We at PCWorld's GeekTech blog cover lots of unique and clever gadgetry and geekery over the course of a year, and some of the items we see would make great gifts. Browse through this slideshow to get some unique gift ideas for the geeks you love--and maybe to add some entries to your own wish list.
TARDIS Cookie Jar
Regrettably, you can't have a real TARDIS, the time-travel vehicle from the BBC's popular Doctor Who sci-fi TV series. But you can store your cookies in a jar shaped like one. The Doctor Who TARDIS Talking Cookie Jar ($30) stores sweet geek treats and will play TARDIS sound effects. At 11 by 6 by 6 inches, it can hold a lot of cookies--but it's not larger on the inside than on the outside.
For: Sci-fi geeks with a sweet tooth. Yum.
Stay Puft Marshmallows
If busting ghosts is your gift recipient's thing, Think Geek recommends these Stay Puft Caffeinated Gourmet Marshmallows. We admit that $20 (or for that matter, the recently introduced special sale price of $15) is a bit steep for a box of puffed sugar confections--even taking into account the caffeine boost for "marshmallow achievers"--but this gift is sure to please a Ghostbusters fan.
For: Any geek who has ever randomly and spontaneously sung, "Bustin' makes me feel good."
Arduino Starter Pack
Arduino is a small programmable circuit board that's extremely popular with hackers and the DIY set. And the Arduino Starter Pack from Adafruit ($65) is a great way to get started with this incredibly flexible microcontroller board. The kit includes an Arduino Uno microcontroller, a USB cable, a wall adapter, and various other components to help get you off the ground.
If your recipients are new to Arduino, direct them to our handy Arduino primer for background on the topic, and have them check out PCWorld's GeekTech blog (geektech.pcworld.com), where we regularly cover Arduino projects and other hacks.
For: Geeks who get excited about soldering irons.
Minecraft is a 3D world-building game that enables players to build digital representations of just about anything using colorful, retro-style blocks. If you're looking for a great stocking-stuffer for a gamer geek, check out these Minecraft magnets ($20). These magnets are modeled after blocks from the game; of course they're useful for sticking stuff on your refrigerator door, but they're even more awesome when you use them to create Minecraft-themed fridge art.
If you're interested in learning more about Minecraft, consult our Minecraft tutorial.
For: Gamer geeks of all sorts, but especially those whose living room resembles an 8-bit video game).
Giant Plush Microbes
This holiday season, why not give someone you love a virus?
A plush virus, that is.
Giant Microbes is a collection of plush toys modeled after real-life bacteria and viruses. The company offers lots and lots of toys to choose from; if you're looking for something holiday-themed, check out the Stocking Box ($25), which includes penicillin, salmonella, a red blood cell, a dust mite, and an amoeba toy.
For: Science geeks--or anyone who likes funky plush toys.
A 3D Printer
Star Trek fans will surely remember the replicator, a devices that could re-create just about anything on demand. We're not quite there yet, but 3D printers are a start. These devices typically melt plastic and then carefully layer it, in the manner of a dot matrix printer with a third dimension, until it forms a full object.
The most popular 3D printer today is the MakerBot Thing-o-Matic 3D Printer Kit. At $1200, it doesn't come cheap, and recipients must assemble it themselves, but it's the ultimate gift for a DIY geek.
For: Geeks looking for the next big thing.
62 Projects to Make With a Dead Computer
Any self-respecting techie has random old electronics and components laying around, gathering dust. The book 62 Projects to Make With a Dead Computer by Randy Sarafan (list: $15) is a fun collection of ways to revive dead gadgetry by making something useful out of them, including one project that turns two dead MP3 players, a pair of funnels, and some cheap earbuds into a set of speakers.
For: Any geek with too much old tech cluttering up their house.
Cooking for Geeks
Geeks have to eat. Help them eat better--and have more fun in the kitchen--with the Cooking for Geeks cookbook (list price: $35). This cookbook is more than just a collection of recipes; it also explains some of the science behind cooking, and suggests some fun kitchen hacks and experiments.
For: Geeks interested in the science behind bacon.
Lomography is a company that produces various low-fi film cameras designed to take photos with various effects applied to them. Though the cameras are hardly high-tech, they can produce some stunning, dreamlike photography, and one might be the perfect gift for any photo geek. The basic Fisheye One camera ($55) lets you take fun, slightly distorted photos. For something a little more conventional, consider the Holga 135 ($49). And for more options, see our story on Lomography cameras.
For: Geeks looking to express their artistic side.
Asteroids Wall Decals
Perhaps your geek gift recipient is a fan of old-school video games. If so, you might have a match with these wall decals from Blik ($45; shopping link), which replicate the classic Asteroids game on your wall. Blik offers similar decals for Centipede, Super Mario Bros., and Donkey Kong, to name a few.
For: Geeks who eyeball old arcade cabinets on Craigslist in their free time.
We've talked a lot about the Kinect ($150)--Microsoft's motion controller for the Xbox 360--over the past year, but not for reasons anyone would have imagined when it first came out. Sure, there are some interesting games out for the Kinect, but the most exciting development involves things that people have hacked the Kinect to do. You can use it to mix beats, manage multiple monitors, control the lights, and, well, you get the idea. But things are just getting started: Microsoft is working on tools for developers that will let them take full advantage of the controller.
For: Gamers and any hacker who's looking for a cheap 3D camera.
Lego sets aren't just toys, and the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 kit ($280) proves it. This programmable Lego robotics kit includes a processor "brick", three servo motors, programming software for your Mac or Windows PC, and an assortment of Lego pieces. As is the case with any Lego set, you can follow the instructions--or you can build something completely different, like these fun robotic creations or this Mindstorms-based clock.
For: Geeks who, like your humble author, couldn't bear to part with their Lego collection from childhood.
If all else fails, you can't go wrong with a T-shirt. Many purveyors of fine geeky tees exist on the Internet, including Shirt.woot and Threadless. We especially like the "GEEK" tee from Threadless ($20). If you're looking for something for the Web designer in your life, check out this design from Pop + Shorty ($25). Or give a gift certificate--Threadless offers them in $25, $50, and $100 denominations.
For: Just about any geek with a torso.
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