Ah, the holidays: overindulgence, family feuds, and unrelenting pressure to find the perfect gift for every person you know—co-workers included. After all, with practically everything on the planet (and a few things off it) available to buy via your smartphone, there’s no longer any excuse for not getting it right this season.

So, in our contribution to the true spirit of giving, we’ve rounded up a list of tech-oriented gift ideas for the folks with whom you spend most of your waking hours, broken out by role. So whether you’re shopping for devs, ops heroes, product managers, support engineers, or all of the above, we’ve got you covered.

No need to thank us—just buy us something nice in return. For example …

For software developer superstars

cozmo robotCozmo robot

Sure, robots are coming for our jobs and automation will soon make daytime TV binge-watchers of us all. But, in the meantime, look how fun! Cozmo is the kind of robot you used to see only in movies but now exists IRL. Nurture and play with him like a pet. Watch him explore and figure out the world. Marvel as he learns to talk and recognize your face. Listen to him sing. Give him a fist bump. And best of all for devs: tinker with the code that makes him tick. Cozmo doesn’t come cheap, of course. But you already knew that.

XKCD posters

XKCD poster

A more affordable but no less awesome option for the developer in your life is an XKCD poster. From the makers of every dev’s favorite webcomic comes a selection of brainy, irreverent, off-the-wall prints to go, well, on the wall. Your developer friend will be so busy admiring it, they won’t even notice that you didn’t get them a robot.

For ops heroes

Raspberry Pi Zero

Raspberry Pi Zero

Ops is a complex game. Lots of moving parts, lots of problems, lots of pressure. Which is why the Raspberry Pi Zero—a tiny, low-cost, single-board computer with a 1GHz single-core CPU and 512MB RAM—is an operations engineer’s dream. Help them rediscover the joy of computing with this nifty little gizmo, not much bigger than a stick of gum and, at $5, cheaper than a slice of actual raspberry pie.

Cathode app


Although time travel still eludes us, Cathode comes pretty close to making it happen. How? By enabling you to turn any computer screen into a vintage terminal. Or, as maker Secret Geometry put it, to “disregard decades of user interface progress” in order to work in classic retro style. Complete with classic bitmap fonts, slow-fading pixels, boot sounds, and screen glitches, Cathode may indeed be, as one customer reviewer claims, “the greatest thing to ever occur.”
space invaders sweater

Space Invaders holiday sweater

Ops heroes put out fires for a living. Which means that, when the work is done, it can get pretty chilly. Not only will this Space Invaders sweater keep your ops buds warm and cozy, it will also advertise their love of old-school arcade games, their count-me-in attitude to festive frivolity, and their heroic indifference to the vagaries of modern fashion. Zap!

For brilliant product managers

Is it done tshirt“Is It Done?” T-shirt

Well, is it? Because your product manager needed it, like, yesterday. Deadlines exist for a reason. They need it to be done and they also need this T-shirt, because they’re under an awful lot of pressure, and if a stylish garment can spare them the exertion of speaking even three short words, by golly they are going to wear it.

4D Cityscape Game of Thrones: Westeros puzzle

game of thrones puzzle

Get thousands of pieces to fall into place. Manage multiple levels of complexity. Convert visionary imaginative ideas into a physical entity. Am I describing the daily routine of a product manager? Yes, yes I am. But I’m also (sort of) describing this incredible 4D Cityscape Game of Thrones: Westeros Puzzle. Snap one up soon because, as you know, winter is coming (specifically, the part of winter commonly referred to as “the holidays”).

For super support engineers

echo dotAmazon Echo Dot

Working support can be grueling. Doing it well demands selflessness and altruism. But who’s supporting the supporters? Who’s got their backs? Who’s making sure they order more TP before the last roll runs out? Or reading them the news when they wake up in the morning? Or queuing up some soothing music when they come in late from a long, hard day? Alexa, that’s who. Sweet, kind, almost-human Alexa.

Military drop-tested MacBook case

macbook case

This time of year, a lot of people do a lot of online shopping. Which means e-commerce websites may need a lot of support. Which means support engineers can get pretty wound up. Which means their MacBooks are in danger of finding themselves summarily hurled out of office windows into the cold December air. Which means those MacBooks need all the protection they can get. Which means you should buy your nearest support engineer this Urban Armor Gear laptop case. Got it?

Or, give the gift of giving

Of course, as fun as mindless consumerism can be, the holidays don’t have to be all about exchanging silly gifts and accumulating yet more meaningless stuff. In fact, it’s a great opportunity to do some good in the world.

For example, you could donate on your tech friend’s behalf to Worldbuilders: Geeks Doing Good, a geek-centered non-profit supporting humanitarian efforts worldwide. And there’s still some fun involved: Your friend’s name will be entered into a lottery for sci-fi/fantasy books, board games, and many more cool, geektastic prizes.

Happy shopping, and happy holidays!


Editor’s note: Special thanks to Tori Wieldt, Clay Smith, Kevin Downs, Andrew Schmitt, Kristen Lavavej, Sean Winters, and all the Relics who shared their great ideas for this guide.

B.J. Hinshaw is a freelance writer based in Northern California. View posts by .

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