Steampunk has rapidly grown in popularity since it powered its way into the pop culture arena towards the end of the 1980s. The sci-fi sub-genre draws on the earlier writings of authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as well as more contemporary scribes such as Stephen Hunt, Philip Pullman and Scott Westerfeld. And it’s no surprise that steampunk – with its retro-futuristic Victorian-era designs and look generally associated with steam-power – has captured the imagination of the computer-modifying crowd.
The scope of these steampunk computer chassis transformations is constrained only by the modders’ imaginations – which seem almost limitless. What’s more, the results are perfect combinations of Victorian aesthetics and modern tech. Read on for the ten most awesome steampunk-themed computer case mods.
10. BioShock Inspired Steampunk PC Case – CodyOdi
This meticulous creation by “CodyOdi” moves away from the more common upright computer hard drive designs. Instead, this case sits flat, taking pride of place next to the talented modder’s matching steampunk computer monitor, speakers and keyboard. Starting with a modern black Aerocool PC case, CodyOdi was creatively influenced by heavily steampunk-vibed video game series BioShock. Less than a month after the release of the third game in the series, 2013’s BioShock Infinite, CodyOdi’s design hit mod forums, and its intricate stylings drew praise from the online modding community. The pipework and gears fit seamlessly into a neat design, which is aesthetically pleasing and suitably impenetrable looking.
9. The Telecalculograph – Jake Hildebrandt
Jake Hildebrandt has created quite a buzz with his steampunk “Telecalculograph” creations. His first model is this striking modification of a PC hard drive he bought on eBay. Originally, Hildebrandt didn’t intend to mod the case. As he put it, he quickly grew tired of the machine’s “cheesy, 1337-wannabe aesthetics.” With striking gauges and piping, a brass and black color scheme, and an LED-lit “furnace” – which with the flick of a lever becomes an indicator of CPU usage – this piece is a highly effective take on the genre. And although the case includes a spectacular-looking chimney vent, what’s most astonishing is that, the original PC aside, it only cost $70 to make. As for the name, well Hildebrandt defines it as an “apparatus for communication, computation, the displaying of images and the simulation of worlds,” which is a very steampunk-sounding manifesto indeed.
8. All-In-One Victorian PC – Jake von Slatt
This stylish “all-in-one” design was created by Jake von Slatt. The modder used aluminum, brass plates and wooden shelves to craft the delicate-looking, steampunk PC case mod – which is more refined-looking than a lot of other steampunk creations. The design incorporates elegant gold and black flourishes in lieu of the more common tangle of pipes and gauges. It’s a neat and compact styled mod – and one that required some significant reworking. It was built around a new Pentium IV motherboard together with a 250-gigabyte SATA hard drive. The video card needed to be placed level against the motherboard, which necessitated some lateral thinking when it came to heat removal. And when there wasn’t space for the main fan, von Slatt came up with a truly steampunky solution: an attached brass external unit that definitely looks the part. The designer has detailed the production process at length online, hopefully inspiring other established modders as well as designers in waiting. As for the keyboard, well that’s a work of art all on its own.
7. Telecalculograph, Mk. II – Jake Hildebrandt
In 2009 Jake Hildebrandt constructed this impressively modified PC case to mark the release of third-person steampunk shooter Damnation. The game is set in an alternate early 20th-century timeline in which the American Civil War has raged on for decades and steam power reigns supreme. Naturally, it served as the perfect muse for Hildebrandt. The finely crafted Telecalculograph, Mk. II may look like something you’d find in a brewery, but it has some pretty serious computer specs behind it. Boasting an Intel Core i7 965, 12 gigabytes of DDR3 RAM, an X57 chipset motherboard and a terabyte of hard drive space, it’s an impressive machine. Exquisitely finished, the predominantly wooden case is decorated with awesome-looking gauges. Elsewhere, the USB and other input ports are concealed by a stylish circular iris shutter, while a plunger acts as the power button. It’s all in the details. The design is a step up from Hildebrandt’s first Telecalculograph (see entry 9), which featured a more standard but still highly regarded design.
6. Steampunk – Korko Czong
Described as “ridiculously over-the-top” by gadget website Uber Review, this modification is a time-blending merger of modern technology and steampunk ostentation created in Russia by modder Korko Czong. It may be slightly larger than a standard computer tower, but this highly detailed piece of craftsmanship offers more than just processing power. Its nickname, “Brewery,” seems apropos, as this steampunk PC mod includes functioning taps and copper pipes that several websites claim can actually serve a fine jar of beer. Either way, the piping doubles as a cooling system. And what’s more, the case is just as stunning in the dark, thanks to a series of finely incorporated LED lights. We think the mod is just the right balance of functionality, impressive aesthetics and wonderfully incomprehensible steam punk stylings. The dials, for instance, are a treat.
5. SteamPlanet – Pablo Suarez (a.k.a. Arg0s)
Argentinean modder Pablo Suarez (known online as “Arg0s”) named his striking-looking steampunk PC case “SteamPlanet.” It created a stir on mod forums when it first appeared in 2012, and it’s a true work of art. Suarez didn’t actually repurpose any of the elements of this unique design. Instead, he hand-crafted them, with most of the shiny-looking cogs, pipes, gears and buttons made from plastic, wood and PVC – which must make this one of the lighter steampunk modifications on our list. The parts were then spray painted to capture a look that is unmistakably Victorian. Topped by chimneys that remind us of a vintage ocean liner, it’s a design through which craftsmanship has clearly risen to the top.
4. Steampunk Mac Mini – Dave Veloz
As this more compact design suggests, steampunk mods don’t all have to be hulking larger-than-life creations. Fashioned as a wedding gift for his wife, this refined steampunk model by Dave Veloz was crafted with a Mac Mini – the smallest and cheapest computer in Apple’s desktop range – as its basis. The striking lightweight design incorporates some fine innovation in terms of accessories: a granite base supports the monitor, while the matching steampunk keyboard makes skillful use of leather. A hard drive features a beautiful, old-fashioned version of the Apple logo, and even the cables got a steampunk makeover. The mod was showcased at Veloz’s wedding, where it displayed the happy couple’s engagement photographs.
3. Steampunk’d TJ11 – Fuganater
Refined and relatively simple looking on the outside, this awesome scratch-built mod’s real steampunk magic is conjured internally. Thanks to a neat window on the side of the case, we get to take a peek at the incredible design inside. Modder “Fuganater” transformed a Silverstone TJ11 PC case to create this gorgeous steampunk-inspired design in 2012. The brass and brown exterior makes for a distinguished look, but the real artfulness is in the way Fuganater’s steampunk innovation provides a practical solution to basic computer needs. Water-cooling is furnished by old vacuum tubes, with wires neatly hidden in favor of copper piping serving the same function. Meanwhile, a light gold-painted grill perfects the ventilation at the base of the tower. Looking at it, it’s no wonder U.K. technology website bit-tech chose the design as its November 2012 “Mod of the Month.”
2. Steampunk Frankenstein – Dana Mattocks
Dubbed the “Steampunk Frankenstein,” this mod’s name makes you picture a monster, and Dana Mattocks’ creation doesn’t disappoint. At a quite staggering height of nearly eight feet, the case is like a totem pole of steampunk. And considering the fact that Mattocks had such a large canvas to work with, his eye for detail is astounding. He used an old vent retrieved from a church to form an air conduit for the water-cooling set-up, settling on two loops. One cools the CPU and northbridge, while the other lowers the temperature of the GPU and southbridge. Antique gauges and glass indicator lights repurposed from an old naval vessel sit alongside brass gears inside an actual WWII radar port. With copper piping illuminated by green cold-cathode tubes and huge bolts incorporated into the design, it’s easy to spot the inspiration behind the name. Amazingly, this is more than just a cool-looking case; it’s embedded with tech, too. A functional gauge displays the machine’s temperature, and brass levers manipulate the case’s LED lighting. The build – whose specs include a 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU – was completed in 2009 after roughly a year of work. One word: awesome.
1. Steampunk Command Desk – Bruce Rosenbaum
Located in a 1901 Sharon, Massachusetts home entirely designed around a steampunk aesthetic, this isn’t just a simple computer modification; it’s a complete takeover. Its designer, Bruce Rosenbaum, has said that his top floor office makes him feel like Captain Nemo in the Nautilus, the iconic submarine featured in Jules Verne’s classic 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and indeed the book was apparently the inspiration behind the home office. Rosenbaum’s incredible three-monitor computer creation took him and his team six months to build. But what’s even more amazing is that all the elements employed in the design, apart from the computer and the tech add-ons, are authentic Victorian antiques. Modern touches are skillfully incorporated, with an iPhone dock and a scanner neatly concealed by a leather-coated panel. Elsewhere, the vintage camera houses a webcam, while the horn speakers have been fitted with modern sound technology. And the inverted pipes behind the station – which was once an organ – remind us of something out of The Phantom of the Opera.