Last minute gift ideas for the programmer in your life

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Did you, like me, wait until the last minute to buy holiday gifts for your programmer friends? Maybe we can help. We asked our engineering team what gifts they like and would appreciate receiving. We’re publishing their responses in full below in the hopes that you can find inspiration for your upcoming holiday gift frenzy a la Jingle All the Way.

If, like the Angular framework, you are opinionated, then drop us a comment about the gifts that we forgot to highlight. Because I still have some shopping to do.

(And for the record, we don’t get any kickbacks from these links!)

Code comes from coffee

Several of our engineers suggested coffee-related gifts. When you’re powered by caffeine and code reviews, a cup that covers both can create that holiday cheer.

David Haney, Engineering Manager:

I really like the coffee mugs that Startup Vitamins does. I send one to my devs each year as an Xmas gift. They always go over well, and a bonus is that SV ships internationally!

Tom Limoncelli, SRE Manager:

Does your annual review ranking top out at "Meets or Exceeds Expectations?" Say it with pride that you're tied for "ok" with most of your other coworkers! Meets or Exceeds Expectations Mugs and T-Shirts.

You can thank your boss with this: World's Okayest Boss mug.

Piper Lawson, Senior Product Designer:

A Mug! But not any mug... A coding mug! Which needs three basic characteristics:

- Room for at least 16oz (~473 ml)

It is a well-known fact that programmers are responsible for at least 128KiB of all coffee consumed in the world. The more space, the more coffee, the less trips to the coffee maker and you got yourself a more productive developer.

- Resistant material

Programmers tend to smash their mugs at the table if something goes wrong while the code is compiling, which is usually the perfect time to take a sip and the mug is at optimal smashing distance from the table.

- Bad geek joke

Most importantly, you need a bad geek joke. If it's good it's no good. Nothing beats the classics like "World's #0 Programmer." And remember... You can always search for it!

Add-ons for your computer

Since programmers spend a lot of time at their computer, maybe something that makes that time more pleasant would make a nice gift. A new computer or computer component, weirdly, is not always the best gift. Many programmers also custom build their rigs (or just get a Mac laptop) so they guard their system specs zealously.

Tom Limoncelli (again):

Data-blocking USB adapter!

Charge your phone or other USB devices without fear! Attach a PortaPow USB Data Blocker between your USB cable and charger to physically block data transfer / syncing. Charge mobile devices without any risk of hacking / uploading viruses. Buy the six-pack and share them with the whole family!

(Shameless plug: Tom discusses why charge-only is important.)

Laura Campbell, Developer:

I have trouble being productive without my monitors. This on-the-go portable dual-screen for laptops is on my wishlist so I can take advantage of remote work and be productive wherever I am.

I got a DOTGRID.CO notebook for Christmas a couple of years ago—it's by FAR my favorite notebook. Sturdy, great size, plenty of pages, and a dot grid instead of a solid grid makes it the best sketchbook I have for my UI and UX needs.

The Razor Black Widow keyboard. I purchased it as a gaming keyboard, but it has worked very well for my office setup, too.

Jon Chan, Team Lead:

Roost Laptop Stand: When I started going nomadic at Stack Overflow, one of the things I missed was having a monitor that was level for me. I'm a tall guy, so hunching over a coffee shop when I was traveling to work on my laptop was a strain. This laptop stand is collapsible, lightweight, and easy to use. If you have a wireless mouse and keyboard to go with it, you have a mobile workstation pretty much anywhere you go.

I've also published my nomad travel stack here if you want more ideas for a traveling dev. Lots of these are great gifts.

John Bubriski, Web Developer:

For designers (and aspiring designers): Apple Pencil. The "old" Apple Pencil works with the low-end iPad, so it's a pretty inexpensive way to get a nice digital art setup.

Fun && Games

All work and no play makes a programmer freeze and possibly crash. A bit of fun (although programming adjacent) can help take away the stress of compiling and setting break points. This is a catch-all category, so these gifts are fun for some values of fun.

Lynn Ballard, Director of Information Security:

If anyone is a little rusty at C, C++, or Java, this is the gift for them: c-jump Ski & Snowboard Race.

Why go to a bootcamp when you can ski?

Tom Limoncelli, basically Santa at this point:

The IPv6 Buddy. What to get that network engineer you love? How about the IPv6 Buddy? The internet is moving from the IPv4 protocol to the IPv6 protocol! Is their keyboard ready? With the IPv6Buddy, they can type 0-9, type A-F, colon, and even the double-colon easily! It's a joke gift that actually works!

John Bubriski (again):

Any of the electronic kits/projects from https://www.adafruit.com. They have a ton of projects that range in difficulty from DIY portable consoles to Python-powered IOT displays.

For anyone really: Field Notes notebooks. Great to carry around in your pocket for when inspiration strikes.

There you go, a few ideas to get you started on the road to getting a sack of prezzies ready for your developer friends and family. Share the love and let us know in the comments what presents you’d give instead.

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