This is the PC that Dorothy built

Miracle of miracles, writing appears on the screen. It works!

Her friends dismissed Dorothy Walker as a technology bimbo, but from a box of bits she constructed her own computer - and saved £200

"Build your own multimedia PC - and save £200." The advertisement in the computer magazine was short and to the point. Could it be that simple?

For someone who doesn't even own a screwdriver, it seemed an impossible dream. But James Sharp, of VBS Computers, who sells the instruction video, the manual and the components, told me: "No problem. Lots of normal people do it. It means they can put something personal into their computer."

But is it possible, as his advertisement says, to do it "in less than one hour"? I put that to the test. The box of components was unpacked at 11:00, the video and the stopwatch started running ...

11.00: survey the 31 techno-bits on the desk - all to be joined together inside the case, which looks impossibly small. Everything has been laid out with care. Rule number one is to earth yourself frequently by touching metal, or you could blow the sensitive chips with static electricity. The computer case looks daunting, with lots of multicoloured electronic spaghetti hanging out.

11.01: start on the easy bit. Take the motherboard (a kind of Victoria station - everything travels to everything else through it) and join it to the side of the case. You need to fit plastic spacer plugs so that the two don't touch. This is just like building self-assembly furniture. The next 50 desperate minutes are spent wrestling with the plugs, pushing them in and pulling them out of various holes and slots. I cut my hands on the sharp edges of the case. The video doesn't talk about the effects of blood on electronic circuits, but I reckon it's not good for them. Worst of all, my nail varnish is chipped.

11.51: take a first-aid break.

12.00: having spent the first hour fiddling with something stupid, I now brace myself for the rest. Attach other boards to the motherboard so that it can talk to the disk drives, screen, speakers and mouse. The boards look so complex that I had always thought this was a job for experts. Not so - the video shows exactly what goes where, and this is much easier than the plug episode.

12.15: fit the disk drives - you just screw them into bays inside the case. The benefit of the video is being able to see things in action; the alternative is to use a collection of incomprehensible instruction manuals, often half-translated from the original Japanese.

12.30: time to connect the tangle of cables and power leads to the drives. The video is explicit, but the trick is working in the confined space of the case. VBS recommends doing a "desk build" (joining the bits together outside the case) as a familiarisation exercise. With everything criss- crossing, things are starting to look like macram, but it is not at all complicated, and I have seen it all being done. My spirits are lifting. Surely, it can't be this simple?

12.55: all the innards are in. Attach the monitor screen, keyboard, speakers and mouse. VBS pre-loads the Windows operating system and other installation software for you, so now there is nothing for it but to plug in the machine and see ...

13.00: moment of reckoning. Press power switch and stand back. Hear the machine's cooling fan working, and the lights come on. Then, miracle of miracles, writing appears on the screen. It works! I even get a fanfare through the speakers when I bring up Windows. My shout of triumph can be heard throughout the office (total time: two hours exactly). Wipe a tear from my eye.

Had I practised with screws and plugs beforehand, I believe I would have been close to doing it in the hour. Although I had never dared to venture inside a computer before, it wasn't the technology I got stuck on - it was the simple DIY.

The video is right: you don't have to be an expert. You can identify and assemble the components without having to know how each one works in detail. All you need is care and enough patience to watch the video several times and make your own crib sheet to work from. I was doing it against the clock, but you don't have to. VBS operates a helpline, and it tests the components beforehand.

But the great benefit is the feeling of confidence and achievement. Friends who classify me as a technology bimbo can't believe it. I now have no fears about what's inside my machine, and I feel I could upgrade it when the time comes.

Dorothy Walker's PC is a high-specification 486DX2/66 multimedia machine, which cost £1,150 in component form. The video can be bought separately for £24. The kit is available from VBS Computers, 126 Street Lane, Gildersome, Leeds LS27 7JB. Tel: 0113 238 3639. All components are guaranteed for a year. An equivalent machine, ready-built, from a high-street supplier costs around £1,400.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game