Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Joyous Winter Solstice! Whatever holiday you and your family celebrate, it probably involves gift-giving. If you’re like me, and you’ve waited until now to start thinking about gifts, you might be feeling a little stress at the prospect. Well, stop worrying! I’m here to help you with some ideas for all of your tech-loving loved ones. And some of them are FAST!
Children, young adults, friends of all ages -- they don’t tend to like the same sorts of gifts, do they? High-tech gifts can be pretty age-specific, but even more, very dependent on the amount of technical knowledge the “giftee” has. Someone who is very technically adept probably wouldn’t enjoy this “LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox Building and Coding Kit” ($160 from Amazon.com), although it could be a very cool gift for someone who has kids of her own to do as a family project. On the other hand, someone who is not very technically-minded probably doesn’t want a Roku Premiere streaming device to add to his television ($40 from Amazon.com) unless it comes with installation and training.
Beside the age and level of technical expertise of the recipient, we also have to worry about how expensive high-tech gifts can be. I’m pretty sure the best gift would lose some of its luster if it put you in the poorhouse.
So here they are -- gifts for every age and level of technical skill, from more expensive to almost free -- my holiday gift to you!
Some of the coolest presents for kids this year, both high- and low-tech, are monthly subscriptions. Mashable.com lists 16 of the best ones in “16 kid-friendly subscription boxes parents will love”
For a real “newbie” in your life, a very young child, Walmart has a great selection. The Kidz Delight Tech Set for around $30 is for any child over 18 months, although he will have to play with it under supervision, as it has some small parts. It’s great for when a tiny child wants your cell phone to play with, as are the VTech Little SmartPhone (good for ages 6 months to 3 years) and the Call Chat Learning Phone (2 to 5 years), also from VTech, and both around $10.
You can even get a smartwatch for any child over 4 with the VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2, about $45 from Walmart. It takes pictures and videos with cool effects to add, and has some really exciting games, too.
If you enjoy giving books to children (as my parents, grandparents, etc. did), try the “My First Coding Book" from DK Kids. It’s for ages 5 to 7, and it teaches the logic of computer programming (without a computer) for about $15. There is also an activity set with lots of projects along with the book for about $120.
One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was the Kindle e-reader, and the best one of those is the Kindle Paperwhite, in my opinion. It’s simple to use, and just invaluable to anyone who loves to read -- especially those with any vision difficulties at all. My eyes get very tired from using the computer for hours, but the Paperwhite has easily resizable text and brightness level. It will also play Audible books over a Bluetooth speaker or set of headphones. Finally, it doesn’t need a computer or even wireless connectivity -- it will download books over Amazon’s cellular network, at no charge.
I got my original Paperwhite in 2010, and I finally got a new one in 2017 when the battery started failing in the old one. I’ve also purchased them as gifts for several people, and they’ve been big hits. Click on the link to the right to see more about the Kindle Paperwhite. The newest version starts at $129.99, from Amazon, of course.
If your gift recipient has a pet, check out the Pawscout pet tag from Pawscout.com. It does require a smartphone, but it’s only $19.95, with no further charges (unless you want to buy one of their accessories, like a custom-engraved tag with a phone number and address for $9.95). It has a reputation for being VERY simple to set up, and they have a nice tech support section on their website.
At the “almost free” level, think about giving an old computer as a gift to someone who wants to learn a little more about computers or feel more comfortable with them. It should probably be working, but even a non-working computer can be useful to someone who is thinking about a career as a technician -- she can take it apart and examine the components, or use it to build troubleshooting skills.
For a working machine, it just takes a few minutes to create a new user, log in as that user, and delete your old user, along with all of your personal information. Doing that yourself, along with blowing dust out and wiping it down, makes it a very inexpensive gift. Paying a professional to get it ready would probably cost around $40 or $50, but certainly less than $100.
If it’s a very old computer, prior to Windows 7, the recipient probably can’t use it to run current programs, but it’s still good for children to play learning games, to practice programming, or for anyone to take apart and learn more about hardware. A newer computer would be great to practice anything software- or hardware-related, without the threat of ruining an expensive brand new computer. It’s a much better use for something you were wondering how to throw away, right?
Is someone you know trying to become a vlogger, Instagram fashion icon, or YouTube beauty influencer? Those crazy words are just jargon for those folks who post their videos to the Internet and try to get people to watch them. If so, you can buy him or her a Professional Grade Lavalier Lapel Microphone for about $25, a Neewer Ring Light Kit for about $100, or a Neewer green screen kit for about $175, all from Amazon.
If you have more money, you can buy Apple’s Final Cut Pro for about $300 or a one-year subscription to Adobe Premier Pro for about $250. Those are the best video editing software packages for Apple computers and PCs respectively, and I’m sure anyone making videos on a shoestring budget would appreciate either of them.
Anyone who likes handing out pictures to his or her friends or family would love one of the Fujifilm Instax cameras listed here.
The Mini 9 kit is filled with fun accessories -- perfect for teens! It’s only around $120 and prints tiny (about 1.8” by 2.4”) pictures instantly just like the old Polaroid cameras.
The SQ10 hybrid is about $140 for the camera only. It will both print the 2.4” by 2.4” picture while you wait and save the digital pictures on an SD card for Instagram, Twitter, or other social media. These were the newest and coolest last year, but they don’t seem to have lost any of their appeal this year.
If you had a Polaroid camera, or are loyal to that brand for any reason, they have one too: the Polaroid PIC-300 is analog (physical pictures only), and costs about $70, and the Polaroid POP 2.0 is an instant print and digital camera that prints 3.5" x 4.25" photos instantly and saves them for digital upload for about $200. I haven't tried these, but they're Polaroid, so they should be good quality.
Finally, robots seem to be a hot gift this year. You can buy Botley the Coding Robot, an award-winning coding toy, for your precocious 5-year-old (and up) for about $50.
Super geeks of all ages will enjoy any of these robotic building kits that use Arduino, a hardware platform and programming language designed to teach electronics, coding, and robotics.
Sometimes it’s very difficult to decide on a gift for the techie in your life. Exactly how advanced are his online videos already? Maybe she already has an e-reader that she loves. Or maybe you're down to the absolute last minute. Never fear -- there are plenty of alternatives for virtual gift cards and certificates with a technical flavor, and most of them can be printed on the spot for immediate gift-giving.
If they try to mail you a gift card, you can look on any of the above sites for a card or certificate that can be immediately printed, also. Call me if you are in a time crunch and can't figure out how to print out a gift card/certificate. I'll be glad help you do that for free, in the month of December only.
Whatever gift you decide on, please have a safe and lovely holiday season. Tell those you love how you feel -- that is the best gift of all!
As usual, please use our contact form below to email me with any questions you have about high-tech gifts or any other computer-related topic. If I don’t know the answer, I guarantee I can help you find it!
Mighty IT Computer Repair & Training