written by: Eric Canzano
Flight of the Commodores
When the first batch of bulky Commodore 286s came into the local Oregon police department in the early ‘90s, they didn’t do much to drown out the hammering and reloading of typewriters. Then came the rookie, Richard Surroz, with his silver bullet: a template. Something had already been written out for everyone on a screen. And it appeared each time. They wouldn’t have to write reports from scratch. Or plaster them with white-out.
It wasn’t before long everyone in the department had tossed their typewriters and were lugging their Commodores to Surroz. “I was the only one with the gonads to take them apart and fix them,” he said. “I got on their good side and wouldn’t get as many horrible details.”
You could say he came into the world tearing things apart. In the crib, Surroz would disassemble all of his toys and then put them back together. Once he got his hands on PCs, he embarked on what we know today as modding. Back then, it was all about the performance. “Old-style IDE cables would block all of the airflow in the case. You had to fold them origami style or sleeve them and try and tuck them away,” he said. Cable management, anyone?
Then he wanted to add fans. And then add lights to the fans. And what was the point without carving a window out to be able to see the lights? You see where this is going.
Both the overclocking and aesthetic modding movements were born, with Surroz meddling with and molding both.
Birth of Pro Modding
It was Surroz’s jaw-dropping, organ-popping Autopsy mod that propelled him to stardom in 2007. With it, the idea of ‘pro modders’ took the stage and segued into his relationship with Nvidia’s late “Uncle Phil” Scholz. “Phil was my first champion,” Surroz said. “He loved my work and brought me on as a modder.” It was a pioneering move, possibly the first time a company had sponsored high-level modding.
Now Surroz is plastered all over the billboards of pro modding. He appears, for example, building man caves on episodes of the Vanilla Ice Project series on the DIY Network. It was Vanilla Ice’s fondness of calling everyone “ninjas” that birthed the name of Surroz’s business – Nerdy Ninjas – which he runs with overclocker and world record-holder Travis Jank.
He’s also been a judge on our Case Mod World Series since 2013, a competition he claims “played a part in the resurgence of case modding worldwide.”
Darthbeavis, the Educator
Richard is an an educator at heart. Working in the police department “lit the fire” and developed his passion into a university professorship lecturing on programming, computer hardware, and networking at ITT Technical Institutes.
Richard sees modding as a universal language that can help teach and inspire. “The community environment is really beneficial because you leverage different skill sets and really just raise the bar,” he says. “And it’s great to work with vendors – if we can really solidify and keep that relationship going it will really benefit everybody. It’s going to be groundbreaking and create new communities outside of traditional DIY computer building.”
Keep it going, Darthbeavis.