Holiday Shopping List: For The Geeks Who Never Grew Up

James Bruce 06-12-2013

Some geeks are able to transition easily from childhood to adult life – they can make their bed, get a “real” job and do sensible things like sort out a good pension plan. Then there’s geeks who will instantly regress to re-enacting Star Wars scenes when you hand them a laser pointer, and whose partners would be truly shocked if they found out exactly how much money is spent on toys every month. Like me; I fear the day my wife reads our credit card statement.


So it’s with pleasure I present you with this list of super gifts for the geek who never grew up. Mum, I hope you’re reading this. Hint: any of these would be great, thanks.


It’s certainly not cheap, but the latest LEGO Mindstorms EV3 package at $350 is a complete robot kit. You can build a variety of designs, and program actions using intuitive software, and it’s compatible with existing Lego Technics pieces. I had a chance to play with the last generation of this kit – you can read my full LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 review LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Review and Giveaway LEGO is a product that transcends generations - I still have a few boxes in the loft. It is one of those few brands that has adapted well to the changing times - introducing themed... Read More – and I can officially confirm they are lots of fun for the big geek in anyone.


Geek T-Shirts

While any typical adult would be ashamed of wearing a superhero t-shirt, your geek will rejoice that you truly understand them. 8-ball T-Shirts are particularly cool and offer a full range of designs worn by Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory). We even offer our own set of MakeUseOf designs you should check out.



Desktop Ballistas

Given how much of our geeky lives are spent wondering how to make mundane things go pew pew Pew Pew! How To Build A Laser Turret With An Arduino Are you bored? Might as well build a laser turret. Read More and fire at each other, a genuine desktop-sized ballista or catapult should go down a treat. This wood-craft Kickstarter project is a set to be fully funded on 1st December; but if you miss that, this USB desktop missile launcher is a suitable substitute, I think.


Minecraft 8-bit Weaponry

Minecraft is like digital LEGO; a sandbox environment that you can build anything with. So naturally, any big child-at-heart geek would love this real-life 8-bit sword and pickaxe set at about $40. They may start running around saying things like “the creepers are coming”, but rest assured these foam weapons are quite harmless.



Laser Pointer

To any normal person, a laser is probably just that thing inside a CD-ROM drive. To a geek that never grew up, a laser is a gloriously coherent monochromatic electromagnetic radiation beam of sheer awesomeness. Red is boring though: go for green, blue, or purple for extra wow factor. are the best; the Nano line starts at $99.


Once they’re bored of simply pointing at things, point them in the direction of my own list of 6 uses for an old laser pointer 6 Uses For An Old Laser Pointer Here are 6 things do with a laser pointer once you're all pointed out. Read More .

Arduino Starter Kit

Your geek might not be quite ready to embrace their inner child with LEGO: try Arduino instead, which is like the big-boys version of LEGO, but for electronics. Programmed by computer, the Arduino is an incredibly easy to get started with micro-controllers, so they can get right with building basically anything, without needing a degree in electrical engineering. Warning: you may start finding tripwire alarms How To Make a Simple Arduino Alarm System Detect movement, then scare the heck out of an intruder with a high pitched alarm sounds and flashing lights. Does that sound fun? Of course it does. That's the goal of today's Arduino project, suitable... Read More , TV remote control pranks Introducing the TV Devil, An Easy Remote Control Arduino Prank Read More and other such nonsense lying around the house.



If you’re in the UK, check out my own recently launched DuinoBits store where you can buy a jam-packed starter kit for £70 (and use the coupon code “makeuseof” for 5% off); for our US readers, Adafruit sell a smaller starter pack for $85. Don’t forget to send them a link to our free Getting Started with Arduino Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Read More guide.

Parrot AR Drone Quadrocopter

Helicopters are boring: your geek wants a quadrocopter. The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 ($300) is controlled by iOS or Android mobile devices, and features two HD cameras. It’s an incredible bit of kit – lots of fun to fly, and able to take some amazing video footage if your subject matter is right. You can read my full review of the Parrot AR drone Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Review and Giveaway The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is the most expensive remote control toy money can buy; it’s a smartphone controlled quadrocopter with a 720p HD camera, and it’s ridiculously fun, but quite temperamental. What follows is... Read More here, along with some sample videos taken from the device.



Oculus Rift Developers Kit [No Longer Available]

The future of virtual reality is already upon us: although not officially launched as a consumer product, the Oculus Rift is already being tipped as the next great gaming revolution. It’s a virtual reality headset which tracks your head movements, giving the stunning illusion of being in a completely different environment. There even unofficial support for games like Skyrim and MineCraft. Read my full review of the Oculus Oculus Rift Development Kit Review and Giveaway The Oculus Rift has finally arrived, and is making heads turn (literally) all over the gaming community. No longer are we confined to to peering through a flat window into the gaming worlds we love... Read More development kit here.


Demand has outstripped supply for the past year, but it looks like things are finally picking up. The site is currently listing December 2013 shipping for new orders – you might want to contact them to confirm the exact shipping date. Failing that, you could always grab one off eBay.

Man Dolls

Who said dolls are just for girls? This 9-inch talking Bender would make a superb addition to any big geek’s desk, with a variety of phrases like “Bite my shiny metal ass” just a press of a button away.


If they’re not Futurama fans, you’re bound to find something they’ll like in ThinkGeek’s man-doll collection.

Hornby Digital Train Set

Model railroads have come a long way since I was a kid: they’re digital now, so you can run a number of trains on the same track without having to mess about with electrically isolating sections. Be warned though: the hobby has a tendency to turn from a single starter set to “we’re just going to convert the loft”.

Are you a big kid at heart? Tell us what you’d want for the holidays, then point your partner in the direction of this list and hope they take the hint.

Related topics: Buying Tips, Toys.

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  1. Adetunji O
    December 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Great article, at one point i felt he was reporting me!

  2. Tom S
    December 9, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Hey, I think James Bruce wrote this article about me...a man child. Great and entertaining read!

  3. Yoh
    December 7, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Geeks, and kids alike, all over the world will love this timeless toy:

  4. Sheila C
    December 7, 2013 at 2:38 am

    Quadcopter for me please.

  5. Matt P
    December 7, 2013 at 2:32 am

    I'm with Matt on this one, although I'd prefer if the quadcopter used a joystick or controller rather than an app.

  6. Joel L
    December 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    That quadrocopter looks awesome! Also, lasers.

    • Matt S
      December 6, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      I want a quadcopter too, but I have no idea what'd I would do with it. Probably just crash it into a tree.