Geek gift guide for 2011 – electronics geeks

    _Electronics geeks

Hello, world! This is the second geek gift guide post. The first was more general, and this is specifically showing gifts aimed at electronics geeks. Keep your eye peeled for a few more guides.

    You can measure up an electronics geek by the amount of time that passes between unwrapping a gift and pulling out a screwdriver in order to open it up. They (we) like to build things and break things in the quest to learn how they work and how we could make them work better. The gift ideas below range from beginner to advanced and are sure to have something to please.

    Kits from make mag or sparkfun or adafruit
    Electronics kits are a great way to get your feet wet in electronics. They generally contain everything you need in order to make your project and all you have to do is solder the components on the board. This is a great way to build a frustration-free project, and you also get to see how things are designed “the proper way” Pick out a kit that looks interesting from either of those places and it’ll be a sure fire couple of quiet hours spent with the soldering iron.

    Ponoko gift card – Ponoko is a great company out of new zealand that helps makers build stuff. They have laser cutters and all kinds of other tools that you can pay to have them cut materials with. This is really good for getting laser cut acrylic cases or gauge clusters.

    Hackerspace gift certificate – depending on where you live, there may be a hackerspace near by. This is like an artists collective for geeks. They usually have all kinds of tools, materials and like minded people. They are good places to meet other geeks and collaborate on projects. They generally charge admission to cover rent, so a gift certificate is like free entry! Look for a hackerspace in your area here.

    Arduino starter pack – The arduino is a microcontroller (tiny basic computer) that can be used for everything from building robots to keeping your cat off of the counter. It is a simple introduction into the world of microcontrollers and programming. If you love a geek and they have an arduino, then they probably want more than one. If they don’t have one, then they may want one. It’s really neat typing something into your computer and then seeing a motor move in the real world! The starter kit is a good idea for someone who is just starting out with arduino, but if they are already involved, then just buying the arduino itself is probably best.

    Getting started with arduino – This book is written by one of the people who helped create the arduino from the start. It contains a ton of sample projects and acts as a great on ramp to the world of arduino.

    Circuit board vice – This is like a third hand. It helps to hold the circuit board steady while you hold the solder and the soldering iron with both of your hands. This particular model is kind of upscale, so feel free to buy at the price point that fits your budget.

    Weller soldering iron station – It may not look like much to the non-Geek, but a good soldering iron (or pencil as this one is called) is just like having comfortable boots while skiing. It doesn’t actually help you perform the task better, but it certainly helps you enjoy it more and do it longer. This Weller is about 10x the cost of a cheap iron from radio shack, but a true professional uses professional tools. Its variable heat setting ranges from 350 to 850 and it is accurate to within 9 degrees! It also shuts off after 99 minutes of use, so you don’t have to worry about burning down the house.

    Soldering iron tip cleaner – Cleaning the tip of your soldering iron really prolongs the life of the tip. You can either rub it against a wet sponge or get one of these brass tip cleaners. It’s convenient because the sponges dry out all of the time and this is always ready to go.

    Soldering exhaust fan – Soldering makes a tiny bit of noxious smelling smoke. It’s probably not good to breathe that in. This little desktop fan has a filter on it so it can suck in the smoke and filter out the bad bits. Just set it on your desk and let it do the sucking.

    Extech multimeter – A multimeter is a tool to measure voltages, resistance, temperature and much more. This one is a good blend of features and price. You can spend more if you would like to, but I wouldn’t spend less.

    Breadboards – Breadboards are a tool that lets you assemble a circuit without soldering anything together. It is really good for prototyping and for testing out a theory or design. Grab a couple of these in case they want to have a few projects going simultaneously.

    Flush cutters – Flush cutters are for trimming off the rest of the metal legs of components after they have been soldered on. It can be done with other tools, but this one works the best and looks the cleanest.

    Keep your eyes peeled for more geek gift guides. Do you think I missed something important of useful? Leave it in the comments!