Meet the Modder - Joshua Driggs (aka ZapWizard)

Meet the Modder - Joshua Driggs (aka ZapWizard)


In this article I'm going to have a chat with ZapWizard, famous for his Ammo Case system (featuring on TechTV and in PC Extreme Magazine) and Media PC. He describes himself as "an open source brain", serving the community by sharing his ideas and insights. Zap is particularly wise in the ways of electronics, working in the industry he uses his knowledge daily, testing motherboard DDR architecture in his home state of Texas.

The Interview

Matt: First of all, thanks for agreeing to this interview, its much appreciated.
ZapWizard: No problem, I love to help others get deeper into computer modification

Matt: Lets get started... As I'm sure our readers are aware, you are a rising star in the modding world, largely thanks to your ingenuity with electronics, where did it all begin for you, and how did you get started on the route to modding?
ZapWizard: Basically when I was nine years old I changed toys from Legos to electronics. I am mostly self taught, with additional formal training. I started modding probably when I built my first PC (AMD K6-2 days), I never even knew I was "modding" until later. My first modification was re-wiring the front "Turbo LED" readout to read a higher number. Even though the PC wasn't over clocked.

Matt: Yes, a lot of modders trace their interests back as early as their childhood, or even jokingly refer to it as their childhood. To what extent has modding played a part in your life?
ZapWizard: Like earlier, electronics became a toy for me at age nine. I learned how stuff worked together long before I knew how to design a circuit. Computers came naturally, I have never owned a name brand PC, but have always built them myself. Modding for the past three years has been my total lifestyle.

Matt: I, like many modders, have followed and been continually impressed by your 'Ammo Case PC', and in particular the numerous inventive details which define it. Where do you draw your inspiration and ideas from?
ZapWizard: I first looked at other ammo PC's. Most were nothing more then normal PC's in a new box. I then looked at authentic military radios and equipment. I noticed that most have multi-pin connectors. So I came up with the idea of using all custom jacks for everything.

Matt: I'm sure you have many ideas and thoughts that you can't yet realise with the amount of money, skills or technology you have available at the moment. Do you have any major goals or aspirations you hope to achieve later in life?
ZapWizard: For now I want to begin making unique custom projects for companies, and executives. But my real goal in life is to build a fully walking talking android. I want to build an android, mainly to act as a butler, but I would want it advanced enough to act as a worker.

Matt: The unequalled enthusiasm with which you publicise your work and self has often lead people to joke about the size of your ego, as well as criticising you for overshadowing less experienced modders at competitions and events. What are your thoughts on this?
ZapWizard: I know I have an ego, but I am always willing to humble down and help answer anyone's questions. I also will help others at events; at QuakeCon I re-wired someone's cold cathode on the spot, and got his PC lit back up.

Matt: Due to the Ammo Case PC project and some problems with cheap acrylic I understand that the huge undertaking that is the Media PC has been put on hold, when can we expect to see updates?
ZapWizard: The only tools I have at home are a Dremel, soldering iron, hot-glue gun, and other various hand tools. I know that is enough to really do any project, but for the Media PC I want a total professional look. If I win the TechTV contest I will be able to finish in a month, if not, I won't be able to take the time until the beginning of 2004.

Matt: What ideas and projects can we expect to see from the Zap workshop in the future?
ZapWizard: I have version 3.0 of my lightsaber project in the works right now, a pink shuttle PC for my wife, after that I will have some new modifications for the LAN PC, build a watercooled acrylic computer with some new twists, finish the Media PC, and after that, my first "to be sold" project: A surround sound, vacuum tube, top-load DVD, Chrome/Wood/Glass, music/home theatre computer.

Matt: ...I look forward to reading about it, thanks for your time Zap.
ZapWizard: It was my pleasure.

Final Thoughts

After interviewing Zap I feel that he plays an important role in the modding community. Although he is often criticised for his large ego, people struggle to criticise his work as-well as the help and ideas he provides people starting out in modding with.

If you'd like to read more about Zap or get in contact with him you can contact him through the forums or visit his personal website here. Don't forget to check out his work in issue #9 of PC Extreme Magazine (UK) and on TechTV on the 25th September 2003.

Matt Jason H
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