The holidays are little over 2 weeks away and you might still be looking for some last minute geek gift ideas for the electronics enthusiast in your life. Here are some ideas for gifts for your special nerd:
- Soldering Iron: The first investment I made in my electronics journey was a solid, variable temperature soldering iron. These will run you a $100 or so, but they are worth it. A good soldering iron saves you time and frustration, especially helpful when you are just starting out. Hakko is a great manufacturer to look for when buying an iron, Weller is also recommended brand. Good solder and and a brass sponge make a huge difference as well.
- Digital Multimeter: The second piece of gear I recommend upgrading is your multimeter. A good multimeter will last you a long time and should be an indispensable tool in troubleshooting and calibrating circuits. Though Fluke is considering a leader in electronic tools, you don’t necessarily need all the features or precision for a hobbyist project. You can find decent DMMs that will suit most needs for under $50.
- Dremel Rotary Tool: As you branch out beyond breadboards and start to make projects meant to stand the test of time, you will soon realize that electronics is only half of your mechanic. Drilling hole in custom PCBs and make custom enclosures requires you to get a bit more mechanical. A Dremel is a must for anyone serious about making their own custom projects that will weather real-world conditions. A Dremel Rotary Tool Workstation will turn your Dremel into a portable drill press.
- Hand Tools: Pliers, wire strippers, tweezers, are all vital to getting the job done. Investing in quality gear now saves lots of frustration later. Your geek will thank you!
- Digital Caliper: When custom fabricating parts for a project, nothing makes a job easier than a pair of digital calipers.
- Saelae Logic Analyzer Pro: As you get more advanced you need more insight into the signals as the barrel their way through your circuit. Enter the Saelae Logic Analyzer Pro. Recently revamped to include analog as well as digital circuit sniffing, these tools are extremely useful and versatile. They may reverse engineering and troubleshooting more complicated digital circuitry a breeze. And the new versions allow you to look at analog signals as well. Think of this as getting both a logic analyzer and a basic oscilloscope.
- USB Microscope: Electronic components keep getting smaller and smaller. Being able to read package information or examining how well the solder took to your surface mount components requires eagle eyes. If you are like me and your vision is less than perfect, a USB microscope is a great addition to the toolbox.
- Dev Kits: Development kits are great ways to get your hands and brain wrapped around different embedded platforms. They are typically pretty competitively priced and take a lot of the tedious work involved by providing the power and PC-interface circuitry. This way you spend more time learning the cool features of a new chip without the hassle of just getting it to work. Edison is a popular kit right now.
- Lab Notebooks: Great products start as great ideas. And sometimes those ideas come at the weirdest times. Having a lab notebook with you allows you to jot ideas down quickly. It also allows you to record your test data as you are building and troubleshooting your project.
- Sewing Stuff: Now hear me out. Wearables are set to be the next big “thing”. But I believe that custom, homebrewed wearables are more likely to take off than big brand name, one size fits alls devices. Wearables is about making electronics personal, and no two people will ever want the exact same thing. There lots of wearable platforms either in the market or on their way. Just like needing calipers or a Dremel, sewing gear is going to be key if you are serious about wearable electronics. So get a head of the curve and invest in a decent sewing machine and some handtools. As the person buying the gift you get the added benefit of “having” to go to your local Arts and Crafts store, which will surely lead you to tons of other gift ideas.
- Gift Cards: If all else fails, a gift card to Maker Shed, Sparkfun or Adafruit is always a nice gift or stocking stuffer!
Clipart courtesy of openclipart.org