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White Moonbase Alpha Laptop


Photo by John Carnett for Popular Science

How to make a WMAL - that's short for 'White Moonbase Alpha Laptop'. This is a project for one person who should have a real hobby but doesn't and is stuck in a basement.
Being stuck in a basement is optional.

Get request from magazine editor from Popular Science to customize a laptop. Get an old one sent they happen to have lying around. Have it FedExed over and turn out to be an original IBM butterfly. (That's the one with the keyboard that unfolds when you open the case.) Get a style instruction to make it "sleek and futuristic". Panic.

Meanwhile, because of a bathroom remodelling, have to move to a danky dark basement appartment. Negotiate with boyfriend to use half of the only table in the basement for this project. Realize again he is the best.

Wonder what the hell you are going to do. Check on supplies for the bathroom which brings you past a hobby store in the suburbs. Enter in desperation and notice that they have isle upon isle of chemicals devoted to making surface A look like surface B. In the plastic models corner find a kit for Moonbase Alpha from Space 1999. Buy it with supplies. Still have no idea, but realize everything has to be space white. Mount all pieces on skewers with some putty, put the skewers in a block of flowersponge, and spray coats of white, a thin coat at a time -- thick coats will destroy detail.

Start masking the bits of the laptop you don't want to spraypaint with plastic bags held down with masking tape. Look for a surface you can transport the laptop on for the actual spray painting. Find an old pizza box in the trash room in the basement next to the appartment. Use that to put the laptop, take it outside, spraypaint, and take back inside. Do this for each coat. After the third coat, three days later, remember that the first time you looked at the pizza box, it still had two slices in it. Get rid of the box now that the laptop is dry, and resolve to never tell your boyfriend about that.

Start on detail work because the stark white really is damn stark white. Grab a pen and the paints you bought with your supplies, and remember in dismay why you went into software: you just don't have any manual dexterity. Realize you are now a model builder building a model so uncoordinatedly you might as well be trying to do it wearing oven mitts. Soldier on. When laptop is dry, carve lines in the laptop to ake it look like it was assembled from panels. Try around twenty seven different arrangements of the pieces on the laptop before settling for one.

Take out keys, spraypaint some white, give others a beautiful blue metallic finish from another can of spraypaint. Marvel at the look: who knew there were chemicals like this? Use decals ordered from website to put small alien markings on keyboard. Hate, hate, hate water based decals because they are such a bother. Coat everything with spray lacquer.

Arrange everything. Buy a blue low-voltage striplight from ThinkGeek, attach it around the sides. Cut up the power supply, use crimping tools and Radio Shack mini plugs to split it in two, one to feed the computer, one to feed the light. Check the machine still boots. Be happy it does. Realize you can't take this fragile thing to NYC by plane, and decide to take Acela. Build a very complex cardboard padded box to hold the laptop just so. Go to NYC. Meet nice editor. Have him like the laptop. Get the professional photographs from the magazine. Be happy.

Other Laptops: PHKL (Hello Kitty) -- YZPL (Pokemon)

I made this laptop myself. It is now at the desks of Popular Science. It is not for sale. Please do not ask me where you can buy it or how much it costs.

All pictures © 2002 by me except as credited. All text and materials © 2002 by me. All Space 1999 / Moonbase Alpha intellectual property and materials is owned by the copyright holders, and I just hope they keep letting me display this.

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