RPS@PAX 2022: The evolution of PC hardware modding
We chat with panel moderator Isaïe "Trouffman" Simonnet about the past, present and future of the hardware modding community
PC hardare modding is never something I had the guts to try during my time in the RPS hardware mines, but after attending The Evolution Of PC Modding panel at PAX East this week, I wish I'd been a little bolder. Moderated by Overclocking-TV.com's Isaïe "Trouffman" Simonnet with special guests Joe Gialanella from ModMyMods, Eric "hobbseltoff" Hobbs from PC Modding Enthusiast, and Justin "Robeytech" Robey, these four experts took us through the history of PC modding over the last 15 years, the highs and lows of some of their very own builds, and what lies in store for PC modding going forward. It was a fascinating panel, and we caught up with Simonnet afterwards to try and recapture some of that excellent hardware chat for you folks at home.
As some of you may remember, the first major innovation in PC modding was the use of colour, with hardware manufacturers such as DFI blazing a trial with bright green and yellow motherboards and I/O ports to try and bring some flare to the back of our sealed PC cases back then. Naturally, when any shade of colour is involved in PC hardware building, you naturally want to see it and show it off. Thus, the birth of the side panel, which all three panelists said they tried their hand at manually (and even made careers out of it) before it became commonplace in the wider industry.
As components grew more powerful, water cooling and all-in-one coolers were the next big step in the hardware modding community, with all manner of pipes, heatsinks and liquid coolants up for grabs to try and make PCs look (and run) as cool as possible - another thing that manufacturers such as EK and Corsair have since made pretty commonplace in today's hardware market. Then came the great RGB divide, and at one point the panelists even took a poll in the room to see who was for and who was against those dreaded rainbows. Perhaps surprisingly, the vote was split roughly down the middle, and Simmonet himself said he's recently become a convert to RGBs thanks to the increased use of single-colour customisation options.
The big takeaway, though, was just how much an effect the modding community has had on the wider hardware industry over the years. Things we take for granted now, like cases with side panels and a wide array of watercoolers, was all pioneered by modders like the folks on the panel, rather than the big hardware makers. The impact it's had is not to be taken lightly, and I extend a warm, hearty thank you to those brave folks who clearly feel a lot more at ease with saws, blow torches and spray paint than I ever will. As for what lies ahead in the modding community, Simonnet predicts we'll see a lot more 'scratch builds' becoming commonplace - those mad, rather more abstract kind of PC builds that look more like high art installations than desktop computers - but the panelists all had different answers, from screens and displays in everything to greater standardisation and (hopefully) cheaper components.
It's hard to condense an hour's worth of hardware chat into seven minutes, but hopefully our interview above gives you a small flavour of the things they talked about. Simonnet has run similar panels at PAX West in the past as well, so if you want to find out more, then make sure to put it on your con checklist the next time you attend PAX.
For more of our PAX coverage, be sure to check out our RPS@PAX tag, as well as our daily round-up videos for all the latest news and impressions from the showfloor.