The holidays can be an unhappy time of year for us technology enthusiasts, for three reasons. First, everyone in the extended family wants free tech support. Second, we never understand why the amazing electronics we give as gifts fail to impress grandma. Third and most of all, the gifts we receive -- although well meaning -- tend to fall flat.
"Uh, thank you! A digital-photo keychain from Brookstone. What? No, yeah, I love gadgets. It's, uh, fine -- I mean great..."
If you're a gadget geek (like I am), make sure your loved ones "accidentally" read this (mine will). It's exactly the kind of guidance they're looking for.
If you're buying a holiday gift for one of these difficult people, listen up. I'm going to tell you how to buy a gift that will rock their holiday.
What Makes for a Great Gadget Gift
I'm not supposed to tell you this, but here's the big secret behind understanding the psychology of the gadget-obsessed geek in your life: This person is a big kid, and the gadget gift they want is really a toy.
But not just any toy. It has to have one or more of the following characteristics:
New. If a gadget was available last holiday season, it's not going to be a great gift this holiday season. Geeks don't want old-and-busted. They want new-hotness.
Advanced. As a general rule, great gadget gifts have more compute power than NASA used to land men on the moon. And the closer you get to Space Shuttle technology, the better.
Unnecessary. Practical, useful gifts are no damned fun. The best gadget gifts are items nobody needs, and are maybe even utterly pointless.
Challenging. Gadget geeks don't want to just wind something up and passively watch it do something. They want to tinker, modify, experiment. It's great if the gift works right out of the box. But make sure it can be used for arbitrary, unanticipated purposes.
Empowering. Every gadget geek secretly wants to be Batman. We're just regular people, but through personal technology want to be given super powers. X-ray vision. Super strength. Invincibility. All make desirable gifts.
Uncommon. Novelty is huge for gadget geeks. If any friend, family or co-worker already has one, game over. It's got to be so unique that your tech-savvy gift receiver has never even seen one before.
Japanese. Nobody does gadgets better than the country that brought us Godzilla, anime and live rhinoceros beetle vending machines.
Where to Buy Great Gadget Gifts
Before I tell you were to buy the greatest gadget gifts, I'll tell you two places to never, ever buy them: The mall and the electronics superstore. If something shows up in on shelves at one of these two mundane locations, chances are it's already too ordinary to be a truly great gadget gift.
If you really want to knock this one out of the park, you're going to need the Internet.
Here's where to buy the ultimate gadget gift:
I Want One Of Those
I Want One Of Those is an unusual online store with an unusual name. It's a UK company with prices displayed in pounds sterling, but they take dollars and ship to the U.S.
One example of what you can buy: A product called Treasure Seekers is a metal detector built into flip-flops. Instead of walking around with grandpa's massive, expensive and lame metal detector, these enable a constant search for buried treasure without attracting unwanted attention.
Spy gadget catalogs represent a dark alley of the gadget world. These online stores sell a lot of questionable stuff that could be useful to creepy weirdoes, stalkers and snoops.