It’s that time of year again. The time of year when everyone rushes out to the malls and stores, to push and pull everything off of the shelves, to strip stores bare, in search of that “door-buster” deal of the day. There’s thousands of stores, genres, clothes, tools, toys and gadgets out there for everyone.
But what do you get your geek for the holiday? How do you please the geek who already has everything?
The first thing you want to identify, is how much are you willing to spend (or not spend) to make your geek smile over the holidays? Gadgets, gear and goodies can range wildly in price, even for the same item. Some things you can get for 1/2 the price depending on where you purchase it.
Also, not everything requires you to pay for it. There are plenty of places where you can get some free gear for your geek, without spending a dime on it. Check your local Freecycle group or CraigsList free postings. You can also find some really amazing deals at woot!.
The second important point is to determine what kind of geek he/she is. Are they a music or band geek? A math geek? A science geek? A computer geek? Or all of the above.
Ok, once you’ve got that figured out, let’s get right into it…
- DO NOT buy them computers, software, or peripherals
Why, you ask? Because most geeks already have the computers they want or need, and software is such a complicated decision (with much of it being freely downloadable anyway). Is it supported on your geek’s operating system? patch level? hardware?
Peripherals are such a personal choice too. Does your geek prefer a corded or cordless mouse? clicky or silent keyboard? standalone or integrated webcam?
Chances are that unless you know your geek very well, whatever you get in this category will likely be a.) incompatible, b.) something they already have, or c.) something they don’t want.
- DO NOT buy them technology books
I know, this seems counter-intuitive, but most geeks already have the technical books they want, and the rest they can probably get somewhere online through O’Reilly Safari Bookshelf, Google Books or similar places.
Most HOWTO docs for programming languages are already online, as well as Usenet groups, mailing lists and helpful forums on every language imaginable (for example: Tech Books for Free, Computer Books Online and the Baen Free Library).
If a geek wants books, they usually want things like sci-fi, autobiographies or books on subjects like robotics or similar. They probably do not want another book on another programming language they’re learning. Books like Neuromancer, Ender’s Game or Hyperspace are examples of the type any geek would cherish. Check NerdBooks or this large list for some ideas for books for your geek.
If you’re not sure, take a look at your geek’s bookshelf first (if they have one), or take a peek at their “e-book” collection and see what they like or do not like.
- DO NOT buy them phones or PDAs
Unless they ask for a specific model or type, don’t buy your geek a smartphone or PDA device. Chances are they already have the best unit for their specific tastes, and anything else would probably be sub-par. Avoid the temptation, and just get them an accessory for their current model phone, or a spare battery. I’ve amassed quite an enormous collection of PDAs and smartphones myself (yes, that really is my personal collection, as of late 2006).
- DO buy them clothes
All geeks need clothes. Lots of clothes. Mostly t-shirts. Lots and lots of t-shirts. The geekier the better!
All kidding aside, our t-shirts are our “uniform” for the geek. It helps define us when we’re in a sea of “normal” people in public. It’s also a beacon to other geeks who seek out one of their own “kind” in the same crowded public spaces. Some great places to shop for geek t-shirts are Jinx, Geeklabel, NerdyShirts and of course… ThinkGeek.
- DO buy them storage
All geeks need storage and a place to put their digital “stuff”. The bigger the better (for capacity), but the smaller the better (for space savings; in-pocket or in-bag). Best (and cheapest) places to buy storage are at NewEgg, TigerDirect and Geeks.com.
Large storage is just one piece. Let’s not forget the smaller stuff; media cards for all of those gadgets and devices. USB thumbdrives, memory cards (CF, mmc, SD, microSD, oh my!). Check NewEgg and Amazon for those too.
- DO buy them games for their gaming system of choice (or upgrade their current system to a new version/model)
All geeks like to entertain themselves with a little gaming now and then. Some go for the historical games and military first-person shooters, while others like puzzle and strategy games. The trick here, is finding one your geek a.) doesn’t already have, b.) hasn’t played before, and c.) will enjoy.
Sneak a peek at his/her current game collection, write the titles down, and take it to your local game store. The staff at most of these stores are very hip to the trends, and they can recommend games that will fit perfectly with your geek’s style. Many stores also sell “gently used” games a a deeply-discounted price, which can help if your geek beats the game in the first 48 hours of owning it!
BestBuy has a really broad selection of games for most of the gaming systems out there: PS3, XBox, Wii and others. Also check GameSpot and EB Games online or in your local mall for more games and deals.
- DO buy them a magazine subscription or three
There are literally hundreds of Technology, Geek and Nerdy magazines out there on every topic and genre. Hit your local Borders Books or Barnes and Noble, walk through their magazine section and pull the reply card out of the magazines you think your geek would like, and sign them up.
If you don’t want to do that, just write the name of the mag down and go online later and sign them up for a subscription. Not only will it be new and exciting every month, but there are valuable articles, tips, tricks and references in every issue.
Gift cards are also nice, though they should be used as a last resort. Gift cards to your local book store or even to the iTunes Gift Card to buy movies or music on iTunes can be one of your last-minute stocking stuffers.
If you’re still not sure what to get your geek for the holidays, just ask, and let them tell you. We may be very particular, but we don’t bite.