Buying a truly suitable gift for someone who’s passionately involved/ infatuated/ obsessed in a world you don’t entirely understand is a difficult thing. You wouldn’t, for example, buy a weekend drag racer a part for his beloved hot rod because A) You don’t know an intake from a manifold, B) You have no idea how to discern quality equipment from total pieces of crap, and C) Your lovable speed freak probably has several high-end versions of the same part already hanging in his garage.
The same philosophy applies to us uber-geeks. Most of us really know our stuff and already have a good idea what we need and where we can get it at the best price.
While it’s impossible for us here at Maximum PC to know exactly where your intended recipient’s area of interests lie, we do know of several items – and entire genres – that any true blue tech geek would or should heartily avoid. Here then for your reading enjoyment are twenty of the worst of the worst. Adjust your shopping accordingly.
3D Television Set (with glasses)
Living rooms should not be 1950s-era movie theatres
If you’re splurging serious bucks on a serious gift, you could find a better place to do it than on a 3D TV. Yes, the marketing propaganda surrounding the fad is huge and generally unavoidable. But, as Public Enemy once famously said about something much more important, don’t believe the hype. As of today, nerdy glasses are mandatory, the resulting images are fair to middlin’, and there simply isn’t a lot of material to watch. In the near future, we’ll have a better 3D TV (without the goofy glasses). And on the horizon beyond that are truly revolutionary technologies such as holographic TV, where fully-realized three-dimensional images “float” in the middle of your living room. In the meantime, a nice LED TV would be an absolutely stupendous substituion.
Social networking overkill
While it’s true some geeks are so alienated that their only contact with the outside world comes through social networking sites, do any of us really want a device whose sole purpose is to “tweet?” NO! For that, we have keyboards, mobile phones, PDAs, and those microscopic circuit boards we’ve secretly inserted in our craniums. And, damn it, we know how to use them! So getting us Peek’s $200 TwitterPeek, a somewhat flawed gizmo that exists only for 140-character fixes, is nothing short of wasteful.
Don’t touch us with that.
As though it’s not already bad enough that you’ve got an Apple product in your hands to begin with, the astounding plethora of crap-tastic third party accessories is enough to make the sanest tech fan gasp in horror. From the creepy Phone Fingers to the ridiculous iType and the over-the-top-unnecessary iCarta Toilet Roll, the catalogue of increasingly outlandish i-ccessories must be stopped. Start the path to healing by buying them some nice headphones instead.
Too cheap for its own good?
A $188 budget-conscious iPad-like device would be pretty cool if it does what it claims without simultaneously dishing out a heaping helping of hassles. Sadly, most early reports agree – Cherrypal’s freshly-launched CherryPad America tablet PC is clearly not hassle-free. Bigger than a smartphone yet smaller than the iPad, the CherryPad is sized just right. And it certainly handles the online and offline stuff most owners would want it to handle. But from its quirky display to its even quirkier “resistive touch” user interface and even its general performance, the CherryPad seems to prove that tablets aren’t a good place to get all thrifty. The product is new to the market and may improve with time, but like your mamma said, if a deal seems too good to be true it probably is.
Compact Disc Anything
RIP the LP killer
Any audiophile worth his weight in Rotel amplifiers will tell you the sound from a compact disc beats the sound from a compressed MP3 file any day of the week. And you know, they’re right. But these days, very few of us lounge in our posh, sound-deadened living rooms, fondling our pipes, and critically evaluating the sonic qualities of each and every note. Most of us, and especially those with a high geek factor, download our music and play it in less than ideal conditions – often when on the move. Thusly, the CD (and all its breathren) is dead to us.
Pillow Remote Control
Nothing says “Happy Holidays’ like battery acid leaking from your headrest.
An ugly pillow that doubles as a poorly functioning remote control? The ability to change channels every time you lay your head down for a nap? Getting to feel like a complete moron, ridiculously gesturing with a fluffy padded remote every time you want to up the volume? Oooh, sign us up! Wait, no…not really. That was sarcasm. Please, don’t…just…don’t.
The purveyor of unwanted expense
Some say a gift card is preferable to cash because it shows the giver did more than merely reach into their wallet. But you know, we techies like wallet-ensconced goodies. You see, chances are we’ve already priced out whatever we need from some bizarre online source in some far-off land. Particularly when it comes to hardcore peripherals such as hard drives or power supplies, gift cards complicate the process and potentially force us to pay too much.
Useless USB Connected Devices
USB Pet Rock, we’re talking to you.
Yes, USB 2.0 is a marvel of modern connectivity enabling us to transfer files, photos, music, videos and information quickly and convienently but a humping dog attached to your PC does not exactly scream “thoughtful and classy gift giving.” Yet, it seems that for every genuinely useful USB device out there (ahem, flash drives) there are a dozen that are just senseless novelty at best and painfully dumb at worst.
Digital Photo Frames
Like socks and neckties…and fruitcake.
Quite likely the necktie of the current tech generation, a digital picture frame isn’t always a bad gift. Indeed, if you load it up with caring, loving photos to show what a caring, loving person you are and then send it off to grandma, she might finally forgive you for all your past indiscretions. But give one of these to a techno-geek and expect to find it for pennies on the dollar at his next garage sale.
iPod FM Transmitter
Big time hassle, small time sound
Say your intended geeky gift recipient has a bazillion tunes loaded on his iPod but no way to play those tunes through his old school car cassette deck. You could give him an iPod FM transmitter, a wee little device that plugs into the player’s headphone jack and wirelessly streams music to the car audio system. You could also opt for a “cassette adapter,” which does essentially the same thing but in corded fashion. But you shouldn’t do either. The sound quality is anything but impressive, and the operational hazards will have your loved one driving off the road and into a tree in no time. Instead, give him a crisp $50 bill on the condition he use it as downpayment on an all-new deck with integrated iPod support or a USB tether. And tell him to get rid of those acid-washed jeans while he’s at it.
Moshi Moshi 01 Handset
The brightest communication-centric minds of our time have spent the better part of a quarter century relieving us of the cumbersome shape and the corded format of the old school telephone handset. And they’ve done a pretty good job, haven’t they? Today, the average in-home unit is slim, lightweight, and cordless. The average cell phone is tinier still. So why in the name of Thomas Edison would anyone – never mind a tech head – even consider hardwiring a cumbersome “traditional” handset to a mobile phone and carting it with them wherever they go? Are there better ways to spend $30 than on Native Union’s Moshi Moshi 01? Is water wet?
Making the beer hat look cool since 2010.
Conceptually, there’s nothing wrong with a product that permits hands-free viewing of the videos and movies we’ve loaded into our personal media players. Indeed, it’s a magnificent idea. Just not when it goes down this way. With the imaginatively named TV Hat, you place your player in the front of the brim (if it fits – many won’t), lower the side flaps so you look like a raging redneck with something to hide, then view the image through a skew-happy magnifying screen. OMG. LMFAO.
Hello Kitty Pink Pocket Rocket Vibrator
While there are a plethora of questionable products sporting the now infamous Hello Kitty trademark (contact lenses, retainers, motor oil), this one has got to be the worst offender. Sure, it’s difficult shopping for that rare creature known as the “girl geek” but just grabbing something electric with a Hello Kitty face on it isn’t really going to do the job. Plus, there’s just something about bedroom toys dressed up in such childlike guise that makes us feel all yucky. Ergo, this is one electronic “peripheral” we can do without.
Star Wars R2-D2 Data Droid Cassette Player
A double shot of antiquity
Really, who can blame grandma for not knowing what’s hot and what’s not when a character and a technology from forty years ago are morphed into a singular, cheesy-to-the-max homage to life in the 70s. But trust us, dear grandma, the Star Wars R2-D2 Data Droid Cassette Player is so far off the mark we’d need a GPS to get back. Hint, hint. We’d need a GPS to …
Call us weird – and believe me, as total geeks, we’ve been called worse – but we think a vacuum cleaner, and particularly one with a bristle attachment, does pretty well in the keyboard cleaning department. They aren’t particularly efficient when faced with caked-on scuzz, but then again neither is this Silly Putty offshoot. According to the manufacturer’s website, you merely squish the Cyber Clean goop into cracks and crevices, lift it back out, et voila, a fully cleansed item. Yet the whole process seems more than a bit repulsive, and we really want to know how the heck you then clean the Cyber Clean. Ew.
Third Party Handheld Games
We’re not trying to mislead you here – Galaga is still our favourite way to spend a rainy day or a bus ride – but there are better ways to handle your game nostalgia then spending $20 on a knock off that won’t last through the weekend. Especially not the way you mash buttons. Anyhow, real geeks are just going to hack their machines to Windows 3.1 and play Road Blasters on their PCs or buy a DS.
Portable Kitchen Electronics
And this is good idea how?
If you’re in your car, and you decide you really need pizza then maybe swing through Dominos. You can even pull over and order ahead on your smartphone if you’re in such a rush. But there’s really no excuse for a portable pizza oven, or sandwich maker, or stove that plugs into a 12volt cigarette lighter. Let’s keep it simple: cars are for driving, pizza is for eating and stoves should never ride shotgun. Okay?
Is that an iPhone in your underwear or are you just happy to see me?
While finding the right place for all your gadgets can be a challenge, that’s why they make backpacks, messenger bags and murses. Or fanny packs. Heck, a plastic bag from the corner store would be an improvement on this tragedy. Plus, nothing says “Rob me” like carrying around a $500 tablet on your torso.
Or as we geeks refer to them, “dog toys”
Like, are you a total dinosaur? Mouse pads died out, or so we thought, when the last of the analog mice succumbed to their superior-in-every-way optical/laser offspring at the turn of the millennium. Optical and laser mice don’t need mouse pads, yet somehow the pesky rascals remain in the marketplace. We appreciate that you love us in all our geekiness and come bearing gifts – we really do – but please don’t waste your hard-earned dollars on something we’ll never use and don’t even need.
Uh… shoryuken is forward, down, forward, fierce punch. Duh.
Listen, we know that you love Street Fighter. We do too. But buying/funding a painfully permanent reminder of Contra codes isn’t going to be quite so kitsch in forty years when you’re trying to explain to your children what an “NES” is. While your MARIO NECK TATTOO may be a conversation starter now, how are you going to feel when the hipster girl of your dreams is a Sega Genesis fan? Huh, Mario Tattoo Neck guy?