back to article Dublin designer branches out with 'tree' PC

An innovative tree-shaped PC that allows users to upgrade parts of the computer separately when required, has won a major design award. Laura Caulwell (22), a graduate of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) took home the Dyson Ireland Student Design Award on Wednesday for her invention entitled "Cultivate - the …


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  1. Spleen

    How do the components fit?

    The original article at has a picture. It looks far too small to hold any components. Maybe memory sticks would fit in the spheres but how they could hold a graphics card, or how the column could hold a motherboard, I've no idea. Has she designed special wrap-around components as well?

    I know art isn't meant to be practical, but if you say it's an upgradable computer than it should be a computer that you can upgrade.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    A photo would probably be a mixed blessing - if the picture at Electricnews is accurate, this looks more like a tacky Christmas tree bauble than a tree (it's made of shiny white plastic, and the modules are housed in hand-sized bubbles). It looks like set dressing from "Space: 1999". Assuming the photograph isn't a prototype.

    I choose Paris Hilton as my avatar, because she is sustainable.

  3. andy rock


    "upgrade parts of the computer separately when required"???

    what kind of sorcery is this!?! where's my witch-dunking stool?


  4. Parax
    IT Angle

    wow amazing

    Just imagine how amazing this will be when I can just unplug memory or just plug in some more.... or even unplug a cpu and plug in a new one.

    I for one cant wait. when are the going on sale? and more importantly will it beat the screwdriver into the shops?

    I really dont see users making proper use of the heatsinks! I think I'll roll up this leaf.. hmm its stopped working good job I can unplug it and send it back to the manufacturer.

    Seriously I would be impressed if she had invented the apporpriate busses to make uniplugable possible! but she hasn't all that she has done is make a film prop. not news worthy really...

  5. Graham Wood

    Signal Path Length

    Does this PC actually work? Placing the CPU & Memory so far apart (and so far from the rest of the insfrastructure) sounds like a really bad idea from the electrical point of view.

    Either that or the "tree" description isn't that accurate - any pictures?

  6. Edward Rose

    Someone help us.

    So, you can win an award for an idea that sounds great but won't catch on.

    There is a reason that the CPU and RAM are very close together and on the motherboard.

    Lets see, 64bit bus, over a ribbon cable at the speeds modern systems run at. Okay, I don't design motherboards for a living, so I may be wrong.

    But, face it. I'm not.

    The Dyson, the vacuum cleaner so full of false advertising it should be banned. Never loses suction my arse, I've used about 5 different Dyson cleaners. They were all pretty average, and filled quite quickly. And, before some smart alec has to mention it, no, not due to superior suction. It's an advertising gimmic and has a (rather brittle) clear case to make it stand out. Well done to those letting the side of British engineering down. Is this a radium nanotube? Or just an opinion?

    That's it el'reg, I want the Radium Nanotube award to be introduced. Plus the icon to go with it...

  7. Stu


    Yeah I think we can all agree about the distinct lack of detail provided.

    Chances are the branches are really just USB connectors, and she, or the news coverage (El-Reg was it you!?) was inaccurate about being able to upgrade core components.

    But you've got to remember, she only came up with this prototype, probably just a plastic mock up, her DESIGN however simply states that the components fit in each tree portion. I'd bet the judges wouldn't have seen the techical hurdles required to get this thing actually working.


    I think some of the above comments tho are missing the point, of course PCs can be upgraded as they are, this is solely about the new form it takes (if it really does use the branches as core components).

    Seems to me tho like a bit of a pipe dream.

  8. Nìall Tracey

    The word on the street....

    Rumours are spreading fast that Frank Gehry has been invited to judge next year's competition....

  9. Eddie

    What a load of bollocks...

    I think most of us have been building "upgradable" PCs for about 18 years.

    Separating the CPU and mobo? I can't remember the last time I could simply upgrade my processor, normally, by the time the CPU has ceased to be relevant, the socket has too.

    Same goes for the memory. Has the designer invented some miraculous new interface that allows good old 30pin simms to be compatible with DDR2 interfaces? Or is the current situation of snapping a new dimm into it's socket too hard for the average user?

    Other folk have mentioned the fun and frolics of the path lengths - and having looked at the pictures of it, oh boy. Putting the CPU about 30cm from the Mobo is going to be a doddle to implement, sure. Intel and Apple will pay a lot for the technology.

    There is nothing new in this at all, and it shows just how phoney "design" is - this monstrosity, even if it is at the "conceptual(bullshit)" phase, just wouldn't give any form of performance benefits. If you want something funky looking, Apple, Shuttle, Asus, and many, many others have been pouring money into the design concept - but from the perspective of having a working, upgradable product at the end of it - and they have succeeded. I have a mini and an XPC, both cool as lox, and highly functional.

    And "ambient lights". Hell, buy a lava lamp, get some dope, and then maybe, just maybe, the performance and looks of this thing would cease to be an embarassment, and become a bit of a giggle.

    (Sorry for the rant - It's Friday, I needed some catharsis from the joys of backups :)

  10. David S

    Taking this a little seriously, chaps?

    I mean, it's a €2000 prize for the coolest design concept. Okay, personally I prefer when the industrial designer pays as much attention to the "industrial" as to the "design" part of the brief but, in the name of all that is holy and good, wasn't this a competition for students? You know, those folks who, as a rule, haven't yet met the real world?

    It's a cute concept. It has nothing much going for it in the real world, but it's cute. She has a shining future ahead of her in World2.0...

  11. Scott

    They're after us!

    Dyson award -- ala Miles Dyson of Terminator 2 fame? Skynet's plan for world domination has been laid bare by one of its agents in a careless bid for fame and fortune. They intend to hide their agents amid our forests where they can be upgraded in secret into giant human smashing tree monsters (think Tree Beard from "Lord of the Rings").

    We must act swiftly to prevent this terror! Burn the forests to save mankind!

  12. Mike Silver badge

    64-bit busses

    Not to suggest that the design is all that practical, but modern systems use high-speed reduced-pincount "busses" like Rambus, HyperTransport, PCIExpress...

    I have personally run close to a gigabyte/sec over NIC that was connected to the MB via a PCIExpress (x8) cable some 45cm long. A bit wider than I'd want to stuff through those "branches", but nothing like ISA fans would imagine. :-)

    Computers are conceptually simple (well, to some of us), but the implementation details of even a fairly vanilla PC these days are complex and sometimes surprising.

    Now, what I want to see is a PC that allows "hot" memory replacment like some mainframes of the 1970s. Only really of interest if your OS stays up for long. :-)


  13. M Francis

    Motherboard Design

    There is nothing stopping anyone making a motherboard that has no pci or pci express. All pci cards can be replaced by sata, usb2/3, firewire or optical fiber. Personally all devices should just use optical as this is what we are going to use in the future anyway. The only device that would cause problems would be the graphics card. It should be possible to replace pci express with a optical connector as optical fiber can handle 1Tbps and above. With no pci the motherboard can be cut in half or to a third of its size thus making it cheaper.

    My ideal pc would be a computer of just 3.5 inch double height and single height bays. Motherboard would take 1 double height bay with its own internal fan and heat sink, you could add another motherboard and link it to the other one using optical fiber. My graphics card would take 1 , so for a sli or more I would just buy 1 or more cards and plug them into there own bays and connect using optical fiber and that’s it.

  14. Brian Miller
    Paris Hilton


    #1, she's sitting on the trolley tracks. #2, that's a lamp, not a PC. #3, she doesn't know the difference, and neither do the judges.

    I had initially thought that there was something great, like a PC whose circuit boards were made from a wood derivative. That would be something to celebrate. But no, we get a nut who wants something that goes with her My Little Pony collection.

    Copper nanotubes.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    The designer isn't stupid...

    ...just deluded. It's the people who run these 'design contests' who are fools - I've seen various "PC design" contests, and others of the same ilk, come and go for years. And in an industry that turns on a dime, nothing has ever come of it, because all of the designs chosen are incomprehensibly impractical.

    It's a case of a bunch of people who know nothing about electronics picking an electronics design made by someone who knows nothing about electronics.

    The worst part is that, IIRC, Intel did one of these a while ago. Some dude won with the same kind of concept, except his was a stack of books, or something. That one was particularly egregious; it solved problems that didn't exist and had already been tried, and failed - and not because it was ahead of its time.

    This, unfortunately, appears to be a common delusion. El Reg ought to do its bit to stamp it out rather than playing along.

  16. Richard Freeman
    Paris Hilton

    The Idea sounds familiar....

    There was an early PC - I forget who made it - Burroughs ? - someone like that anyway

    Made in the late 80's early 90s it was a row of boxes that plugged together - CPU, RAM, Disk drive etc.... 8086 based maybe even up to 80286. It looked a lot better than the Ugly thing in the picture at the top of the article.

    even the one here looks a lot neater:

    As for 'future proof' PCs anyone remember the passive ISA bus machines where the CPU was on a plug in card so the CPU and RAM could be easily upgraded? - they didnt last long after PCI came out....

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