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Interview: Joshua "ZapWizard" Driggs

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Written by: STellY [1/1/04]

Joshua Driggs is one of the most respected individuals in the modding community.  Under the name of “ZapWizard” he has been creating some of the most advanced mods we have seen, both visually and electronically.

Today we take you closer to ZapWizard, the winner of the TechTV ScreenSavers mod contest and MaximumPC Rig of the month winner, and find out how he became such a great modder, and even some of what he has planned next!
ZapWizard Dissected

This interview was taken directly from the quotes of the interviewer or interviewee.  No questions/answered were edited or butchered in anyway unless allowed by the interviewee

Question: Lets start things off by learning a little more about ZapWizard.  When did you first get into modding and what was your first project?  What is your full time occupation?  Are you a family man or are SFF PCs the closest you want to get to offspring?

ZapWizard: I have tinkered with electronics and computers since I was nine. I was modding things before I knew there was a community of other modders out there. But I didn’t seriously get into modding until about two years ago. My first project was a triple peltier, five fan cooler for a Athlon 550 Mhz Slot A, it ran at a whopping 750Mhz, and heated a whole room in minutes. By day I am a technician. I help make sure that the memory runs as fast as possible on your AMD processors.  I am 23 now and have been married for just over a year and a half. No kids yet (Besides SFF PCs)

Question: You’ve become quite the celebrity lately.  TechTV screensavers mod contest winner and now a rig of the month under your belt for Maximum PC.  Has this notoriety change things for you at all and also how’s that new lazer ecther working out?  Got any big plans for it? (At least that your willing to share?)  

ZapWizard: It hasn’t changed too much, except that now I have to put even more thought into a project to bring it up to my own standards. I am still building on my own extra cash and time though. The laser has been fun to experiment with, but I haven’t fully utilized it yet as I need more proper materials. So far just some experiments with different materials. I do plan on starting to make custom stuff for others with the machine, but the machine will need a more permanent home that allows for better ventilation.

Question: You have an unbelievable mind for electronics, where did you learn it all?

ZapWizard: It is my brother-in-law’s fault. He had just finished up at a technical college, and gave me all his components he used in school. I basically changed toys from Legos to electronics and started building things I found in kit books. I knew how to read a schematic and put things together, but only by experimenting did I find out how many of the components worked together. Later in middle, high school, and college I learned the theory and design of electronics. Basically I got a early start on things.

Question: Your “Media PC” inspired me on quite a few levels, and has some of the most complex electronic mods I have seen to date, when do you expect to continue work on this?  Do you have any major twists/turns planned for this that you care to enlighten us on?

ZapWizard: The Media PC was my first planned project, and I got most of it done very quickly. But I hit a wall when it came down to working out the custom software and interfaces. So the project has been on hold until I can learn more about programming.  Since I put it on hold, I have re-thought a lot of the details and plan on using a more powerful graphics card and a few other changes in design. My next project will actually help a lot with learning how to do case design and some other things I didn’t get to do to the Media PC yet.

Question: You are one of the most looked-up to and most respected modders, but are there any modders that you look up to, or even been inspired by?

ZapWizard: There are many modders I look up to, they are the inspiration for many of my projects. The names that come to mind are: Linear, MacroMan, Eddie the dane, Cheese, Mashie, and many of the other mega modders out there.

Question: Usually you make the jaws drop, but are there any modders that still make ur jaw hit the floor?

ZapWizard: G-Gnome, and his plexi and chrome project. It is a total work of art, and he put a lot of thought into how to keep the looks of his project consistent and great looking. It also shows how even your first project, can be a huge success.

Question: You have some crazy and wacky mod ideas that are quite original…do you plan on fulfilling them? (ie: your ultimate PDA or smoke inside of case, etc.)

ZapWizard: I am always keeping my eyes peeled for new technology that would help with a project idea, like my PDA plans. I think it may be possible to hand build a tiny computer like that in a few years.  My next up coming project will actually make an attempt a smoke inside a PC. I am currently experimenting with a few techniques.

Question: Which computer do you find yourself using most?  Is it modded?  What’s under the hood?

ZapWizard: The computer I use the most is a Frankenstein looking antec. It has more half-done mods then I care for, and is my experimenting computer.  It has mods such as knight rider lights, lightning neon, home made fan controllers. Its specifications can change depending on what project I am currently working on. Last month it was a fully loaded Athlon 64 FX51 with GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. But as those are parts for my current project I had to rip them out. Currently it is a Athlon XP 2700+ with a Radeon 9200.

Question: Aside from computers and modding, what are some of your other hobbies/interests?

ZapWizard: Hmm, modding has been it for so long. But I love a great movie played on a killer surround sound system. I usually always have a non-computer related side project in the works, such as fountains and art projects. My wife takes up the rest of my time.

Question: Would we ever see you in any gaming servers?  If so, which games are your favorites?

ZapWizard: I used to play daily, but I can still be found playing Battlefield 1942 quite often. Other then that I like a good single player game like URU or Halo.

Question: Of all the mods you have done, which was the “most fun” to do and why?

ZapWizard: My Ammo PC was by far the most fun to do. What made it fun was that I already had many of the parts on hand, and just had to put them together, rather then try and find a way to save, sacrifice, and buy new parts.  It also allowed for many different lighting possibilities, which came out with every device connected to the PC glowing with green goodness.  

Question: How hectic is your average day?

ZapWizard: My work days are pretty well packed. I take my wife to work, head for my job, work eight hours with electronics and computers, pick my wife back up, do some chores and pay some bills. My hours after work are spent with my wife, and only late in the evening do I get around to modding. I usually mod for three or four hours, play a short game, and head for bed.  My weekends are much more free, and I get most of my modding done then.

Question: You have done some crazy things with electronics, what would you say was the “most daring” to do? Have you ever ruined some expensive hardware in the process?

ZapWizard: My most daring mods are coming up in my next project. I plan on totally hiding every possible cable inside the PC, and totally wireless outside the PC. I have ruined quite a bit of hardware over the years. The most expensive being an expensive motherboard a few years ago, It died when I was dumb and soldered a part to a peripheral connected to it.

Question: What can we expect from ZapWizard in the future?  What mods do you have planned?

ZapWizard: My new project will be a watercooled top of the line 64-bit computer. I have the hardware already and about half of the modding supplies needed.  I am not giving too many details away just yet (Besides the few mentions above). But the PC will involve tons of electronic and visual modifications. The result should be a very powerful looking project with jaw-dropping modifications. The specs of the project are as follows:

AMD Athlon 64 FX51 (runs at 2.5Ghz on air)
ASUS SK8N Motherboard
1GB Kingston HyperX registered DDR400
nVidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra (On air clocks at 580Mhz)
18.1" Flat Panel TFT LCD. 1280x1024 native resolution, scalable input up to 1600x1200
Logitech MX700, and wireless keyboard
Wired and Wireless NIC
Wireless headphones

Question: Well Zap, thank you for your time given for this MHQ Interview.

ZapWizard: Thank you for the interview. I am glad to share with other modders in the community. Keep it up guys, and leave no electronic device un-modded.

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