Give Some Geek Love this Christmas

These days it’s easy to impress just about anyone with a gift of
technology. Most of the kit on the market is designed to be so cool
that, despite the fact most of it is rather pedestrian, it still turns
folks’ cranks.

Take cell phones, for example. The majority of devices
in Bell’s stable are pretty much a yawn. However, units like the
Motorola RAZR look so rad they’re easy to get excited about.

So in the interests of truly blowing minds, I’m going to make a couple
of gift suggestions for the most discerning audience on your list:
kids. The young ‘uns these days have pretty much grown up swimming in
gadgetry. They’ve built up some immunity to the stuff. If you want to
impress them, you’ll have to work extra hard.

Unfortunately, you’re probably going to be forced to forgo the pre-eminent killer gadgets this year: Sony and Nintendo’s new video game systems.

Yes, folks, it’s going to be a terrible Christmas for eager gamers and their suffering parents.

These brand-new, heavily-hyped next generation game consoles — Sony’s Playstation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii — are barely available in stores. You’d have to be a truly dedicated shopper to land one before Rudolph and company hit the skies. But don’t give in and pick up a Microsoft XBox 360 just to put something –– anything –– under the tree.

Instead, try some cultural adaptation. Like, use Ukrainian Christmas as an excuse to postpone the gaming gift to a date when the console your kid really wants is available. Actually, Chinese New Year might be more realistic.

Of course, to assuage the unavoidable Christmas morning teenage whinging, you could prepare for the coming of the console by beefing up your family’s entertainment centre. See how fast junior clams up when he finds Santa hung a 50-inch plasma on the wall.

C’mon, folks, don’t roll your eyes at me. We both know that there are only two spirits left in Christmas these days: that of the young consumer and the one you pour in your egg nog. To avoid the need for drowning yourself in the latter, you must satisfy the former.

That said, if you’re truly intent on blowing the mind of a Generation-Y member of your family, forget about camping out at EB Games. Think outside the box this year. Actually, think outside the country.
A few months back Sony slipped a funky little gadget onto the market called the Mylo (short form for "my life online"). It sort of looks like a cell phone, but it’s not a cell phone.

The Mylo has a relatively large screen that’s apparently very bright and clear. There’s a sort-of thumb-joystick on one side that acts like a mouse. It has a slip-out keyboard for instant messaging. It features an earpiece and a mic for handling Skype voice calls, so you can operate it like a regular phone. As well, it can play back and share movies, music, and photos. In a sense, it’s a handheld computer designed to do just the things kids like to do online.

It uses Wifi (wireless internet) to connect.

Unfortunately this very cool device is not available in Canada, so landing one could be tough — it’s only at electronics shops in the States. Of course, that sense of technical obscurity obviously increases its peer cachet. Imagine if you sent your college student back to campus with a Sony Mylo: instant gadget superstardom.

What about indoctrinating the truly young with the gadget mentality?

For his third birthday this year my son received a Fisher Price "Kid Tough" digital camera from his aunt. Poor kid, he was pretty sick of me constantly sticking my SLR in his face. This present gave him the opportunity to strike back, taking pictures of his dad at the most inopportune moments (I won’t go into details — suffice to say the baby-in-the-bath-tub shots are rare these days). It’s clear the kid’s a burgeoning paparazzi.

Plus, when Fisher Price says "tough," they really mean it. This camera has suffered some serious drops and tosses and it keeps working. It sort of makes you wonder why "adult" cameras aren’t built this way, too.

The picture quality is barely adequate — not much better than a cell phone, really — but that’s not the point. My kid just loves to act like he’s taking pictures; the fact that a murky images actually appears on the tiny LCD after he snaps a pic is just icing (you can download them to your computer, too).

There’s little doubt that these days, Christmas is more about the celebration of mass-produced consumer goods than the birth of that kid, what’s-his-face, so long ago. Embrace the modern spirit of Christmas. Go crazy: rack up some debt and buy some kit that’ll rock your kid’s world. (And, hey, if you manage to land an extra PS3, why not lay it on your favourite columnist over here?)

One thought on “Give Some Geek Love this Christmas

  1. Telus has the KRZR available – next gen of RAZR in lots of ways. Longer, heavier, more to hold. Nice design too. That’s for the kids “really” in the loop.

    I’m personally wishing for egg nog, hanging out in front of the fireplace and watching a couple episodes of Charlie Brown Christmas with the kids.

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