Holidays 2009: Tech Gifts

Futuristic gifts you didn’t even know you needed.

By John Paul Titlow
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Dec. 1, 2009

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Nintendo illustration by Tim Gough

The future is upon us. We’ll barely have time to take down our trees before we're writing “2010” on our rent checks. It won’t be long before we’re flying around in Jetsons - style spacecrafts and being chased by Biff on hoverboards. Indeed, we’re purportedly only a few decades away from what wild-eyed futurists call “the singularity.” That’s when we’ll all be walking around with cybernetic body parts, computers will have emotions and the line between man and machine will be forever blurred, rendering human mortality a thing of the past. What better way to prepare your friends and family to participate in this evolutionary milestone than with totally bitchin’, high-tech gizmos?

Here’s a guide to some of the most (relatively) affordable and useful technology-oriented holiday gift ideas. We searched for the best deals from the most reputable sellers, which, by and large, turned out to be Amazon, but we encourage you to hunt for the best prices using Google Product Search or a similar service. Note: prices are subject to flucuation.  

Western Digital Elements 1 TB External Hard Drive

Western Digital Elements 1TB external hard driveDon’t know what a “terabyte” is? Don’t worry. Practically everybody on your list needs an external hard drive (if they own a computer). Everyone from your PHP-programming super-geek half brother to your practically-Amish grandmother will appreciate it when their machine’s internal hard drive shits the bed and their family photos, important documents and collection of rare Meat Loaf MP3s are safely backed up. A terabyte, by the way, is equivalent to 1,000 gigabytes. In other words, it’s like getting 1,000 of those 1GB thumb drives that you got in your stocking last year, but far more convenient. It might seem like a lot of space for the average user, but those digital photos, videos and songs are only going to continue to proliferate in 2010.

Features “Plug and play” ease-of-use, USB and power cables, sturdy aluminum enclosure and peace of mind.

Price $99.99

Go buy it.



a320 Pocket Retro Game Emulator

Super Mario World on the a320 Pocket Retro Game EmulatorEver wish you could play old school Nintendo games while waiting in line at the deli? That’s why God invented this bodacious little nugget: the a320 Pocket Retro Game Emulator. It looks like a Nintendo DS Lite, but it’s about $20 cheaper and instead of “new” games, it offers the ability to play (presumably legal) downloaded copies of any game ever made for NES, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Sega Genesis and Neo Geo.

Features 4GB built-in storage, mini-SD card slot, audio and video file playback, FM radio, voice-recorder and an e-book reader.

Price $99

Go buy it.





Note: the above video refers to the Kodak Zi6, which was model before the Zi8. The Zi8 is even better.

Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera

Last Christmas, I ordered the super-popular Flip MinoHD Camcorder for my girlfriend. Then I watched a side-by-side comparison of the Flip and Kodak’s hi-def equivalent, and shamefully sent the Flip back. Turns out, the Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera is cheaper and shoots higher-quality video. For the price, the picture quality is pretty insane. When you’re finished videotaping your cats dressed up for the holidays, plug the Zi8 directly into your computer’s USB port (no cable needed), upload the video to YouTube and let the viral Internet fame and book deals roll in.

Features 1080p HD video, expandable SD card slot and easy-editing software.

Price $179.99

Go buy it. 



Sony MDREX85LP/BLK Soft Earbuds

Sony ear budsWhen my white Apple earphones went kaput, rather than springing for a fourth pair, I decided to invest in something that might sound better and, ideally, last longer. After soliciting tips from Facebook friends and scouring product reviews online, it came down to two contenders: the much beloved Shure brand ear buds (which range in price from $50 to $300) vs. Sony’s elegantly-named MDREX85LP/BLK ear buds for $40. In the end, based largely on user’s rave reviews, I opted for Sony’s more recession-friendly offering. They sound worlds better than the garbage that Apple throws into the box with its iPods and iPhones, and even fit more comfortably. The only potential drawback is for iPhone owners, who may have grown attached to the special microphone/button found on the wire of the original iPhone ear buds. No such fanciness exists on these bad boys, but the higher sound quality is well worth the dirt-cheap price.

Features Glorious, glorious sound.

Price $42.99

Go buy 'em.



Livescribe 2GB Pulse Smartpen

This is how you know we are officially living in the future: You can now buy pens that record audio as you write and simultaneously save your written notes as searchable text, which you can then download to your computer or store online. A tiny, infrared camera on the tip of the pen tracks what you write, linking the audio to the words on the page. So, if you can’t read part of your sloppy-ass notes, simply tap that part of the page with the pen to playback the audio for clarity. Are you the ADHD doodling type? It’s cool. You can draw a little piano on LiveScribe’s interactive paper and use the pen to play the notes. Beam me up, Scotty.

Features Holds 200+ hours of audio or 32,000 pages of notes, 500MB of free online storage, USB cable.

Price $169.95

Go buy it.

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Comments 1 - 4 of 4
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1. TechFan said... on Dec 2, 2009 at 09:36AM

“Awesome finds and well written!”

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2. GoBot said... on Dec 2, 2009 at 04:14PM

“Awesome review and loved the shit the bed reference (mmm, creamy).

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3. Photog said... on Dec 6, 2009 at 04:41PM

“I have the Western Digital 1TB hard drive and out of all my externals it is my favorite. Sleek, light weight, fast and reliable. I definitely recommend it.

Also, the game emulator looks awesome!”

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4. Anonymous said... on Dec 8, 2009 at 01:02PM

Excellent ideas interesting descriptions.”


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