Here are some last-minute gifts for those at both ends of the technology spectrum, from Luddite to leader. We started this list as a humor column -- but once we got going we found some gifts we actually liked, so we offer both in the holiday spirit of good cheer.
For the tech-phobic Luddite
Let's start at the far end of the spectrum: someone who is completely gadget-averse. If you have to plug it in or put a battery in it, your gift is too high tech.
That's why the Container Store's
Price: $8.99. (Though ordering online won't bring it before Christmas, there may be a store location near you.)
For the intellectual on your list
For those who enjoy public radio, whether they're tech savvy or not, here's a project for you: Create a custom podcast of their favorite National Public Radio programs, and then burn it onto a CD or download it onto an inexpensive MP3 player. (For CDs, better see if their Walkman can play homemade disks; if you aren't sure, CVS and Walgreens have MP3 players for about $30.) One exception: If that favorite is Ira Glass' This American Life, you'll have to pay 99 cents per show via iTunes, although current episodes are available as free podcasts the week they air.
For the newly PC-enabled (and the ultimate cheapskate)
So a loved one is getting a laptop (from someone other than you). Let's turn adversity into advantage with these free gift ideas:
First, since you know they'll ask you anyway, offer some (limited) tech support this year via gift certificate. Specify exactly what you'll do so it sounds more official -- and they aren't calling you every time their browser crashes. Then make it look all fancy by creating an actual gift certificate using a certificate template -- they're free.
Our second idea is for the gift getter who's getting a hand-me-down. Think of all the freeware you had before you upgraded to Vista, and give it to your recipient on a memory stick. My favorite: the gift of conversion -- from Office 2007 to Office 2003, so a Word 2007 document can be opened in an earlier version of Word (ditto for other Office apps).
For the iPod-toting reveler
No, the iBreath isn't a meter that will tell you if you need an Altoid; it's a highly portable device to measure just how much partying you (or, rather, your gift recipient) has done. As you can tell from the name, it's an iPod accessory that apparently fits the iPhone as well. We weren't able to find any test results to show if it works (remember that even those expensive machines the cops use get contested in court all the time); the one review we found mostly listed its features. The review did, though, include links to free apps to locate a taxi service. Cheaper than the $79 Breathalyzer, they may be the real gift: showing you care.
Happy holidays, everyone!