Culture

“Tualatin”: Low-end Assembling Computer Art Bar in China

Here, anything can be made into a computer, except for normal computer parts.

On the Internet in China, some strange pictures of assembled computers are widely circulated every few months, all from a Baidu Tieba named “Tualatin” (图拉丁).

Baidu Tieba, a forum product owned by Chinese search engine giant Baidu, is a bit like Reddit, where anyone can create a forum for any topic. Tualatin Bar is one of them, and probably the most cyber art one. 

Before entering Tualatin Bar, you may have a standard impression of a computer: it consists of a case, a monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard. But when you enter Tualatin Bar, all boundaries will disappear.

Shoe boxes, delivery boxes, concrete, wood, drinking buckets, tires and mannequins can all be part of the assembly of computers, and the interior of these “shells” may be filled with computer hardware that ordinary people have never seen before. 

First, let’s take a look at a series of assembled computers from this community:

Don’t doubt your eyes, each of these is a working assembly computer to Tualatin Bar. And this is only a small part of the masterpiece created by members of the Tualatin bar.

You might think that Tualatin Bar is an art discussion group, or a poor discussion group. As a matter of fact, it is both at the same time and neither at the same time. 

Tualatin Bar is a group that explores computer technology and aims to assemble the highest-performing computers with the lowest budget. 

The legendary origin of the Turadin bar is related to a technical architecture that Intel used in its early chips. 

Intel first used “Tualatin” in its 2001 Pentium III processor. At that time, there was another architecture called “NetBurst”. Although NetBurst performed better than Tualatin in standard tests, it generated more heat and was not suitable for overclocking, so it was not “playable” to geeks. 

Chips using Tualatin architecture tend to have strong scalability, so in that era of poor computer performance, one of the earliest overclocking players in China gathered at Baidu Tualatin Bar to communicate and discuss how to improve the CPU performance on hand.

By the way, Turadin’s chip was not successful in the market, and it quickly dropped out of the market. As a technology, it evolved into Intel Core.

With the rapid development of the chip industry, CPU performance is no longer a scarce resource, but the topic of “pursuing higher performance under the same hardware” remains in Tualatin Bar.

In January 2013, the iconic “771 incident” broke out, which is the story of the legendary overclocking scheme invented. A Tualatin Bar netizen successfully overclocked a 771 pin Xeon server processor released by Intel in 2006.

You are reading Panda!Yoo

A blog about modern Chinese culture and consumption trends. If you are interested in Chinese food, drinks, games, movies, novels, dramas, please follow us.

Join 1,280 other subscribers

6 years after the Xeon server processor release, the performance of the chip could no longer meet most of the demand at that time, so it was massively decommissioned from the server into the secondary market, and you can almost buy an old 771 pin chip for only 50 yuan (about $7.5) in 2013.

However, through an in-depth analysis of the technical structure of this chip, a netizen of Tualatin Bar developed a way to transform the 771-pin server chip into a 775-pin desktop chip by flying line, which makes this outdated low-end server chip become a middle-end desktop PC chip under the blessing of overclocking.

This has brought two significant changes to Tualatin Bar: 

  1. A large number of people other than computer players have poured into this discussion group, significantly expanding the number of fans of the Tualatin Bar. 
  2. Tualatin Bar has become popular with “archaeology” and “alternatives”. People no longer pursue “availability”, but try to stimulate the performance of ancient computer accessories to surpass the times.

Due to the influx of non-geek community members into Tualatin Bar, there are also some computer modifications that do not focus on CPU and GPU performance. Such as the chassis and radiator, which makes the assembled computers that you see in this post can be called installation art.

Soon after, a meme about computers became popular on the Internet in China:

Enter the Tualatin bar with a 3,000 RMB budget (About $450), and you can open an Internet cafe opposite the school. 

Enter the Graphics card bar with a 3,000 RMB budget (About $450), You need to add 100,000 yuan (About $1500) to buy four-way Titan back home.

Graphics card bar is another computer hardware discussion group on Baidu Tieba, which is completely opposite to Tualatin bar’s belief: Any cheap computer hardware is not worth buying. Don’t doubt, buy the most expensive one!

One member posted his fire blanket order and said he was ready for a fire in the shoebox chassis.

Members of the Tualatin Bar community began to be called “Garbage guy” because any computer parts (or even not computer parts) that others thought needed to be thrown away could be recycled by Tualatin Bar and transformed into smart computers.

In 2019, the average price of an assembled computer considered “affordable” by members of the Tualatin Bar community was 200 yuan (about $30). They pursue running 3A games on assembled computers at this price, rather than simply satisfying web browsing and word processing.

This partly humiliated the OLPC project launched by Nicholas Negroponte, which tried to mass-produce $100 computers for poor children and then failed because the budget was too low.

This picture often appears on Tualatin Bar, as a meme, “A member of the Tualatin Bar is installing his new CPU.”

In order to achieve this low-cost, Tualatin Bar members combine a variety of outdated low-cost computing and parts, they are sometimes even incompatible, for example, the CPU cannot be plugged directly into the motherboard, and you have to manually connect them through flying lines.

You will notice that behind this assembled computer, which is almost made of garbage, is an expensive LCD TV, so its owner did not make it because of poverty.

The heat problem caused by overclocking can not be solved by expensive cooler, but must be solved by using common items in life, such as radish. Using white radish as a radiator and even a benchmark test for Tualatin, according to many members of the Tualatin bar, “many real CPU radiators lost to white radish in the test.”

Computer chassis are also not allowed to be used. “that’s just a shell, how dare they charge?” So Tualatin Bar uses shoeboxes and courier boxes. Sometimes, Power supply unit can also be omitted by simply wiring from other household appliances of similar power.

Every computer from Tualatin Bar is unique and even impossible to copy.

This has led Tulatin Bar to continue to produce pictures and computer assembly programs that shock Chinese Internet users. The popularity of picture and text memes continues to keep the Tualatin Bar in popularity in China, although today most Chinese consumers buy branded computers directly rather than assemble them.

Until 2020, the Tualatin Bar still has 260,000 members and 760,000 monthly active users, making it almost the most active computer community on the Chinese Internet. Or… Performance art community.

On the one hand, members of the Tulatin Bar community are happy with the atmosphere, but at the same time feel a little annoyed. Tualatin Bar wrote in his own Wiki entry: “Tualatin Bar is a pure discussion community for computer technology enthusiasts, this is not a gathering place for the poor!”

Because of the fact that many of the solutions in Tulatin Bar are not mass-produced, you need to accurately buy some old computer accessories to assemble a computer according to the guide. So it’s hard for a truly cash-strapped consumer to find an available solution to assemble a computer here.

In my opinion, this is already a kind of art.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: