Chris McVeigh’s My First Computer DOS Edition [Review]

Even if you’ve not heard of Chris McVeigh, you’ve probably seen his builds in one way or another, especially his iconic Classic Mac that’s been featured quite a bit across the media. As a brick artist, Chris specializes in capturing fragments of details in tiny builds that give maximum impact. The other great part about Chris’s builds is that all of his build guides are available free for download and all you need to do to enjoy his wonderful creations are to source the bricks from sites like Bricklink or gather what you have from your very own stash. Of course, there are those that may not have the time or knowledge of the secondary LEGO market to gather all those parts, which makes purchasing a custom kit directly from the artist becomes a great option. For those that do, there’s no detail spared in the experience. Trust me on this, I’m going to bet that you’ll be impressed by the level of care and detail that Chris puts into this.

He’s come a long way in terms of creating various themes, but one favorite of mine has been his Technology builds, and we’re going to take a closer look at just one of those: “My First Computer: DOS Edition.” This machine is a throwback to the 80’s, when CPUs ran at 4.77 MHz and with probably a monochrome or 4-color display at 320×200 resolution — if you were lucky. Yes, boys and girls, fortunately, some of us are that old.

The packaging arrives in a brown box with a postmark from the Canadian postal service. Inconspicuous enough to ensure that anything inside is not what one would expect. But everything that spells mundane ends here.

Lifting up the box flap reveals an invoice and a folded lightweight crepe paper in black.

Behind the crepe paper reveals a printed Thank You note and a link to the building guides (instructions are online rather than printed in the box) and also an email address for support issues. I’m pretty sure that Chris is the only person behind the scenes, but it really gives off a nice touch of professionalism.

Lifting the Thank You note reveals the bubble pack and another surprise – a personalized note signed by Chris himself. Chris included an extra custom-printed processor tile, which was great since I didn’t purchase one with my earlier Byte Edition kit from Chris. Thanks, Chris!

The final package with the parts gives off a feel of neat, detailed, and and dense packaging.

Unwrapping the bubble pack – which you can tell contains custom packing, with the shearing of the paper’s edges – reveals the particular version of the build that I have. One thing about Chris is that he continuously refines his builds to add more details or sometimes replaces parts which may be rare and harder to obtain with more common pieces yet retaining or even improving the designs. The versioning helps because from the time of order to the time that you actually build, you may actually forget what you have on hand and this little touch is a very good reminder of the specific build guide to download.

The flip side of the package sports the build name — in this case, the DOS Edition and a reminder of his website address.

The sides of the pack in tiny ziplock bags feature the printed tiles.

On the flip side, is the spare processor as promised.

Sliding out the protective sheath reveals yet another surprise: Numbered bags packed separately! Now this is a nice surprise for me as Chris’s previous builds just had a single unnumbered bag and this really takes the build process it to a whole new experience.

The two bags are once again wrapped bag within bag with detail and care.

The bags themselves are wrapped with paper sheaths to identify them.

Unwrapping the sheath reveals yet another touch of detail. A reminder to ensure that no elements are left stuck onto the circular seals. (I’m guessing that this has happened pretty often to warrant this reminder.) Color me impressed with the level of care and thought put into this extra help to builders.

To prepare for the build, a quick download of the guide on an iPad (the instructions are in PDF, and work on any computer, phone, or table) and the build begins!

The first bag consists of the motherboard and internals. Specifically ,the two floppy disk drives, the CPU, and the power supply.

The completed build includes the two daughter-boards. For those of you that actually owned one of these machines, the locations of these items are spot on.

The back features the external ports and the fan exhaust — again, spot on the position where they would typically be in the real McCoy.

Here’s a closer look at the printed processor tile. It really reminded me of a typical chip released back in the days when they had spider-like legs to be soldered onto the board. I’m guessing BRK001 stands for Brick version 1 of sorts, and the 68 possibly an homage to the Motorola 68K processor.

The outer chassis is built quite simply and with clean lines.

I really liked the clever engineering of how the front plate is locked to the build with a clip.

The only thing left to do is slot the motherboard right into the shell case. If you noticed a black stud on the right sticking out, that’s actually where the power switch would be in the actual IBM personal computers back then, just right by the power supply. It’s these kinds of details that bring back a rush of memories.

Bag two consists of the parts for the CGA (4-color) display — or at least that’s what I had back then. Built in sections, what you see is the back half of the build.

Construction of the screen was simple enough, with the black curved tiles to remind us how all CRT screens were once desiged.

There was a point where I had to build these unique parts. I could not guess what they were for. It certainly piqued my interest on what to expect next.

Diligently following the guide, I ended up with this sub-assembly that looked like an engine block.

To my amazement, it was used to fix two parts of the monitor and hold them together firmly. Now this is quite a clever technique, giving one the flexibility to remove the front block from the back (which would prove useful later).

Completing the monitor with the parts left me with a mistake, but that engine block mentioned earlier made it easy for me to correct. The orientation of the two exposed studs was meant to be at the bottom of the screen. The ingenious design saved the day for me instead of taking it all apart.

The completed design: the CRT monitor placed on top of the CPU block.

I almost forgot about the A>_ and C:\_ drive tile placement. Keeping true, I never owned a hard drive, so the Floppy drive it is.

The only remaining part is the quick build for the keyboard. A view of the back shows how the keyboard connects to the monitor with a VGA adapter at the back.

The finished built is a breathtaking classic, but I felt a certain missing component — my trusty mouse! Now, do note that the mouse wasn’t part of the accessory of the IBM Compatible PC but it did have its uses. Perhaps it would be a nice touch, but it’s not something that I would complain about.

Side by side with my other favorite build, I’m both DOS and MacOS compatible. My collection is complete and I’m elated!

Final thoughts: As expected, Chris McVeigh’s builds are always designed with detail and care, and this one did not disappoint. Chris reminds me of the late Steve Jobs – everything that’s built has to have love and heart put into it, even if it’s seldom or not seen, right down to the experience of unpacking and the box it arrived in — the whole thing has the vibe of an “artisanal” LEGO kit.

The packaging has vastly improved over the years to the point where the only missing detail is outer box art — not that it’s needed anyway. The build inside is a true time machine; I owned one of these PC XT machines back in its heyday and this certainly brought back memories with the countless times I had to open these machines.

While Chris graciously shares all of his instructions and allows everyone to enjoy his love of the brick, I do implore those that can spare the change to support LEGO artists like Chris. I’m pretty sure none of these sales actually pay the bills, but serve and encourage builders to create more for an audience to enjoy. I for one will certainly look forward to more of Chris’s builds and guides.

2 comments on “Chris McVeigh’s My First Computer DOS Edition [Review]

  1. Steven H.

    The flip box contains the address–you need to blur that too.

    Otherwise, great review of a non-official!

  2. Brian D'Agostine

    You could use another 1×2 curved slope (baby bow, same as the disk drive pieces) to replicate the mouse. Stick a string with end studs on the underside notch and plug it in somewhere!

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