If you’re not a technical person and you're buying for someone who is - or you are and you’re buying for someone you don’t know very well - choosing a present can be daunting. Finding the gift for your loved one or (God-forbid) Secret Santa might feel like there are two options: something super generic, or a techie/geeky gift you know nothing about.

best gifts for a techie

Here at 4D we do a company-wide Secret Santa, we’ve got a big team of technical experts (we’re a good company to work with), and a few marketing people who sometimes struggle with ideas. With this experience, we’ve put together a handy gift guide for what to buy a techie gift recipient.

Don’t Assume

You’ve probably watched The Big Bang Theory, and have a clear idea in your head of what technical/ engineering types like: Star Trek, comics, fantasy board games, etc. But there’s a good chance the person you’re buying for has no interest in any of the above.  Ironically, your author, (who co-founded a data centre), is a proper fan of everything just listed and was particularly pleased with some Dilithium Crystal mints given to him in 2016! [hint to anyone from 4D reading this] 

Like any technical problem, you need to assess the situation and carry out research before reaching any conclusions. You’ll need to do a little bit of fact-finding about the person, but - when you don’t share any interests with them - this can be really difficult, so our tips below are here to help.

How to investigate your gift recipient

1. Look at what they’ve got already

Check their shelves for knickknacks/ books/ games. If it’s an office Secret Santa, then check out their desk and their desktop background. Make a note of anything you see, even if you can’t find the name of something. If you’ve only seen a small figure dressed in green holding a shield with a triangle on it, a quick Google will let you figure out this person likes The Legend of Zelda games.

2.  Ask other people

Talking to colleagues and friends will be an excellent source of information, but you need to make sure you’re talking to those who share your recipient’s favourite hobbies. Let these friends know that you have no idea what you’re talking about, and don’t let them be vague: “You could get them the Seafarers expansion for Catan” might leave you just as lost as before, get them to send you links.

3.  Try social engineering an answer out of them

It’s common small talk to ask how someone’s weekend was, change this question to “What did you do this weekend?” and you’ve got a sly way to find out how they spend their time, and what they’re interested in. If you’ve got enough time before needing to buy the gift then try and have a few conversations with them, and steer towards topics like:

  • How they spend their time
  • Favourite foods
  • Minor annoyances they have in their life

4.  Ask them outright

This spoils the Christmas spirit somewhat, but it guarantees they’ll be getting something they like. They also might be able to point you in the right direction, but keep the present itself a surprise.

Where to buy from

This is an area where The Big Bang Theory has actually helped since geek culture is more out in the open now, jumping online to find fantasy games and niche merchandise isn’t a problem. You’ll be able to find what you need on Google, Amazon, Pinterest, eBay and other online retailers. Etsy will be particularly helpful for niche interests.

However, if you do want to go to a physical store (which could be a good source of more info) find out where your closest Forbidden Planet is. Or places like Game and CeX have cheap second-hand video games and DVDs to help stay within your Secret Santa budget.

As an added bonus you can add in something they like into the gift wrap. Find wrapping paper branded with a franchise they like, or funkypigeon.com have a load of geeky cards, which you can even get personalised.

If none of the above work?

If you struggle to gather info or don’t feel confident about the ideas you have, then check out the places below, which tick a lot of different boxes for hobbies and interests:

Hopefully, you’re now equipped to go and bring Christmas joy to a loveable techie. And if you’ve ever heard them mention nonsense like ‘digital transformation’ or ‘data migration’ then send them our way, and we should be able to provide them with some of our own Christmas cheer.