Thanks to Dave Banks, Ken Denmead, Jonathan Liu and Jenny Williams for their contributions to this year’s lists.
Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, 25th Anniversary Edition
It’s only the most definitive book on the origins of hackers, written by the best technology writer alive. Where did hackers come from? Levy traces their roots from model railroad enthusiasts at MIT, who became the natural candidates to administer the university’s mainframe computer. These students quickly learned to program the computer, and challenged each other to write programs using as few lines of code as possible. Meticulous and canonical. Buy it on Amazon
Combine toys and games with your love of Monty Python. There is Monty Python Fluxx (with an expansion pack), a plush killer rabbit toy (and also slippers and a hand puppet), the talking Black Knight with removable appendages, a cow catapult set, the Trojan Rabbit, Knights of Ni Chibi plush, a plush holy grail and, of course, the holy hand grenade of Antioch. You can’t go wrong with any of those gifts.
Pogo Sketch iPhone Stylus
The Pogo Sketch is made of conductive material, allowing you to write on your stylus-less smartphone or iPad. It’s the size of half of a drinking straw and comes with a clip so you don’t lose it. Great for art programs, using your device while wearing mittens, or just because you prefer it over your finger. Buy it on Amazon.
That’s right, the coolest dice ever, forged in the workshop of crazed genius Poles. They have tons of different styles of dice ranging from Deadlands (undead Old West!) to giant d20s used for keeping track of life in MtG, Arkham Horror, large 6-siders with Polish flags for the pips, and Cthulhu. One of their new products are markers, plastic pebbles labeled with runes, radiation symbols and so on — great for marking a location in a tabletop full of miniatures. Q-Workshop.com.
Players Handbook Races
The strength of D&D’s vast pool of materials is also a disadvantage — if you want to play a game, oftentimes you need a big ole stack of books to gather up all the rules, skills, and powers that apply to your character. Enter Player’s Handbook Races, slender quick-reference booklets that compile all the racial rules into one volume, with one book per race. So far only Dragonborn and Tiefling are available, but there are more on the way.
Luke, I am Your Father
One of the most famous fathers in the geek world is, of course, Darth Vader. Don’t miss this Star Wars action figure pack with Darth and Luke, and it comes complete with a Father’s Day card. Other Darth Vader gifts are a great idea, too.
Fun, inexpensive RC robots with only two functions — forward and turn. They come in a bunch of different shapes and colors, but all look like goofy science fiction robots. They’re great fun and the perfect diversion — even little kids can operate these babies. Also great for a cubicle toy. Buy them on Amazon.
Is telling time the old fashioned way too easy? Get your nearest Geek Dad a binary clock. They’ll learn to read binary without even thinking, if they don’t already know how.
Titan X-2 Flash Laptop Case
This is an awe-inspiring laptop case with a hard shell, a heavily padded interior, and enough extra organizational compartments inside that it could work as a briefcase. And for dads striving to avoid the doldrums of the buttoned-down look, the X-2′s sweet appearance reminds one of some kind of futuristic pack used for storing nuclear codes or something. Buy it on Amazon.
Only the best guide to learning electronics ever created. Author Charles Platt starts you off easy — all you do in Lesson One is shock your tongue with a 9-volt battery! The challenges ramp up from there, and unless you’re an expert hardware hacker you will very soon encounter projects that challenge you. Best of all, Platt makes it fun — he encourages you to blow fuses, fry LEDs, nuke batteries, and basically learn to accept and understand mistakes. Buy it on Amazon.
AKG Black Mamba Earbuds
Audiophile earbuds. OK, the sound is excellent, but that’s to be expected. One of the best features is its superb noise canceling, wear these babies on the bus and you’ll feel like you’re all by yourself. And since everyone uses their earbuds with smart phones these days, the Black Mambas pack an inline mic. Buy them on Amazon.
EyeTV Hybrid TV Tuner
USB stick that you plug into your computer and it plugs into a handy DTV antenna or coax cable, allowing you to watch, pause and record live TV on a PC or Mac. There’s even an iPhone app that works as a remote control, or if you’d rather, the device comes with a more traditional remote. Buy it on Amazion
Vuzix Wrap 310 Goggles
A heads-up display that lets you watch movies in tiny screens hidden inside big sunglasses. Let’s face it, there’s so much science fiction out there that it’s hard for Vuzix to really replicate the 23rd-century technology, but they put out a pretty decent product by today’s standards. The specs say you get the same feeling as watching a 55″ screen at the distance of 10 feet. Maybe pack them for your next staff meeting? Buy them on Amazon.
Li’l Guppie Multitool
Carabiner slash multitool, going for less than $20 on Amazon. Packs a crescent wrench, Phillips and standard screwdrivers, a pen knife and ? bottle opener. Inexpensive, handy and durable, how can you go wrong/
Lego Board Games
The one pictured, Minotaurus, comes with 12 minifigs and two buildable Lego dice! In Lava Dragon, you battle to get the top of a pyramid while dodging lava. Pirate Code is more of a guessing game like the old standby Master Mind — guess the other player’s “code” — a certain combination of colored Lego jewels.