How ricing shifted from cars to computers


riced desktop

Back in the early 1990s, teenagers with a drivers license made a hobby of tweaking out their cars - adding custom grills, spoilers, paint jobs, and so on. The more crazy, the better. And since the most common car to perform these modifications on were older Honda Civics, which you could get fairly cheap at the time, especially if they were more than 5 years old and needed a bit of work.

They called this practice ricing, since small Japanese cars were referred to as “rice cookers” within the car crowd of the 1980s. And ricing got bigger and bigger during the 1990s and into the 2000s - while not restricted solely to Honda Civics, it was popular only with smaller-sized cars. For kids that lived at home, ricing was what they spent their part-time job money on, and it showed:



Today, however, there’s a new type of ricing - UNIX desktop ricing - and it’s insanely popular with the same age group. Instead of ricing cars, teenagers install and heavily customize a Linux/UNIX OS on their computer and tweak the window manager and desktop environment to be sexy.

Arch Linux and the i3 window manager are the most common, as they require the most time and effort to tweak, and minimalistic designs with strong color and component coordination are favored.

Once a desktop is riced, screenshots of it are showcased on the r/unixporn subreddit on Even the desktop details are required to post, including the name of the window manager, and any other information that people will find interesting (themes, background image sources, fonts, and so on). Here are some of my favorites:

So what caused this shift from car ricing to computer desktop ricing?

Well, back in the early 1990s, cars were a lot cheaper to for younger generations to afford because insurance rates weren’t insanely expensive like they are today. Computers, however, were a lot more expensive back then, and far less useful at the time compared to a car. There really wasn’t much you could do in Windows 3.1 other than type up a letter, play Minesweeper, or download Wolfenstein 3D from a local dial-up BBS.

Today, however, the opposite is true. Computers are cheap and our lives revolve around using them on the Internet. Cars, however, are an expensive luxury for rich kids only. To most kids growing up today, public transit and Uber are far more responsible ways of spending your hard earned dollars, compared to a car loan and insurance payments.

In the 1990s, cars could be easily had, and riced. Today, computers can be easily had, and riced.