The Gadget Geek
They replace their laptop more often than most people do their socks. Their toaster oven has Bluetooth. And it's a toss-up whom they love more — their spouse or their Android smartphone. Whether they're an old-school coder or just a slave to technolust, they're probably the most difficult person to buy for on your list. Never fear. At the core of every gadget lover there's still a kid hoping for toys instead of socks on Christmas morning, the bigger and shinier the better. With that in mind, we've assembled a four-pack of suggestions that cover everything from your Secret Santa present for the office IT guy, to the gift of suborbital space flight for the evil genius who already has every gadget on Earth.
MAGNETIC BLACK HOLE SMART MASS THINKING PUTTY | $12.99 | It looks like the proverbial lump of coal, but really it's a giant leap forward in toy chemistry. Like the Silly Putty of old, you can stretch it, bounce it, and sculpt it into vaguely inappropriate shapes. However, if you leave a glob near the included Neodymium magnet overnight, by the next morning the putty will have moved by itself, engulfing the magnet like a 1950's movie monster. Good for hours of procrastinatory desktop experimentation, as an added bonus it might be just magnetic enough to "accidentally" wipe those embarrassing VHS family movies your mom hauls out every Christmas.
LACIE XTREMKEY ALL-TERRAIN USB FLASH DRIVE | $45 8GB, $77 16GB | If the marketing is to be believed, you can run one of these flash drives through the dishwasher, roll over it with a car, and then leave it in a snowbank until spring — and still be able to pull your files off it afterward. Not only is the LaCie Xtremkey crushproof, waterproof, and temperature resistant, the post-industrial brushed steel case designed by French sculptor Constance Guiset is a work of modern art, guys ! It's unlikely your giftee will ever need all of that durability, but that's probably true of their sword cane and nightvision goggles as well. For the well-equipped geek, readiness is all.
LaCie.com; available at Amazon.com, NewEgg.com, and other online vendors of electronics and computer hardware
SCOTTEVEST "REVOLUTION PLUS" WINTER JACKET | $200 | Even if they've got the best technology money can buy, they still need a good way to lug it all around. ScottEVEST has been solving this dilemma for the technical traveler for over a decade, and with the Revolution Plus they've created the killer app for the wintertime Boston commute. The insulated, waterproof, and breathable jacket conceals 26 pockets designed to comfortably and discreetly hold a cell phone, MP3 player, digital camera, sunglasses, water bottle and even an iPad, along with an internal "personal area network" of wire management to hide the cables for earbuds, microphones, or power packs. If your friend loads it up right, they might never need a carry-on bag again.
VIRGIN GALACTIC SUBORBITAL SPACE FLIGHT | Tickets $200,000; deposits $20,000 | No matter how hard you try, sometimes you can scour the planet looking for the perfect gift and come up empty. When that happens, there's only one place left to look, and Virgin Galactic has made it easy. A $20,000 deposit (payable at www.virgingalactic.com or through any of their accredited space travel agents) reserves a seat on one of the company's proposed suborbital space-tourism-flights. After three days of training, six paying passengers and two pilots will board a carbon-composite launch vehicle for a two-hour flight from VG's New Mexico spaceport to 316,000 feet, promising epic views of Earth and a short period of microgravity playtime. Once your loved one returns to terra firma, they'll have a nifty set of astronaut's wings and a story that'll score them free drinks for years to come. It's the gift that keeps on giving — excellent news, since you might need some time to work up the additional $180,000 the flight will cost once Virgin gets the project off the ground.
— John Bowker