Homebrew — My Own Visible Computer

Computers & Mobile Technology


Building PCs for myself, friends, and family has been my hobby for many years. With each PC I build, I try to be a bit more creative than the last time. For my most recent build, I wanted to show the working parts as much as possible. I considered several alternatives — completely transparent cases and side-window designs have already been done, and “theme” case designs hide the parts, which defeated my purpose.

I settled on an aquarium-style case design using transparent acrylic everywhere but the side pieces, with the internal parts laid out next to each other (as opposed to the standard method of stacking them), sacrificing compactness for visibility. The final design was drafted in OpenOffice Draw by configuring the components in breadboard fashion and taking appropriate measurements.

The sides and legs were cut from red oak in an Art Deco-inspired design. The side pieces attach to each other via six stainless steel rods, hand-threaded on each end to hold the sides at a specific width.

I really like the look of the stainless steel, but if I had it to do over again, I’d use brass — it took 15–20 minutes to cut each thread (a total of 12).

I also polished the stainless rods by spinning them with a hand drill and buffing them with emery cloth.

The transparent top and bottom pieces rest on two top and two bottom rods, and the other two rods form an internal frame for mounting the components. The full-sized front and back windows sit in grooves cut into the sides and slide up for quick access to the inside (the front window was removed in this photo to eliminate reflections). A hidden side port provides access for power and monitor cables.

A cooling fan is mounted to the top, in addition to the power-supply cooling fan, the power and reset switches, case lights, and a vertically mounted CD/DVD unit, which was a small project in itself: I removed the metal case and built a transparent one. It’s really fun to watch a DVD load and spin, with the laser light faintly visible through the disk!

The bottom is perforated to enable airflow, with a dust filter covering the perforations. Also mounted to the bottom is a “front panel” extension (with case removed to show the internals) including USB, speaker, and microphone ports, plus a digital card reader. After many enjoyable hours spent designing and building, the final result is now at work and on display in my living room.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).