Techno-Geek Gifts for the Holidays

By Max Maxfield |

As you may recall, following a water leak, my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) and yours truly have been having a lot of work done to the house. One of the things that has proved to be a bit frustrating is when we see objects -- like light fixtures -- that our contractor has attached to the walls, but that aren’t 100% level. Sometimes we are talking about only a couple of degrees out of true, but Gina and I have a bit of an eye for this sort of thing. 

Now, I have a big spirit (bubble) level in the garage, but it's too large to measure a lot of the items I currently want to check, so I bounced over to my local Home Depot and picked up a handy-dandy 9-inch level for only ~$10.

True Blue 9 in Torpedo Level (Source: Home Depot)

Words cannot express how delighted our contractor is to have me following him around, whipping out my 9" Torpedo, and checking that everything is as it should be. 

The reason I mention this here is that it struck me that one of these pocket-sized levels would make a great "stocking filler" present for a lot of the folks I know. In turn, this led me to ask out team of EEWeb Experts if there were any "must have" tools that they think would make suitable techno-geek gifts. 

Adam Carlson, who is Editor in Chief of ElectroSchematics.com, immediately responded by saying "A TS100 Soldering iron." To be honest, I hadn’t heard of this before, but a quick Google reveals that the TS100 is a relatively inexpensive (~$50), pocket-sized, temperature-controlled soldering iron that's starting to make its presence felt in in market. 

Senior Technical Editor and Test and Measurement expert, Martin Rowe, also opted for a soldering iron -- a Weller SP25NKUS 25 Watt unit, which is available for ~$15. 

Aubrey Kagan offered up the Finger Wrench. Ever since Aubrey told me about these, I've been meaning to buy one, but I'm not sure if they make them anymore (sad face). Aubrey also noted that the Finger Ratchet looks to be both useful and unusual, and that you can find several variations on the theme on Amazon. 

Rick Curl emailed me to say that he couldn't survive without his Leatherman Squirt PS4 pocket tool. Rick says, "It's small enough to not be cumbersome in your pocket, but big enough to be useful many times every day. I keep a spare one at home in case I ever lose it (God forbid!)."

By comparison, Elizabeth Simon opted for the Leatherman Squirt ES4, which features wire-strippers instead of pliers. (Elizabeth says she has an older version that doesn’t include the scissors, so she wouldn’t mind having the newer one -- I'm not sure if this is a hint).

Last, but certainly not least, Mike Anderson said, "I'd give an Arduino Uno and wires. I use these things for tons of applications, including simply providing low-current, regulated 5V and 3.3V power supplies. 

I can’t argue with any of the above. How about you -- are there any techno-geek gift ideas you'd care to share? 

Find hi-tech toys, engineer favorites, and STEM gifts for all ages at the Arrow Holiday Shop.

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The team of EEWeb Experts offer their ideas for gifts that would brighten the day of any techno-geek who was lucky enough to receive one.


The Latin phrase "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes" from Aeneid, which was written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, has been paraphrased in English as the proverb "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts." Personally, I always think of this as "Beware of Geeks bearing gifts," which is perhaps not too surprising when you consider the company I keep. But we digress. 

As you may recall, following a water leak, my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) and yours truly have been having a lot of work done to the house. One of the things that has proved to be a bit frustrating is when we see objects -- like light fixtures -- that our contractor has attached to the walls, but that aren’t 100% level. Sometimes we are talking about only a couple of degrees out of true, but Gina and I have a bit of an eye for this sort of thing. 

Now, I have a big spirit (bubble) level in the garage, but it's too large to measure a lot of the items I currently want to check, so I bounced over to my local Home Depot and picked up a handy-dandy 9-inch level for only ~$10.

True Blue 9 in Torpedo Level (Source: Home Depot)

Words cannot express how delighted our contractor is to have me following him around, whipping out my 9" Torpedo, and checking that everything is as it should be. 

The reason I mention this here is that it struck me that one of these pocket-sized levels would make a great "stocking filler" present for a lot of the folks I know. In turn, this led me to ask out team of EEWeb Experts if there were any "must have" tools that they think would make suitable techno-geek gifts. 

Adam Carlson, who is Editor in Chief of ElectroSchematics.com, immediately responded by saying "A TS100 Soldering iron." To be honest, I hadn’t heard of this before, but a quick Google reveals that the TS100 is a relatively inexpensive (~$50), pocket-sized, temperature-controlled soldering iron that's starting to make its presence felt in in market. 

Senior Technical Editor and Test and Measurement expert, Martin Rowe, also opted for a soldering iron -- a Weller SP25NKUS 25 Watt unit, which is available for ~$15. 

Aubrey Kagan offered up the Finger Wrench. Ever since Aubrey told me about these, I've been meaning to buy one, but I'm not sure if they make them anymore (sad face). Aubrey also noted that the Finger Ratchet looks to be both useful and unusual, and that you can find several variations on the theme on Amazon. 

Rick Curl emailed me to say that he couldn't survive without his Leatherman Squirt PS4 pocket tool. Rick says, "It's small enough to not be cumbersome in your pocket, but big enough to be useful many times every day. I keep a spare one at home in case I ever lose it (God forbid!)."

By comparison, Elizabeth Simon opted for the Leatherman Squirt ES4, which features wire-strippers instead of pliers. (Elizabeth says she has an older version that doesn’t include the scissors, so she wouldn’t mind having the newer one -- I'm not sure if this is a hint).

Last, but certainly not least, Mike Anderson said, "I'd give an Arduino Uno and wires. I use these things for tons of applications, including simply providing low-current, regulated 5V and 3.3V power supplies. 

I can’t argue with any of the above. How about you -- are there any techno-geek gift ideas you'd care to share? 

Find hi-tech toys, engineer favorites, and STEM gifts for all ages at the Arrow Holiday Shop.

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  • by  Elizabeth Simon

    So you have a spirit level and a torpedo level but do you have  a laser level so you can tell that the two fixtures on opposite ends of the wall are at the same height?

    https://www.homedepot.com/b/Tools-Hand-Tools-Measure-Layout-Tools-Levels-Laser-Level/N-5yc1vZc22oZ12kxZ12ky?NCNI-5

    And these look nice as an alternative or in addition to the finger ratchet

    https://www.amazon.com/Cal-Van-Tools-104-03-Finger-Socket/dp/B0067YFRY2


  • by  Todd Hayden

    I agree on the pocket level, small enough to keep inside the house, where it can stay clean for using inside the house!

    Here's one I found recently, LED micro lantern with 2-500 hours battery life (depending on setting), with several mounts including built in legs, tripod, magnetic, hook, and carabineer loop.   USB rechargeable with built in cable stored in it's own magnetic catch, as well as being able to charge other USB devices with it's built in port.   Batteries are proprietary version of 18650 with  dual polarity ends so it's never inserted backwards.  http://www.goalzero.com/p/333/lighthouse-mini-lantern

  • by  Adam Carlson
    I have a TS100 coming here soon, I will let you know how I like it!

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