Amazing Mac mods

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Back in the day, clever geeks who wanted to customize a cool piece of hardware hot-rodded their cars. These days, they mod their Macs. In the Mac’s sleek exterior, they see an invitation to a little self-expression.

Modders love their Macs (and iPods) so much that they want to paint them, accessorize them, and put them into new cases—making the outside as personalized as their on-screen desktops. Here are some of our favorites.

Getting started with modding

Want to make a mess of your Mac and possibly void your warranty in the process? No surprise, you can find out all about modding Macs online. For starters, we suggest:

The Necro Mac

Modders: John Hart; Evan Keeling
Locations: Fairfax, Virginia; Washington, D.C.
Ages: 30; 29
Occupations: Apple-certified technician; exhibit specialist
Original model: Power Mac G3 (blue and white)
Hours required: 40
Cost: $40
Goal: “We didn’t have a specific goal in mind as much as a specific feel. We wanted a texture and ambiance that was ancient and creepy. It’s still a Mac, but it’s unlike any other Mac you’ve ever seen.”
Fun fact: “Even though the G3 was released in 1999, people always ask how old the Necro is. And they always must touch it. It seems that people have to make tactile contact with the surface before they can walk away.”

The Wooden iPod

Modder: Joshua Driggs
Location: Austin, Texas
Age: 25
Occupation: Engineer
Original model: iPod (fourth generation)
Hours required: 15
Cost: $15
Goal: “To make my iPod match the rest of my exotic-wood computer project, without adding any bulk or changing the overall look.”
Fun fact: “The wood is only two millimeters thick at the surface. I did all the cutting by hand with a rotary tool. The wood split in the process and had to be glued back together in three places.”

The G3 Jukebox

Modder: Tom Mordasky
Location: Mamaroneck, New York
Age: 32
Occupation: Graphic artist
Original model: iBook G3
Hours required: 12
Cost: $225
Goal: “Who wouldn’t want to have their entire music library at their fingertips and playing in any room of the house?
The MP3 Jukebox combines my CD collection, Internet radio, the iTunes Music Store, and a dubbing/burning/iPod hub in a compact, kiosk-style interface. Needless to say, it has completely changed how we listen to music.”
Fun fact: “The iBook’s polycarbonate case is really tough. I was surprised at how difficult it was to cut through—much harder than the 1/8-inch acrylic I used for the faceplate.”

The Neon Mini

Modder: Adam Whitlock
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Age: 22
Occupation: Customer service representative
Original model: Mac mini
Hours required: 30
Cost: $450
Goal: “To pay tribute to the TV show Neon Genesis Evangelion .”
Fun fact: “When I first got it back, the downstairs neighbor, [who] is a huge Evangelion freak, wanted to buy it right then and there.”

The BlueIce G4

Modder: Kent Salas
Location: Victorville, California
Age: 41
Occupation: Web content manager
Original model: Power Mac G4
Hours required: 142
Cost: $550
Goal: “I wanted to customize a G4 tower, using color. But instead of painting it and being stuck with one color, I wanted to be able to customize it via LEDs or cathode-ray lights, as well as to add enhancements like the internal 5-inch LCD.”
Fun fact: “I have literally spilled close to two ounces of my own blood for the BlueIce G4 Project. That’s when you know your mod is official.”

The Wacky Wall Street

Modder: Jeff Jaxon
Location: Chico, California
Age: 37
Occupation: Help desk supervisor
Original model: PowerBook G3 (Wall Street)
Hours required: 100
Cost: $22
Goal: “The PowerBook came to me in two pieces, with the display completely broken off its hinges. I decided that trying to build a new hinge would make it look a little slapped together, so I might as well embrace an all-out, decayed-future, Road Warrior look. I started with a big brass toilet-seat hinge and built from there.”
Fun fact: “Took third place in the MacMod Challenge 2005 and won the title of Wackiest Mod. And no, I haven’t tried to take it through an airport yet.”

The Toy-Box Cube

Modder: Jeff Thorne
Location: Orem, Utah
Age: 23
Occupation: Wedding cinematographer
Original model: G4 Cube
Hours required: 5
Cost: $3
Goal: “To make something fun that would turn a lot of heads.”
Fun fact: “I saw the Lite-Brite Cube at a local thrift shop and thought, ‘You know, I bet I could fit my G4 Cube in there and still make it look stock.’ So I bought [the Lite-Brite] for three dollars, took it home, and got to work.”

The iBook Loading Dock

Modder: Casey Wright
Location: Kearney, Nebraska
Age: 28
Occupation: Photographer
Original model: iBook G3
Hours required: 6
Cost: $28
Goal: “I needed a loading station where I could unload images from CompactFlash cards—and it needed to complement the Old West decor of our museum.”
Fun fact: “I bought the iBook new in 1999. It survived a car crash, two moves, and flying ten feet in the air, and it never gave me any problems. I figured a nice quiet job would be a fitting retirement.”

The Game Shuffler

Modder: David Sonnenshein
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Original model: iPod shuffle (1GB)
Hours required: 24
Cost: $30
Goal: “To install the shuffle into the Nintendo controller, altering the outside of the controller as little as possible. Also, to make a simple hold switch to prevent accidental button mashing.”
Fun fact: “I gave this to a friend right before he left for Chennai, India. Since he’s been there, children have twice asked him, ‘Excuse me, why are you listening to video games?’”

[ Cyrus Farivar is an assistant editor at Macworld . He once modded his TI-85 graphing calculator in high school, but never his Mac. ]

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