By John Sonmez December 16, 2013

Software Developer Gifts (And Other Tech Geek Gifts)

Software developer gifts aren't easy to find.

Buying gifts for software developers can be pretty difficult for a few reasons:

  • Software developers already buy what they want before you get a chance to buy it for them.  (I know I am guilty of doing this myself.  I’m a bit impatient to wait for a gift.)
  • Developers often are very picky about a specific keyboard or headphone or gadget, so you can’t just pick one—it has to be the right one.
  • Non-software developers and non-tech people don’t understand anything about our world, so it is hard for them to know what we like.

I’m creating this list not only for gift givers who happen to stumble here through Google, but for you.  That’s right, to give yourself the gift that your friends and family failed to give you, because they just don’t understand you like I do. Winking smile

This isn’t exactly my Christmas list, since I already have many of these items, but some of the tech type of stuff that I like myself.  (No particular order)

(While this list is still pretty relevant, you might want to check out the new list for 2015 here.)

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300 Wireless Amplified Stereo PC Gaming Headset

I actually just bought a pair of these headphones, and I like them quite a bit.

The audio quality is really good.  The battery life is great, and they are super comfortable.

z300

I really like the idea that this wireless headset has both Bluetooth and dual band Wi-Fi wireless.  This feature makes it very versatile, because I can use it for gaming, but I can also use it for listening to music on my phone or iPad and for Skype calls.

I thought about getting a wired headset, for a bit better sound quality, but I prefer the versatility instead.  If I were going to get a wired one, I would get the

Audio-Technica ATH-M50’s though.  After quite a bit of research, it appears those are the best value for your dollar in terms of wired headsets.

ath-m50

Netduino or Arduino

I’ve got an Arduino as well, but I haven’t really played around with it that much yet.

Both of these are basically small programmable micro-computers that you can use to build all kinds of things.  They are basically programmable circuit boards that you can attach all kinds of sensors and actuators to in order to create your own gadgets or experiment with programming machines that actually interact with the physical world.

The Arduino is programming using a C-like language and the Netduino, is programmed using C# or another .NET language.

When I bought my Arduino, I made the mistake of buying just a barebones one, so I didn’t have many projects to get me started with.  (Although this barebones one does make a very good budget gift, since it is so cheap.)

I’d really recommend for Arduino, getting a kit like this one.

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For the Netduino, this kit looks pretty awesome, although a bit more expensive.

netduino

The nice thing about these gifts is that the price can be as high or low as you want.  The cheapest barebones boards are very cheap, but you can buy a kit or add on to the board with accessories to up the price if needed.  Also, great future gift possibilities.

Rosewill Mechanical Keyboard

I’m not a huge keyboard geek, but I do love typing on a mechanical keyboard.  It reminds me of the days when I first got into computers and most keyboards were mechanical.

I have a Rosewill myself, and I really like it.  It just feels good typing on it.  Not sure if I type faster or better, but I have much more fun doing it.

There are a few different kinds of switches, I’d recommend reading this post to understand the differences.  (There are some nice animated GIFs, if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing as well.)

rosewill

If you are really hardcore, you can go with the Das Keyboard.  I have heard great things about it as well, and I know Iris Classon just got one that she loves.

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Plugable UD-3900 USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station with Dual Video Outputs

Ok, this thing is awesome, but it is a bit confusing.  Let me explain what it does.

Basically, you connect this to a USB 3.0 port on your PC, or, more likely, laptop and it acts like a docking station that gives you a bunch more USB ports, a couple of audio ports, wired networking (gigabit), and TWO—yes, that is right it is not a typo—TWO HDMI or DVI connections to connect two extra monitors.pluggable

What does all this mean?

It means that you can take your laptop, connect it to this bad boy and hook up 3 external screens to it in addition to the laptop’s screen.  (One of these screens would come from your laptop’s output.)

What do I use it for?

I have a Mac and PC laptop, as well as a PC desktop.  So, I can switch between all three of them and have all three of them share the same keyboard, mouse, microphone, etc.

The price is extremely cheap for what it does as well.

SwissGear Computer Laptop Backpack

I’ve got one of these backpacks, and I really like it.

It has lots of compartments to hold all my electronic devices and it feels like it is made very well.  Mine is also very comfortable to wear.

All of the SwissGear line is also very reasonably priced.  You can find better backpacks at higher price points, but as far as bang-for-buck, I’ve found the SwissGear backpacks to be hard to beat.

Here is the most popular and highest rated one on Amazon:

backpack

Even if you don’t get a SwissGear backpack, a backpack is a great developer gift, because most of us are always carrying around a laptop and several other tech gadgets.

Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband

Since I’m into fitness, you know I’m going to recommend at least one fitness related gift idea, and the one I’d recommend now would have to be the Fitbit.

I’ve got a Fitbit Flex and I love it.  The thing I like most about it is that I can basically just leave it on all the time and forget about it.  It also wirelessly syncs with its app on my phone, so I don’t need to dock it or charge it to get its data wherever I am.

The battery also lasts a pretty long time, (about 4-5 days,) which makes it much less of a hassle than the old version I used to have.

I haven’t tried the newer version of the Flex that has the display yet, but it is a bit more expensive.

Great way to keep track of your activity to help you develop a habit of being active.

fitbit

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner

This one is a bit more expensive, but totally worth it.  I’ve got the competitor to this product, the scanner that comes with NeatDesk, but I’ve been wanting to switch to the SnapScan, because it is wireless and can scan directly into Evernote.

I’ve been scanning all my documents for several years now and it really cuts down on clutter.

Best of all, since everything is in Evernote, I can find anything I need instantly, no matter where I am.

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Raspberry Pi

Many people get this one confused with the Arduino and Netduino, but this is a completely different thing.  The Raspberry Pi is a super cheap computer on a chip.  Not just a processor, this thing runs a real operating system and you can use it for all kinds of things.

This is a great little toy to hack around on and create a web server or tiny gaming box (MonoGame actually runs on this thing.)

And the price is extremely cheap for the starter version, but I’d recommend getting a kit like this one:

raspberry pi

i.Sound Portable Power Max Rechargeable Battery with 16,000 mAh

I like this portable power charger, but there are other alternatives that are a bit lighter as well.

Everyone should have some kind of portable power charger though—especially if you travel quite a bit.

This thing will really extend the life of your phone or tablet and is great in an emergency situation when you are out of power.  I used to get backup batteries for my phone, but this is a much more versatile option.

This particular charger also allows you to charge up to 5 devices and it can charge at 2.4 Amps, which will give you the fastest charge for a device like an iPad.  (Really important to know about, because not all USB chargers charge at the same rates.)

charger

Kindle Paperwhite

It feels strange to recommend this one, since I am always talking about how I just use the Kindle app on my iPad or phone now, but I just recently realized why the Paperwhite is so awesome after I got my wife one.

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A few big reasons:

  • Battery life.  Yes, I can read on my phone or iPad, but when travelling it is a pain to charge those devices over and over each and every day.  The Kindle lasts a really, really long time compared to a phone or tablet.  If you travel, and bring a Kindle, it is pretty likely that you’ll never need to charge it the whole trip—this is nice.
  • Weight.  This thing is light.  This matters when you read quite a bit, especially in bed.  My iPad Mini is pretty light, but the Kindle is still much lighter.
  • Sleep.  I recently discovered that looking at my iPad before going to bed, (which is what I do since I am reading,) actually disturbs my sleep.  Without getting into all the technical details, it basically causes you to produce less Melatonin.  Melatonin is essential to getting good sleep.  Anyway, the Kindle doesn’t have that same sleep stopping light as a brightly lit screen.

I’m actually wanting to get one of these for myself now after seeing my wife using hers.

My stuff

Let's not forget some gifts from Simple Programmer.

Check out my Products page to find my courses, books and other products—all of which make a great, and unique gift for a software developer or other technology professional.

Bonus! How about a gift that will help you get fit as well?

Here is a great gift idea:

Print out this article I wrote: The Complete Guide to Treadmill Desk Walking While Working and get a nice treadmill desk or standing desk set up.

I've lost over 50 pounds using one, with little effort.

Anything I left out?

Whew, didn’t mean for this post to be that long.  I could probably keep going, but I’ll stop here.  Anything major I left out that you’d recommend?  Let me know.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, if you click on the links in this post and buy something, something will go in my Christmas stocking—which of course I appreciate, because that helps me keep writing this blog and producing the content I produce.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."