it simple when shopping for that hard-to-understand geek
are a techno-plebe. No shame in that. Maybe you are even one
of those few remaining Luddites who have so far made it without
a cell phone, iPod, or Second Life avatar. OK. But chances
are you know someone who has all three, and that person is
on your holiday shopping list. Don’t panic. We know that those
iPhone first-adopters’ interests can seem so esoteric—they
can go on and on about nanobots, Gentoo, and the coming singularity—but
geeks aren’t all that complicated. When shopping for them,
you just have to know where to look. So, if you want your
gift to be a hit, listen to us and put down that M.C. Escher
desk calendar. Stop eyeing those 3D posters. Let’s get them
something different this year.
The trick is to think like a geek. And lucky for you, there
is even a Web site devoted to that very task: ThinkGeek.com.
Let’s start with some old-fashioned technology: cutlery. It’s
something everyone needs. But not just any ole piece of cutlery,
we want the geekiest, most preposterous utensil ever to make
it into a kitchen drawer: the spork. And what could make this
1800s economy of resource the ultimate? Titanium. That’s right.
Titanium Spork ($8.99) is made from the super-strong
and super-light chemical element known to the geeky ones as
Ti. If titanium is good enough to ferry astronauts into the
outer orbits, its good enough for their mac-n-cheese. This
will make the perfect stocking stuffer (pointy-side down).
Geeks like things that glow. And they like things that are
“smart.” They are amused and pleased by clever variations
on the basic properties of most any day-to-day object. The
Ambient Forecasting Umbrella ($99.99) is the product
of some clever tinkering with a ubiquitous standard. The umbrella’s
handle houses a WiFi receiver that independently pings Accuweather.com
to discover whether or not its elements-blocking services
will be needed for the day. If it looks like rain, the blue
LEDs ringing the handle will flash; and the higher the chances,
the quicker the flashes. But don’t buy it just for its Sci-Fi
qualities alone; ThinkGeek claims that it is also a finely
constructed umbrella, sporting a 58-inch “gust busting” dual
Most geeks like to have information. Lots of it. They like
to organize it, categorize it, analyze it, and carry it around
with them. For that last task, USB thumb drives have become
an essential geek accessory. For the serious—and seriously
paranoid—geek, encryption is also a top priority. Besides
looking totally rad, Ironkey ($78.99-$148.99) thumb
drives offer up to 4 GB of data storage protected by military-grade
hardware encryption. If that doesn’t sound geeky enough, check
out ThinkGeek’s description of the encryption technology:
“first locally encrypted with 256-bit AES, using randomly
generated keys encrypted with a SHA-256 hash of your device
password . . . then doubly encrypted with 128-bit AES hardware
encryption.” And while you are at it, throw in a copy of Neil
Stephenson’s classic crypto-tome, Cryptonomicon,
(Harper Perennial, 928 pages, $11.53). That’ll earn ya some
Speaking of books, if your geek fantasizes about the fast-approaching
dawn of robot revolution, then How to Survive a Robot
Uprising (Bloomsbury/ Holtzbrinck, 176 pages, $10.99)
ought to be the perfect gift. The author, Daniel Wilson, keeps
this breezy read brainy enough to satisfy scientific curiosity,
but amusing enough to keep the pages turning.
But, of course, real geeks love, love, love real
robots. If you want to really be a hit this holiday, max out
that credit card with the Bioloid Humanoid Robotics Kit
($899.99). The robot boasts 18 servos and a CM-5 module “brain”
running an Atmel ATMega128 based mcu. Mean nothing to you?
Well, it means something to somebody you love. The Bioloid
can be assembled to look like a humanoid, or it can be assembled
to look like the thing humanoids one day will tremble beneath.
It can be programmed to walk and interact with its environment.
In a word: Awesome.
Go on, make a geek’s holiday a happy one. I promise it will
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