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Best Gifts for Geeks
How to Choose a Gift for a Geek
Having suffered decades of ridicule, geeks are suddenly fashionable. More and more people are coming out as geeks. Of course there are just normal people who are just wannabes, but if you have a friend or family member who are true geek, and you need to buy them a gift they will appreciate, you need to consider carefully what is likely to bring them enjoyment.
There is more to belonging to this select group than just wearing glasses with thick frames. I would define a geek as somebody who has a deep interest in something related to technology, maths or science. That makes buying them presents, incredibly easy. You just have to identify their particular hobby and buy something that will help them pursue it.
First of all you have to define their type. There are several species.
- The science or maths geek
- The computers/technology aficionado
- The computers gamer
- Science-Fiction fans
- Artistic geeks
A present that is customised to their particular specialisation will be particularly well received. Not only will they find it useful, but it will demonstrate how well you know and understand them.
Small Geeky Gifts
Although it is definitely worth considering the person you are buying for, sometimes you just need a small gift, something inexpensive that will work for a lot of people, that you don't want to put a huge amount of thought into.
One of my favourite geek objects, that I myself received, was a Galileo thermometer. It combines beauty with practicality, and has a simple scientific principle behind the way it works.
Gifts for the Science Geek
If your friend has a particular interest in science, they will really appreciate something that they can use in their investigations of the natural world. If you are planning on an expensive gift you could always opt for a telescope, for those into astronomy, or a microscope for the more biologically inclined.
A year's subscription to Scientific American (for the less advanced), or to Nature (for those capable of understanding professional reports might also be welcome.
If you are looking for something cheaper, than a book by scientists about science will probably really appeal. There are a couple of books that I particularly enjoyed.
The first is The Double Helix by James Watson, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA. It is highly irreverent and even controversial, and tells the story of how he and Francis Crick worked out the "secret of life" at Cambridge University.
The book includes all the mistakes and false turns they made before finally getting it right. It is also full of anecdotes about other scientists and academics.
One of my favourite details is a letter from the French biologist Chagraff to Watson and Crick's boss, who hadn't yet heard about the momentous discovery they made. Chagraff was unimpressed with them when they met in person some time before this, and in an aside in the letter he enquires about the "scientific clowns".
My second recommendation is the theoretical physicist's Richard Feynman's collection of stories about his life. This is a book I keep coming back to, for its humour and irreverence. The stories cover most of his life, from how he impressed his aunt by "fixing a radio by thinking", to his successful attempts to break into safes containing information about the atom bomb project during his time in Los Alamos.
The Artistic Geek
For the longest time artists and geeks appeared to be two very different and non-overlapping groups. There was nothing artistic about the nerdy kid with the pocket protector and the wild artist.
However, computers brought art and geeks together in the form of digital art. The most geeky expression of that is fractal art, complex geometrical patterns created by mathematical sets.
Of course one doesn't have to be a geek to appreciate fractal art, but people who are interested in how "things are made" usually find it particularly intriguing. An idea for a geeky Christmas present might be one of the many fractal gifts on Zazzle. You can find anything from phone cases, iPad cases, laptop bags, posters, mugs, mouse pads and many other products.
What type of geek are you buying a gift for?
Everything you need to start playing with the raspberry pi, including a power supply, SD card and a case.
The Computer and Technology Nerd
Affinity with computers is a common trait of many geeks. So why not take advantage of that when choosing a gift that will appeal?
There are many different ways of approaching this question. If you are not financially challenged and can afford an expensive present, then most people will appreciate a new gadget, say an iPad or a hybrid laptop. However, few people can afford such gifts, and many of their potential recipients already have them.
One "gadget" that I still don't own, but would really appreciate is the raspberry pi. This credit card sized bare bones board with some chips can be plugged in to a TV and a keyboard and, play high definition video and used to practice programming skills on. For me it brings back computing into its rough and dirty origins. It's great for kids, but adults have a lot of fun with it too.
You can get the basic board for $35, but it will not work on its own. You need to purchase an SD card, that is preloaded with the drivers for the device, a power supply etc . etc. Or you could buy a kit that has all the bits and pieces.
Gifts for the Sci-Fi Freak
Many geeky people are real fans of sci-fi books, films or TV series. If your friend is one of those types, than you can target your gift-seeking energies to this realm.
The problems are that if she is a fan of a particular writer, or a TV or movie series, it is possible that he already has all the books, DVDs available. You could of course investigate the world of official merchandise.
If you want to give her something related to science fiction you should carry out the following steps.
- Ascertain which Universe he like to spend his leisure time in (a trekkie might be seriously disappointed to get a Star Wars themed gift).
- Figure out which books/DVDs/products he alread owns.
- Purchase something to fill in the gap.
A different strategy is to introduce him to something new that she or he will enjoy. Such a gift is particular valuable, since it opens up a whole world of future enjoyment.
I have been a serious sci-fi addict for years, but one series that I've only recently discovered, but am enjoying hugely is Firefly. I simply cannot understand that it was cancelled after only one season. It has a great setting (space travel combined with primitive pioneers), a lot of humour, a telepathic genius gripped by mental illness,and a central mystery (which was explained in the movie, the Serenity, but not very satisfactorily).
I would highly recommend this to any science fiction fan who hasn't seen it yet.