Steampunk - A Modder's Guide

Written by Antony Leather

August 2, 2012 | 03:53

Tags: #steampunk #steampunk-pc

Companies: #bit-tech

Steampunk - A Modder's Guide

We often describe PC modding projects as racy, sporty, sexy, clean or use other number of other adjectives depending on the theme, choice of hardware or details the maker has chosen to employ. Most of the time these words are enough to describe both mods or scratchbuilds, but for one particular style of project, these somewhat generic terms go no way near to offering a decent physical description.

In fact, this style is so unique and almost bizarre in some cases, that it has its very own name - steampunk. The name in itself doesn't conjure up any particular style to those that haven't heard it before, unlike the adjectives above, but nonetheless it's a prominent style in its own right. Factually, it stems from the word cyberpunk - a genre of futuristic, sci-fi settings that usually have a strong emphasis on a technologically-drenched world. The film Blade Runner is considered to be classic example of cyberpunk.

Steampunk, could be considered an alternate technological reality to cyberpunk, even the complete opposite, where everything from computers and vehicles to every-day household objects work on using advanced steam-powered technology that evolved from the age of steam, with progress devoid of things like petroleum and the microchip. Despite this potentially leading to extremely varied designs, steampunk objects, in particular PC modding projects, are instantly recognisable. That said, no two projects look alike due to the fact the theme can be applied to practically any size or shape of PC.

Steampunk - A Modder's Guide
Click to enlarge - image courtesy of

The general rules include copious use of random brass, dials, bells, nixie tubes and even parts from WWII battleships. However, the end results always appear to have a flowing design; the PCs look like they really are powered by some mythical form of steam technology.

We've had a few classic steampunk mods and scatchbuilt PCs over the years here on bit-tech. But where on earth do you start if you're suddenly taken with this extreme modding style? Acquiring the parts can be tricky, as we've seen from projects such as the epic Steampunk Frankenstein. Thankfully for budding steampunkers, forum user Luciel was kind enough to talk to us about his experience with steampunk and his latest project - A Post-Apocalyptic Steampunk Future, which is currently running neck and neck for first place in our current Mod of the Month competition.

Bit-tech: How did you hear about Steampunk?

Luciel: To be completely honest I can´t say I remember but what does come to mind was about 10 years ago when I was living in London and used to go to Camden Town as I was amused by the scene there, there was a Victorian themed party and a splinter group with a steampunk look to them, I asked one of them what was it all about and they explained the concept to me. Instantly I was hooked, I thought it was a brilliant idea, the concept of it being just so elegant.

Steampunk - A Modder's Guide Steampunk - A Modder's Guide
Click to enlarge - A Post-Apocalyptic Steampunk Future

Bit-tech: What is your definition of it / if you had to explain it to someone who had no idea what it was, what would you say to them?

Luciel: I've actually been asked about it quite a few times since, and like with most things, a lot of people have a lot of different definitions and ways to explain it. For me, it's a bit like being stuck in the start of the industrial revolution and yet not quite advancing in new ways of doing things, instead using the current methods to advance in technologies. So basically it's an alternative view on modern technologies that instead of using silicon, foundries, high tech assembly plants, using clockwork and coal (steam) for their mechanisms and power source. It does seem like an incredibly inefficient way of fabricating and running high tech machinery but on good side of things, hey we wouldn't have to worry about Euro to UK plug convertors, Euro to US power convertors and so on...

Because of the age it's based on, other aspects of modern technology are also missing, like the sleek designs, aluminum works, plastics (since petroleum simply isn't a part of steampunk technology), so we end up with 19th century designs using a lot of wood and copper.
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