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Modding

THE MODDER AND THE DESK: HOW PETER BRANDS WON THE INTERNET

February 15, 2016
written by: Tim Lee
DESK

Peter Brands may be one of the most famous modders in the world.

But he doesn’t like being seen as such. “I’m just me,” says Peter. “I don’t want to be seen as big or anything. In events and everything I don’t even like it when people come to me and ask me for a photo. I’m not like that.”

His most famous mod, the jaw-dropping “L3p D3sk,” has been featured on TV news, modding forums, and popular sites such as Engadget and 9gag. It even placed 2nd in the Cooler Master Case Mod World Series 2012 Scratch Mod category.

The practice of building computers into tables wasn’t something Peter invented. However, nearly every desk mod built afterward has taken a cue from the L3p D3sk.

The Beginning – Legos and Weapons

Peter was like most young boys. He wanted to create destruction.

“When I was a kid, I made a weed whacker by attaching a razor blade to my Lego Technics motor,” recalls Peter. “It could destroy stuff so easily. The whole garden was shredded to pieces. My parents just shook their heads. They were used to me doing this kind of stuff. I was a weird kid.”

“I was always a weapons freak. I had a BB gun, and later traded it for a crossbow. But I hated it because it wasn’t precise enough. So I made my own,” Peter said.

“I took a piece of wood, PVC pipe, and wire. Then I took a clothespin to hold the wire, then you had a crossbow. The point of the arrow – we used a dart. The crossbows got so strong, if I shot it at a tree then the arrow point got stuck permanently inside,” he said.

Getting Started with Computers & Modding

“My cousin was working in the only computer store here in my town. He had a 486dx2 and my mom ended up buying it from him.”

This was the mid 1990s, so Peter didn’t have the internet to turn to for help. He had to figure everything out himself. And he did. “I was always the one with the fastest PC. I was a hardware addict. I was always the one who wanted to get the games to run on my PC at the highest settings. That was my hobby.”

The first time he actually took his dad’s tools to his computer was when he got a Pentium 4. “It had lots of heat problems. Hot to the touch with a really loud fan… I had already got used to making stuff like crossbows, so I knew how to use a drill. I drilled some holes in the front of the case to place an extra fan. It didn’t look nice, but it worked. That was the first time I actually modded.”

Peter continued to mod, each time getting more and more creative. He was also interested in liquid cooling, but his Cooler Master Stacker case just wasn’t big enough.

So what did he do?

Mod two Stackers together, of course.

1

Then he got the idea to put a radiator on top. And he thought to himself, “Well, I’m an electrician, I can drill a hole in the floor. Why not put it under my house?”

2

And he did just that, much to his wife’s chagrin.

The Birth of the L3p D3sk

Peter was on a Dutch cooling forum when he saw a wall mounted PC for the first time. He liked the idea of being able to change his liquid cooling loop without having to disconnect everything, lifting his heavy PC onto the kitchen table, and then putting it all back together. A wall mounted PC wouldn’t be convenient… But a desk PC would be perfect.

“Summer vacation had just started. My parents had a camping place. So I went there with my laptop and installed Google Sketchup. For the next two weeks, I came up with ideas for the desk – hidden cable management, a backplate for the power supply – stuff like that,” Peter says.

“Actually, building it was a bit hard for me. It took me a full year and that was because it was my only PC. My PC is my everything. So I had to get it running every time I did something. So if I did something like with the loop then I had to build it out. I mostly did it on the weekends. So the whole weekend, the kitchen and living room was a mess. And then on Sunday evening I had it all running again because I had to work all week so I couldn’t do anything with it then.”

3

As Peter was making progress on his build, he started posting it on various forums online. One of the forums he posted it to was Tweakers.net – the largest Dutch PC forum.

“Tweakers was going crazy about the desk… And it was only 50% complete. They told me that I should go international, find some sponsors, get parts, and join the Cooler Master Case Mod contest… Yeah. Getting sponsors and winning the case mod contest was the dream…”

That dream slowly started coming true. As his mod got more popular, companies were contacting him.

“The sponsors were a huge help because it was an expensive build. Just the aluminum and glass alone was about €1,000 worth of material. A power button was €25. And I needed 3. It was stupid expensive. And that’s not including the fittings. But with the sponsors help I was able to finally build what I really wanted.”

A Brand New Build and a Brand New Baby

During this hectic time, Peter’s daughter was born.

“There was huge stress. My daughter was just born. But I still had to build the desk, bring it to a town 50 kilometers from here, pick it up two days later. And then build it all in five days to get it all finished for the Case Mod contest.”

On the last night of the submission deadline, Peter borrowed a friend’s DSLR camera and then put the photos online using his friend’s hosting service. It was 3am when he went to bed.

The Internet Goes Crazy

Websites just hosting L3p D3sk pictures were soon flooded. “An admin from Tweakers.net messaged me. He said that their servers were getting hot. Then he showed me a diagram with a huge spike from data traffic. The pictures were pulling 200 gigabytes a day.”

That’s when PC companies and news outlets started calling Peter, sending him parts for mods, and inviting him to different expos and tradeshows in countries like Germany, France, Turkey, and as far as the United States and Taiwan as a mod representative.

4

Websites just hosting L3p D3sk pictures were soon flooded. “An admin from Tweakers.net messaged me. He said that their servers were getting hot. Then he showed me a diagram with a huge spike from data traffic. The pictures were pulling 200 gigabytes a day.”

That’s when PC companies and news outlets started calling Peter, sending him parts for mods, and inviting him to different expos and tradeshows in countries like Germany, France, Turkey, and as far as the United States and Taiwan as a mod representative.

So How Does It Feel To Become a Modding Superstar?

“Of course, you are proud when you reach a goal. It’s been fun traveling all around the world and meeting so many people. But modding is not something my friends or family really understands. My wife fully supports me, but it’s just not her interest. She’s like, ‘Oh. That’s nice,’” Peter laughs.

“I think the only one who really gets it is my daughter,” he continues, “She’s only 5 years old now, but she’s already helping me out around the workshop.”

The Future

“I wouldn’t be doing something if it wasn’t a challenge or anything new.”

Whatever Peter does, you can be sure that you’ve never seen anything quite like it.