My father, the casemodder

I love hearing about these wacky aesthetic computer modifications that people do. While a lot of them definitely have the "cool" factor, most aren't exactly useful or practical.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

I love hearing about these wacky aesthetic computer modifications that people do. While a lot of them definitely have the "cool" factor, most aren't exactly useful or practical. But when I heard about one particular "casemod" from one of my readers, I was intrigued. It just so happened that this particular ZDNet reader was my dad.

My father, a retired family dentist is far from the average sedentary senior citizen. He plays tennis (although he managed to get himself a nice knee injury recently and needed to have surgery because he was playing too hard) and teaches at the local dental college. In particular, he teaches students how to use dental software and the dental school's Intranet site. He has also been a tinkerer and a modifier of practically everything he can get his hands on for as long as I can remember.

Being a general practicing dentist or oral surgeon requires the use of a lot of specialized equipment. It's a profession where being good with your hands is an absolute necessity, and I'm not just talking about working inside someone's mouth. The motorized dental chairs themselves cost many thousands of dollars and when they break, you really don't want to have to call a technician in to fix them, you need to be self-reliant.

If you're a dentist, you'd better get to know the guys at the local hardware store and Radio Shack real well. He also used to treat chronically ill elderly patients in nursing homes, and although it wasn't actually part of his job, would make special modifications of wheelchairs to fit special patient needs. Before he retired he was also an avid boater, which involved a lot of 12-volt and marine electronics repair and constantly fixing stuff that deteriorates because its sitting in salt water and exposed to the elements.

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This combination of  hobbies with being a dentist leads to some very interesting results.  Dentists frequently fabricate things like temporary dentures out of fast-curing dental acrylic , a powdery substance that when mixed with a liquid catalyst forms a pretty strong plastic -- its the veritable Duct Tape of plastic repair. Dad frequently used it to fix or modify just about every plastic toy and model kit that my brother and I managed to break. When we cracked one of the wings off, we ended up having the only X-Wing fighter on the block with external bomb racks and missile launchers with a custom paint job.

So in regards to the "casemod", here's what my dad did. He bought himself a new Dell D530, and decided to hook it up to his new La-z-boy recliner so he could compute with a full sized monitor, keyboard and speakers and watch TV at the same time.  Cool!

I love the D530. Made some modifications to use with my Lazyboy. Modified my TV table I was  previously using for my laptop. The Hanns-G 17" LCD from COSTCO works great and is only 7.5 lbs. It's a bargain and great picture. I fastened it securely to the TV table with some screws through the base. Also secured the two speakers to the ends of the table top. I got a 6 foot extension  cable for the monitor to attach to the PC box at the side of my chair. Ordered a 3 foot, 1" wide loop cable cover and cable clamps to tighten everything together.  I secured the side diagonal support  bars with dental acrylic to support the weight of the monitor and speakers. If you can't get dental acrylic, fiberglass repair compound could also be used. The unit cannot collapse now. I am using Linksys wireless-G connection for mobility. Bought Logitech cordless EX 110 which is another bargain for wireless keyboard and mouse. Only major cost is the monitor ($149) and wireless keyboard ($25). Table is available at Stacks and Stacks for ($50), VGA extension cable ($20). $245 and your existing PC and you have a great modification for the disabled.

Disabled? Hell, I want one for my living room. Somebody help this guy get this thing commercially produced!

Done any interesting casemods yourselves? Talk back and let me know.

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