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A PC in a Christmas Tree

Project Christmas Tree

Foreword by Alex Watson


Picture the scene: it's Christmas 2004. Tony Blair is still in power. Ipods are big, white, and controlled by a spinning pizza disc on the front and Apple has just released a special U2 version, thus ensuring it will never be cool again. Nvidia is yet to realise the GeForce FX is a steaming heap of tripe. On the other hand, nForce 2 motherboards with SoundStorm are going down a... storm.

On the internet, bit-tech looks like this, and this man is the editor. In a dusty corner of a central London office, a PC modding and hardware magazine was heading towards its first Christmas, and wanted to celebrate surviving an occasionally bumpy Autumn. Enter... Project Christmas Tree.

Five years later, and in a chat between the Custom PC and bit-tech team over Christmas modding - prompted by the Christmas Edition of the Titan Fenrir - Project Christmas Tree is mentioned in hushed tones. Eager bit-techers tried Googling for this fabled festive machine - but no mention could be found. Undettered, they headed to the archives, and found a CD treasure trove, packed with original documents and pictures. So, for your festive amusement, we present one of the most ridiculous mods ever made, and definitely a contender for a mention in any new rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas: a PC in a Christmas tree.

Christmas Eve

One night, after a hard day’s reviewing and drinking coffee, we went to the pub for a swift half. Whilst happily supping weak Australian lager and munching roasted peanuts we discussed the subject of what modding project we should do for Christmas. Numerous pints and hours of frenzied discussion later we had reached an impasse, and were still no closer to a reasonable conclusion. We needed something simple, but still a true icon of Christmas - the kind of thing that would start you humming the tune Jingle Bells and make you merrily daydream of warm fires and mulled wine.

The most obvious choice would be something like Santa’s sleigh, a log cabin or a turkey with sage and apple stuffing. Unfortunately salubrious thought isn’t the norm after umpteen pints of rocket fuel, so instead some bright spark had the idea of fitting a PC in a Christmas tree. I mean what describes Christmas better than a stately Douglas fir?

Hell bent on concluding the argument victoriously the inebriated hack went on to describe exactly how he thought it could be done. Upon waking the next morning and skipping joyfully into work I realised my error. It was my idea and what was worse I had convinced them I could actually build a mini-ITX system in a tree - oops.

A PC in a Christmas Tree The Project Christmas Tree Archives
Spot the CD drive

Santa's Grotto

Fully aware of the fact it was going to be an uphill struggle to build Project Christmas Tree, my first instinct was to cheat and have a workshop build a chassis to my specifications. As it turns out, all the workshops I sent chassis plans to proceeded to ignore my follow up emails, or mumbled something like ‘sorry, wrong number’ when I rang them. Not even the promise of lots of folding cash could convince them that it was actually a simple design they could put on the CNC, bend, rivet, paint and deliver in a jiffy, before nipping out to the pub to celebrate money for nothing.

Sure, they all requested the plans, but I can only assume they just passed them around the shop floor, each person reading them with increasing bemusement, while scratching their heads in doubt and saying ‘You have got to be joking - daft ****’ and so on.

Undeterred I decided to fabricate the chassis myself instead and after much searching on the Net I finally hit paydirt - a company in the wilds of Perthshire, called ‘The Christmas Tree Warehouse’ who sell hollow, stackable trees in bulk for shopping centres and the like. Having actually found a tree that I could squeeze all the components into, it was merely a case of building an adequate structure to hold them under the hollow canopy. Project Christmas Tree was back on track.