When I was a teenager, this time of year would be insufferable. My bedroom would be nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit without air conditioning, but it wasn’t even particularly hot outside. I had at least five tower PCs running inside my bedroom, all contributing a lot of heat to my tiny little room. Each performed its own role in my home network, with a file server, domain server, Exchange server, and media center PC among them. All of those tower PCs are now inside my pocket, thanks to the iPhone.
I used to run a full Active Directory with individual organizational units and push out group policies to manage my family’s local PCs. I had a proxy server set up to control web access, and revoked administrator rights to ensure my family never installed malicious software. All of our email went through my Exchange server, and I had a custom app that pulled mail from ISP and Hotmail POP3 accounts and filtered it through an assortment of anti-spam tools before it was allowed to hit an Exchange inbox. All of my family’s important documents were stored on a file server, backed up in a RAID array. I even used Zip drives for the really important stuff. I was a true IT administrator, and I was only 15.
All of these PCs were built by hand, with custom cases, cooling configurations, and my own selection of processors or RAM. I laughed at the thought of having to buy a Toshiba or Packard Bell PC, and opted for AMD’s Athlon 64 processors. I’d build powerful gaming rigs and spend hours writing scripts to get a better field of view in games, or a slight advantage by squeezing out every single drop of performance by altering textures per map. I would enter contests and win better processors or RAM, upgrade my PC and push the older components down to my servers.