Have a friend or family member who’s a die-hard programmer and can’t think of what to get them for their birthday or the holidays? You’re not alone! Geek gifts for programmers can be hard to find because programming is such a specialized endeavor.
Fortunately, we can help. Every programmer is different, of course, and there’s no such a thing as a one-size-fits-all gift—but there’s a good chance that most programmers will appreciate the gift ideas below.
We’ll start with the most expensive gift ideas and work our way down in price.
Sitting in front of a computer day in and day out can have massively detrimental effects on one’s health, including bad posture that leads to all kinds of physical ailments. Standing desks are better, but standing all day has its own problems too. It’s best to alternate between both.
That’s why an adjustable standing desk is one of the best workstation upgrades for office workers. The VARIDESK Adjustable Standing Desk is beloved by many, highly customizable, and extremely worthwhile. For something slightly more affordable but just as solid, get the Ergotron WorkFit-T Desk Converter.
Though marketed to kids, Lego Mindstorms can be just as much fun for adults. The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Robot Kit comes with buttons, motor ports, internet connectivity, sensors, remote control, and more. Using drag-and-drop scripting, you can make the robot do all kinds of actions. The kit comes with five robot instructions, but you can customize it and make your own robots once you get comfortable with how it works.
When buying a coffee maker, you should aim for one that’s SCAA certified. This certification shows that the model meets requirements for water temperature, brew time, and several other factors that go into making an excellent cup of joe. As of this writing, only 12 models are currently SCAA certified.
For the best of the best, get the Moccamaster KBT 10-Cup Brewer which comes with a five-year warranty. For something a bit more complex, get the Behmor Connected Coffee Maker. Users can remote control the Behmor with an iOS or Android app. And if you’re on a budget, the Bonavita BV1500TS 5-Cup Brewer is a solid pick.
Virtual reality is all the rage these days, and if your programmer friend hasn’t tried it yet, then an Oculus Go Standalone VR Headset is the perfect way to get their feet wet. This standalone headset provides an excellent VR experience, requires no other equipment, and is far more affordable than other VR solutions like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. It’s one of the best geek gifts you can get right now!
5. Laptop Bag
If your techie friend does their coding on a laptop (which is more likely than not), then a high-quality laptop bag can be an amazing addition. You’ll want a bag made of high-quality and robust materials, large enough to fit a 15-inch laptop, with extra space and pockets for notebooks, phones, tablets, and maybe even a keyboard and mouse.
The Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag isn’t strictly a bag for laptops, but it checks every box and has a limited lifetime warranty. It even has a magnetic latch for that luxurious feel.
6. Robot Vacuum
Programmers are known to be a lazy bunch, and doing household chores often falls to the bottom of the list during crunch time. A simple robot vacuum like the ILIFE A7 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner is a quick and easy way to maintain one’s office space clean with close to zero effort. You may have heard of Roombas, but there’s no need to drop that much cash when this ILIFE alternative works just as well for a fraction of the price.
One issue that many programmers face is a lack of sun exposure. Not that they’re antisocial or anything like that, but just like any other kind of office worker, it comes with the profession: they spend most hours indoors in front of a computer. This can actually lead to problems like burnout or seasonal depression. Not fun.
Light therapy lamps can help. They’re designed to mimic sunlight, allowing programmers to reap the benefits while at their desks. We recommend the Aurora LightPad Light Therapy Box, but if that’s too expensive then check out these other affordable light therapy lamps.
There’s nothing worse than trying to work but being unable to focus because of the noise around you. I bet that happens to your programmer friend all the time! But don’t go and get noise-canceling headphones—they’re better off with noise-isolating headphones. And one of the most comfortable and most effective options is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.
Mechanical keyboards are excellent for anyone who spends all day typing, and that includes programmers. They can be pricey but are totally worth the price: they simply feel better to use, and that kind of improvement can have huge effects on productivity. Consult our guide to buying a mechanical keyboard if you have time, otherwise you can get the Das Keyboard 4 Professional if you need something quick and popular.
Few things are as fun as playing with a drone (i.e. quadcopter). The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is one of the few drones with programmable flight paths and actions, but be sure to point them to NodeCopter, which makes drone programming easier and more fun.
If you have a lot of cash to spend and want only the best for your programmer friend, you might opt for the DJI Matrice 100 Complete Kit. It’s fully programmable and comes with some high-end technology, including high-precision positioning, obstacle sensing, and extra-long flight times. This is for super-enthusiasts.
11. Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo makes for a great addition to any household, but especially one for programmers. At the very least, it can be used for playing and controlling music; for the most adventurous type, users can create their own Alexa Skills to make the Echo do what they want. Sounds like something your programmer friend would enjoy? You bet!
An Arduino is like Lego for adults. It comprises all kinds of circuitry and electronic components that can be put together and coded to do interesting things. Whereas Raspberry Pis are used more for software-based projects, Arduinos are used more for hardware-based projects. It’s a tinkerer’s dream!
Getting started can be rough, so we recommend getting something like the Elegoo Mega 2560 Starter Kit as a gift. And don’t forget to point them to our Arduino getting started guide as well as our roundup of great Arduino projects for beginners.
13. Computer Glasses
We’ve written a lot about digital screens, eye strain, and sleep disruption. It all comes down to the blue light emitted by modern screens and its effects on melatonin production. A few apps can reduce blue light emission, but many programmers don’t bother. That’s why these Gunnar Optiks Glasses are great: they’re convenient and they really work!
14. Raspberry Pi
A Raspberry Pi is basically a credit card-sized computer. The latest model as of this writing is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, which is equipped with a lot of neat specs and features. With it, you can write programs that run on the Raspberry Pi—turn it into a media server, a retro gaming console, or even a time-lapse camera.
15. Fitness Tracker
Office workers are prone to living sedentary lifestyles, and programmers are most susceptible. A fitness tracker like the Xiaomi Mi 3 Band won’t just track your programmer friend’s daily activities, but encourage them to get up and move around more often. A simple gift like this could extend the recipient’s life by several years! Check out our Xiaomi Mi 3 Band review for more details.
Staying productive as a programmer can be tough, which is why we often recommend the Pomodoro technique: 30 minutes of work, then 5 minutes of break, rinse and repeat. With this stylish Pomodoro Hourglass Timer Set, the programmer in your life will not only get more done in less time, but they’ll be happier about it!
Created by one of the Ruby on Rails core team members, Mazes for Programmers is a fun little book that teaches how to create randomized mazes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The code in this book is written in Ruby, but the algorithms and concepts can be ported to any programming language. The perfect way to stimulate the mind of any coder.
For coworkers and acquaintances, you may not want a gift that’s too personal. Why not a mug? All programmers drink coffee, tea, or water, so it’s an intensely practical gift. But the Eat Sleep Code Mug provides just enough programmer flavor for the recipient to appreciate, and the design isn’t embarrassing or gaudy in the least.
19. Rubber Duck
No, this isn’t a joke! There’s a well-known phenomenon among programmers called “rubber duck debugging”: when code isn’t working right and the programmer can’t figure out why, they explain their code line-by-line to a rubber duck (or any inanimate object), and most of the time it becomes clear where the problem lies.
While this Bath Rubber Ducky may be the cheapest gift on this list, it could very well be the most helpful and practical of them all.
Treehouse is an online course library with a heavy lean towards programming. With over 1,000 videos and challenges related to web development, mobile development, game development, and more, there’s always something new to learn for both beginners and veterans alike. It’s an excellent way to expand one’s programming skills.
But it isn’t free: a single-user plan costs $25 per month. However, you can contact Treehouse Support and inquire about a gift certificate. This way you can gift your programmer friend a few months of access, during which they can cram as much learning as they can muster.
Are any of the programmers in your life digital nomads? In that case, productivity gadgets for remote workers can also make great gifts for them!