I had wanted to fill a huge void on my
wall, above my computer, for some time. I hunted around for
some geeky posters, like one showing the structure of the
internet or the java class library, but they were either impossible
to get, expensive, or too small. A few months earlier, I had
seen a large prototype motherboard mounted on a wall at my
university. It looked awesome and I figured I could duplicate
the look and make a jazzy art piece for my room.
I wanted to fill a 5' x 3' area, so I figured
I needed something like 20 motherboards, assuming they fit
together well. Now motherboards aren't cheap, especially if
you want processors and RAM on them. However, thanks to the
wonders of eBay, I bought 34 motherboards for about $1.55
each, and that included shipping costs! As they started to
trickle in, I realized I had a great assortment of colors,
types, shapes, and sizes. Just over half the boards came with
processors and RAM.
The trickiest part of the whole project
was figuring out how to place them nicely. They were all different
sizes and shapes, so to get them to snuggly interlock together,
without gaps, was quite a challenge. Trust me, there was a
lot of different combinations to work with, but I eventually
found a good placement that fit my target size of 5' x 3'.
The design was mounted onto a piece of
1/2" plywood, which I painted black so it wasn't obvious
where there were little gaps. I also framed with some wood
trim, which I stained. It must have weighed something like
60 pounds and couldn't be mounted easily. It had to be screwed
directly into the wall studs, making it a permanent addition
to my room.
What you won't get from any of the pictures
is the size of this piece. This thing is just under 6 foot
diagonally, about the size of an average human. That's a lot
of surface area! If you stand a few feet from it, it fills
your entire vision. The pictures also don't do justice to
the detail of all the circuitry and ICs, let alone the subtle
color highlights from components like neon colored batteries.
When ever people see it, they think it looks like a satellite
picture of manhattan because it is so rich in detail.
I soon realized that this project was truly
a testament to the history of modern computing. It represented
numerous different processors/architectures, including:
- Intel 368, 486, 3 Generations of Pentium,
and Pentium Pro
- AMD 386, 486, and K6
- Motorola 68040
- IBM PPC 601
- DEC AACC-2 (Cray Supercomputer)
In the end I had used 17 different motherboards
in the final layout. I scavenged processors and RAM from unused
ones to populate the selected boards. All in all, the final
design included 60 RAM DIMMs, which has a collective total
memory of about 500MB. The collective processor speed is probably
nearing 1.5 Ghz, although that's a rather silly statistic
considering the variety of technologies.
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