© 2019 wildc4rd

In the same way as Cycling, PC's and PC Gaming have been a part of my life for as long as I can really remember. 

 

'First Contact' would have been the Atari VCS console in the late 70's followed by the ZX Spectrum in the early 80's (Jet Set Willy and Renegade being 2 games I remember on that one). Further fairly early memories were the Acorn Archimedes (notably the platform for the first Elite) and Atari ST owned by friends at the time. By the time of the 486DX and early Pentiums I was overclocking the CPU in a bid to improve graphics performance, probably for Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, they were about the right time. First steps in improving cooling involved removing the side panel of the case and having a desk fan pointing at the motherboard. 

 

The late 90's and early 2000's were an awesome time for gaming and computing more generally. AMD were riding the crest of a wave, their CPU's were running slower clock speeds than Intel at the time, but their short pipeline architecture was unbeatable for gaming and benchmarking. ATI and Nvidia were locked in their own arms race as well, the ATI Rage and early Radeon cards and the early Nvidia GeForce offerings frequently swapping position at the top of the performance pile. This was also the time that multiplayer gaming (at least in the FPS sense) became widespread, the first really competitive multiplayer games like Unreal Tournament, Quake 3, Call of Duty and Joint Operations were opening up to an ever larger playerbase as Dial-Up modems were replaced with the early Broadband offerings. As I was mainly playing a multiplayer hitscan game mode called Instagib (one shot instant kill) at the time (Quake 2 and UT99, then UT 2004), a good frame rate and ping could give you the edge over another player of otherwise similar skill. Thus started my real interest in Overclocking, trying to wring the very best performance out of the hardware available. 

 

With this improved performance though comes a downside, the faster you get a processor to run, the higher you need to bump up the voltage it runs at. This leads to much higher heat buildup, which in turn leads to instability and crashes. As air is not a particularly good conductor, I started experimenting with water cooling (and one period of a few months with a Refrigeration unit). This was a very specialist pursuit in the early 2000's, with little available 'off the shelf' hardware. The first few setups were very rudimentary, involving pond pumps and either small car radiators or more often oil coolers. A few companies (Danger Den and Swiftech being the first that I remember) were working on water cooling at the time, and over the next few years more dedicated hardware became available to actually have systems contained within a case, and I have photos available of some of my exploits from here on (under the Historic IT tab). The big project of the time was my AntiSFF (Anti Small Form Factor) case, which has its own page above, a truly custom build that saw a lot of time at the local LAN tournaments. Methodical working, good leak testing before and during installation, and not cutting corners on hardware allowed a 0% failure rate of components due to leaks. I confess I have lost a few peripherals and one laptop to drink spillage though...

 

More recently, in my view at least, the requirement for liquid cooling has dropped away, while at the same time its easier than ever with many companies making pre-fabricated sealed loops you can add to a PC with little more effort than changing the heatsink, in reality though these loops are also no better in performance than a good quality heatsink. Unless you are specifically looking to benchmark, (or just enjoy the tinkering) stock or mildly overclocked hardware is more than adequate for use while gaming with a monitor. VR is currently a different story, high res and a requirement for very high FPS make VR particularly demanding. Intel is firmly back on top with desktop processors, with little real progress generation on generation. Most of the improvements in the last 5 years have been in GFX cards, and the only real way to keep up is to upgrade or double up on the cards (SLI or Crossover). Aftermarket air cooling on the CPU and possibly GFX, combined with a good quality case with 120mm fans will bring a high end gaming PC down to very tolerable noise levels, with core temperatures well within the realms of reasonable.

 

That brings it bang up to date, at the time of writing I have a quiet mATX server secured under the desk running Debian on the right hand monitor, normally IRC and maybe a youtube video or Netflix (also the home network fileserver/back-up server), and the other 2 monitors are on the Windows rig to the right. I can link all 3 monitors to the games PC for super immersion in Fallout 4 or Elite Dangerous, but as many companies don't have full support for those resolutions, there is registry or config file hacking to be done to make it work... Current games I'm really enjoying are CoD:BO3, Fallout 4, Elite:Dangerous, Subnautica and Rocket-League.  Honourable mentions to Minecraft (with mods) and World of Warcraft, both also having taken a huge amount of my time and contributed a lot of enjoyment in the last 10 years.