The first thing I picked up was the motherboard. The kind of motherboard you pick will often determine which other interface cards you have to purchase. The motherboard is what you plug all of your interface cards, RAM, and CPU into. With the help of BIOS, which stands for Basic Input Output System, the various components talk to each other and work in tandem. Motherboards differ quite a bit in price because of the types of processors they support, whether or not the motherboard includes common I/O functions for hard drives, floppies, modems, and printers, and whether or not they have RAM for the instruction cache for the CPU. The instruction cache stores frequently accessed instructions in seperate RAM so that it can do what it does a little faster.
After picking out the various components that I needed and paid my dough, I took all this stuff home and, with some of the RAM from my other computer, I tried to put it all together. It took me the better part of two hours to figure out how to put the motherboard in the case properly and another hour or so making sure that I configured and installed the very basic components so that I could boot the system up. After much frustration and many cuts on my hands, I finally get it to boot.
After formatting the hard drive and putting a very basic operating system on there, I turned off the computer and put in the sound card in. Guess what? The hard drive stopped working. Figuring there might be some sort of hardware conflict, I took the sound card out of my main computer and put that in the new computer. With this sound card, the floppy drive would refuse to work properly. So being the resourceful geek that I am, I look up the company that made this I/O card on the web. Apparently, this I/O card has problems with just about everything. So I had to take this card back. This time I bought a brand name I/O board that was slightly more expensive and bought some components I forgot last time around. The sound card still ended up conflicting with the floppy drive and then the video card just up and died on me. Another trip to the computer store and I finally got all the right parts together and working.
I could have summed up the last two paragraphs by saying I spent a lot of time, effort, and money putting this computer together. But when the thing finally got all together and worked, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment because it was my blood, sweat, and tears that made it happen. Literally.
There is a lesson or two to be learned from this tale. First, cheap isn't the way to pick computer components. The components that I picked for more than just price reasons worked flawlessly. It was the componets that I tried to get the cheapest thing on where I started running into problems.
The second is raw cost. If you factor in the cost of my time, I could have bought a comparable system for about the same cost from a local dealer. The thing about buying a computer from a local computer dealer is that they've been building systems for a long time and know which combinations of components will work and which ones won't. You pay the little extra money for that experience and for not having to deal with the headaches and hassles of building it yourself.
But then again, I wouldn't have had this experience to write this article about. ;-)