BitDepth 501 - November 29

Tactics for finding the right gift for the geek in your life...
Gifts for geeks-2005

It's Christmas time again and bearers of gifts for the tech savvy should beware. Or at least, be wary. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Best case scenario. You go to a computer store, point wildly in the direction of something shiny and incomprehensible, wrap it up and give it to your gadget loving other and they swoon at the sight of it, immediately swearing undying fealty to you and your gift-giving wisdom.
Reality check. Not gonna happen. You might be able to buy a shirt or cologne that way, but wild swings in the dark when it comes to technology gift giving are apt to come full circle and hit you firmly in the head.

In previous editions of this Christmas-saving guide for the well-intentioned but clueless tech gift-giver, I've cautioned the safe road of asking. After all, what you may lose in the surprise of giving the perfect gift is more than offset by avoiding the weakly offered, devastatingly crestfallen smile that only the best and most socially savvy digital mavens can muster when faced with a totally inappropriate gift.
Worst case scenario? A tech-literate lout who looks at you and says, without a hint of wry inflection, "You shouldn't have." And means every word of it.

Such digital Scrooges shouldn't even be on your gift list, but for the worthy, there are devious tactics you can employ to divine their heart's desire.
First, let's separate some of the emotional baggage that surrounds gift giving from what we'll need to be doing here. There's a sentiment that a good gift reflects something of the giver as well as the recipient and that synergy makes the act even more special.
You can forget that foolishness when it comes to high-tech gifts. If you aren't matching your intended bit for byte, nothing you can bring to the table will make any sense to them if you apply it to your choices. That sort of thinking leads people to buy burgundy laptop bags and cute fluffy flash drives or worse, when the sexes are reversed, failing to seek flattering colours in laptop bags and not factoring in the cute factor for gadgets.

I've come to this realisation after years of trying to find a middle-ground in gift exchanges with my sweetie. I'd bring home a gorgeous silver wireless optical mouse that's the perfect fit for her desk, and she'll look me in the eye and say, "that's nice, where's the gift?"
Unfortunately, it also works in the other direction, even after we managed to successfully break the "just ask, I'll tell" taboo of gift exchanges. Years after I got a numerical keypad from her, the wife still looks at me taking it down from its special place on the shelf to jack it into my laptop and shakes her head, disbelieving. "I gave you that as a gift, didn't I?"
You should be this lucky.

Divining gifts for tech-geek brotherhood
Ask his friends what he's missing from his gadget lineup. If's he's one of those people who has different friends for different interests, don't bother asking the Trini Posse pardners about RAM allocations.
If buddies turn up a blank or nothing affordable or if he's a she, ask friends to talk highly of their successes with an Amazon wish-list. With luck, this will give them ideas of their own and they'll happily comply.

You don't have to buy anything from Amazon but the almost bottomless well of goodies available at the web superstore will do much to ensure a more accurate barometer of his gadget lusting.
If you really want to be smart about this and invest far more work than most gift givers really have the time for, it's time to turn detective.

Look at the devices that get used most often and how they may be failing at their task because of something obvious that's missing. Most small devices like cellphones and MP3 players arrive with usable but uninspired peripherals, ergo the healthy aftermarket in stylish and utilitarian cases, headphones and earpieces.
If you're aiming low, be very clever. The right gift is usually going to be expensive but the right add-on can be just as effective if you target your beloved's gadget needs carefully.
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