couple of students who happened to know how to play games on our desktop. They introduced me to Road Rash when I was still in 1st grade and I was obsessed. Nothing seemed more important to me than getting to the next level and I was having the time of my life.
I still don’t remember what happened to that computer because the very next memory I have of computers is from when I was studying in a weekday residential school in 5th and 6th grade. One such weekend was when I got my hands on another desktop. This one was old and had all its cables in a bag next to it. At that time, my mother was working in Chennai and I lived with my grandmother who had no idea about computers.
Naturally, my curiosity got the better of me and I embarked on a journey to turn this thing on. To a 5th grader, something as simple as connecting your monitor, mouse, and keyboard is a herculean task. Somehow, I managed to get it done and I was over the moon. The bag had a pair of old headphones with it and I hooked it up to watch the only movie it had. Even though the sound didn’t work, I was still perfectly happy to watch the movie with no sound. This was where my experience with working on computers began. ( I know it is excessive to call something that simple as “experience” but then this is my story so… )
Fast forward a few years, I manage to get my hands on an Xbox 360 and life is on the up for me. I played a lot of titles like GTA V, Assasins Creed: Black Flag, Call of Duty: MW, MW3, Farcry 2, Sleeping Dogs, FIFA 13, WWE 13, etc. Well, as they say, good things don’t last forever. My family got into some serious trouble financially and I got into an accident after I lost my PC, my desktop, a home to go to, amongst many other things. (You’ve heard me talk about it enough so I think it’s time to skip that bit) I don’t want to talk about the bad times because a new chapter was beginning in my life. I went away to a boarding school in 11th and 12th grade, I improved myself academically and I was heading to college hoping to find a career in game development.
I took up Computer Science and Engineering in SSEC and started life as a freshman in 2017. I had a phone and I still remember dreaming about the day I would get my hands on another PC. That day came a year later when I mustered up enough courage to ask my dad for a PC for doing mini-projects. (If you are from an Engg college in Chennai, then you know perfectly well that there aren’t any mini-projects in your second year unless you count that pointless railway management system project from your lab work.
It was a really basic build. Had an i3 540, some dinosaur-aged graphic card from Nvidia, and two 2gb sticks of RAM. I remember feeling emotional when I got my hands on a system I could call my own. Hell, it was the first system with its graphic card that I owned. The first few months were great. I tried to replay all the old games I used and it struggled. One Sunday morning, the PC refused to POST. (The BIOS has to boot up and then load up Windows) The fans were spinning but I didn’t get any BIOS codes from the motherboard.
Being the anxious kid I am, I began to worry a lot. I was at a crossroads at that point with two paths representing two courses of action. One would be to call up my dad and ask him for help in fixing it or I could borrow a screwdriver from the neighbors and see for myself. Being the introvert I am, I went with option 2 and opened it up. I referred to countless videos and decided to do all the usual fixes like cleaning up RAM, clearing CMOS, dusting the whole CPU case. I was extremely nervous but I managed to get it to work.
Over the next few months, the issue kept reappearing and the performance was sluggish at best so I decided to upgrade the RAM. A few months later, I found out that my CPU was heating up way too much under load. As always, I turned to Youtube and learned how to reapply thermal paste. The year after that, I decided to upgrade to a better GPU (it is still very bad but it was a step up at that time) and a better PSU.
This was my toughest endeavor as it involved removing all the wiring and replacing the PSU which was a lot of work. I enjoyed working on it despite feeling extremely anxious about the possibility where a potential switch in cable connections could brick my entire motherboard. But that day, I was lucky as I managed to do it well and get everything to work with no one except Youtube to call upon.
Every change I made to the system was on my own with no one’s help. This meant that I was limited by the amount of money I had on my hands. My heart wanted a multi-core high FPS gaming monster while my wallet could barely afford a clerk’s workstation. I thought I would never manage to build a proper PC until I got placed in a company with a stable job. Little did I know that I would get it ready before leaving college.
Time chugged along and brought forth 2020. We all know how this one has been so I don’t want to type even more but the cliff note version is that we’ve been sequestered in the comfort of our homes while a particular virus has been traveling all around the goal, so much so that COVID probably beat our PM’s track record. Fortunately for me, I was saving up money to pay for a course in learning Japanese. (That’s a story for another day)
Every month, I saw my account balance build up slowly with cash. I started with around Rs. 9000 at the beginning of 2020 and managed to scrape together Rs. 30000 by the end of June. In these 6 months, I experienced a lot of highs and an awful lot of lows. I was depressed, anxiety-ridden and I lost the purpose of who I was trying to become. One of the reasons was the fact that I couldn’t work on my interest in design. Loading up and working with Adobe Illustrator took a decade and I was frequently losing files to crashes and BSODs.
At the end of July, I decided that I had to take a leap of faith as failing to secure a job would be catastrophically bad for the future. I remained extremely hesitant until the very last second because of the sheer magnitude of my spending. I suppose my nervousness could be best explained by my friends who endured quite a lot of my rambling. Amazon Prime Day was close and I decided to bite the bullet and go shopping for some PC parts. I was still hesitant with actually buying the damn things though. I still remember asking them for their get-go just before hitting the “Pay Now” button even though it was my money.
Another thing that bugged me a lot about my purchase was the fact that everything was priced a lot higher than usual. I wasn’t in a position to shop locally and I was worried about ordering from lesser-known retailers because, well I was scared. There isn’t any other reason for it. With Amazon, you get the cancellation/return assurance, and it’s not so indicative from other vendors who aren’t blood-sucking multinational corporations. On top of all this, I had ONE MAJOR ISSUE.
Anyone worth their salt in computer hardware knowledge knows the absolute importance the motherboard has to a system. My problem was the fact that there wasn’t a decent B450 motherboard for me to buy. Amazon was selling cheaper options of the B450 motherboard for under 7k but I wasn’t prepared to compromise on quality so I looked further up the price range to find that all the good ones were priced at more than 13k. I held out buying a cheap board on the first day of the sale. Day 2 was a lot more hectic because the morning had no deals for me to look at. As evening approached, I prepared to panic buy from a lesser-known e-commerce website. They had a good deal on a pretty good motherboard and I was seriously considering a purchase.
In the end, I decided to linger around Amazon for another hour to see if anything popped up and it did. At 6:46, a motherboard I had an eye on was on offer. I hit the buy button and filled all the details. At the payment page, it kicked me out saying that I had missed the window to buy. I was gutted. It felt like I was literally toyed with by some jerk. I was cursing so bad that even Samuel L Jackson would have been proud. For the people who don’t know who he is, it’s Nick Fury. If you don’t know Nick Fury,… well,… God help you if you believe in stuff like that.
Anyways, I was fuming at the bits when Amazon put up a decent motherboard up for 9.5k. Because it was priced at 15k before and after I bought it, I suppose I made a steal. I hit buy, the cash went through and I was back to being the broke-ass kid who you’ve come to know after all these days. Assuming you guys read all my posts, that is. Two weeks later, all the parts arrived. I was worried about missing out on the cancellation policy on several of the components but the motherboard made an early arrival and I was set. All I now had to do was build it.
You see, the motherboard came in at 10:20 in the night. The previous night was the historic Barca loss to Bayern and the following day was the retirement of Dhoni and Raina from International Cricket. I was feeling down and I was convinced the delivery was delayed to the next day. I must add that on top of all this, the semester result came out so it was a pretty lively couple of days. It literally felt like my mobo was the light at the end of a long tunnel.
If it was any other sane person, they would have thanked the heavens and hit the rack to build it the next day. But being the obsessive idiot I am, I chose to build it that very night. I started off pretty methodical in the beginning, making sure everything was organized and within arm’s length. As the night chugged along, things started getting chaotic and I had boxes lying everywhere. I missed a standoff screw on the case, almost bent a USB 3.0 header, and probably screwed the SSD the wrong way. But despite everything, it booted.
It was 3 in the morning when the ASUS Bios lit up my broken Samsung panel and booted into the Windows Media Tool I had created. I ended up downloading drivers, running software, and hardware checks up till 6 am. As much as I loved building my own PC, I must confess that doing it with a small table and no chair is gruesome to your back. I had to take frequent breaks just to make sure my spine didn’t sag a couple of inches forward. I didn’t sleep that day until after 3 in the afternoon after taking an AMCAT assessment. That’s the story so far.
The build isn’t complete because I didn’t buy a decent graphic card to pair with the CPU but I suppose I will have to wait a couple of months before I save up another 20k. August has been bittersweet but I suppose change is the only permanent phenomenon in life. For a detailed build-guide of sorts, look forward to a post soon on my other blog. For now, that’s it.
Stay in, Stay Safe, and wear a mask. Until next time,