Humour me, please. I’m going to pretend I’m not the only person who’s barely started Christmas shopping, and that there are other people out there who have no idea where to begin. I know, I know, you’re all terribly organised and you’ve had everything wrapped and ready since June, but just in case – I won’t tell anyone, promise – just in case you’re still looking for the odd knick-knack or seven, here’s the not-really-last-minute-at-all-honest NUSTEM Christmas 2015 Gift Guide:
We’re inordinately fond of things with (a.) flashing lights and (b.) bleepy sounds. So we’re rather taken with this DIY Synth Kit from London-based code/design collective Technology Will Save Us. Check out the rest of their shop, too – their DIY Gamer Kit is a neat project for those who enjoy soldering, and they’ve a bunch of simpler stuff too.
People who are actually musicians might be even more impressed with the Teenage Engineering Pocket Synths, which look bare-bones but apparently sound amazing. And they have animated submarines and factories, so there’s that.
…or go large, with the Ogo Bild Pod construction set.
…or go cardboard with Makedo (they’re based in the US, but you’ll find stock in several UK web retailers).
There are more ways of getting into programming computers than there are programming languages, and it can be rather daunting. At NUSTEM we’re particularly keen on tools which make it easy to interact with the real world. Our usual starting point is Oomlout’s ARDX Arduino kit.
We’ve found these octopus kites to be particularly good, particularly for young fliers. They also look terrific hanging on a bedroom wall.
Lists of Stuff
One advantage of going last with a Christmas List is that you get to crib off everyone else. So here’s a rundown of some of our favourite geeky web shops and Christmas gifts guides, in case you need further inspiration:
- New Scientist’s Christmas Gifts guide.
- The Verge’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guide.
- A Mighty Girl’s Girl Empowerment Holiday Gift Guide. US-based, but sorted by age and interest. Quite commercial/off-the-shelf, though, so maybe not very quirky or unusual, but there’s a vast range of ideas here.
- Modern Parents Messy Kids’ 400+ Stimulating and Engaging Toys. You could get lost in here for weeks. Also US-based, but so much stuff.
- Grand Illusions Toy Shop. Mad and rare oddities sold by former TV producers and toy collectors with an eye for the obscure and plain ridiculous. Their Christmas selection bags are an old favourite, though be prepared for little slips of paper with quirky hand-written notes rather than more familiar packaging – this is whimsy as a cottage industry.
- Maths Gear, from our chums Matt Parker and Steve Mould. They sell gear that’s maths-y, and quite often requires explaining. Twice. Slowly. We love ’em.
- The Science Museum Shop can be patchy, but the good stuff is really good.
- Design and technology can be hard to distinguish at times, so places like The Design Museum Shop and The Baltic Shop are always worth a look.
- Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. Not necessarily science, as such, but: they sell jars containing ‘A vague sense of unease.’ I’m pretty sure Fenwicks have some of this stuff outside their Food Hall, too.
- New to us: Present Indicative. A fabulous (and broad!) range of geeky gifts. Great stuff.
- US-based but awesome if you have a handy time machine and hence can put Christmas back a bit: Cognitive Surplus.
- Also US-based and pretty much the mother lode of geek gifts, if by ‘geeky’ you mean ‘mainstream Hollywood and comics culture’: Think Geek.
- The Royal Observatory, Greenwich web shop sells an inflatable Space Shuttle. They just won Christmas.
Well, that’s it. Thanks to Brian Mackenwells and Helen Arney for additional suggestions. Heading picture from Maths Gear: Symmetry groups wrapping paper.
Merry Christmas, all! Don’t get so distracted by debugging your code or solving your Hanayama puzzle that you forget to take the turkey out of the oven.