Stuff for Christmas 95
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1995. First
published in Our Computer Player, December 1995
Thinking of a gift for that special computer-user on
your list? Computer
users can be notoriously difficult to buy for-- especially if you?re
particularly computer-articulate yourself. Too many well-intentioned
gifts can end up being the high-tech equivalent of that tie or sweater
destined for the back of the closet.
As with other gifts, the most appreciated are ones
that are picked out
with some thought to the needs, wants, and most of all, tastes of the
too many of us buy gifts that WE?D like, rather than ones that we know
the recipient will like.
(You can always try this technique-- ask them! Or get
a gift certificate
from the computer or software vendor of your choice).
If you don?t know exactly what they want, make sure
you know a few things
about them and their computer first-- how old are they? Are they game
Do they use Macs? PCs? Amigas? OS/2? There are few things more
among computer-gift givers than giving software or a computer toy that
will only run on a different platform than theirs!
Some gifts are universal-- boxes of floppy disks, for
example. A little
bland, perhaps, but always useful... and virtually all computers can
the same 3 1/2? diskettes. Boxes of ten start under $5. Maybe for a
stuffer? Take a look at their computer and workspace... is their mouse
pad filthy? Covered with coffee stains? New ones start at under $5, but
for $10-20 you can get an especially cute one (again-- think of their
not yours!) You can even get pads with a print of their favorite photo
Buying software for someone else can be pretty tricky,
dropped pretty specific hints about what they want (?Gee, Mom, that
2000 sure looks neat!?). Games, screen savers, sounds, and more can
nice gifts-- but they?re like buying music... there are lots of
tastes and desires. And as always, make sure you get something
with the computer platform-- giving a Mac user a Windows program is
of like giving a music fan an 8-track tape for their CD player.
You might want to get a subscription to a computer
magazine as a gift...
but don?t just grab the first one on the shelf-- like lots of other
of publishing, computer periodicals have gotten increasingly focused...
there are magazines for PC users, Mac users, etc., for beginners, for
for the technically oriented, for game-players. I?ve counted half a
magazines specializing on the Internet. Again, try and think of what
the person getting the gift uses her or his computer-- especially when
they?re NOT at work. Then make sure they don?t already get that
Recently, I went Christmas shopping at Vancouver?s
along with salespeople Sammy Ho and Jim Edmonds, and my eleven year
Joey. We were searching for gifts for various age ranges, and at a
of prices-- the sorts of things that could be fun, maybe a little
that out favorite computer users might like, but often couldn?t justify
buying for themselves.
FOR THE KIDS
Software that is both fun and educational
(?edutainment?) is getting
better and better... but most of it is now only available on CD-ROM.
sure the child?s computer has a CD-ROM drive before buying these.
include Broderbund?s Living Books series, and Microsoft?s Magic School
Bus. For the very young, these have been joined by Fisher Price titles,
such as Fisher Price?s 123s. Prices range from $45 to about $70. For
older kids, check out The Learning Company?s offerings (also available
on floppy disk), such as the various SuperSolvers programs (about $50).
All these programs list the suggested age range on the box-- make sure
you get something that?s age appropriate. All these programs have both
Mac and PC versions.
Small children often have problems with adult-sized
the super-jumbo models such as the comma-shaped Microsoft Mouse.
mice start at around $10 for a model from Genius, while both Microsoft
and Logitech have offerings aimed at home or children, for about $60.
are even colorful replacement keyboards, aiming at younger computer
Popular games with all ages this season include the
new 1996 version
of NHL Hockey and Mortal Combat 3 (both about $70). For the same price,
surprise an OS/2 user with IBM?s OS/2 Fun Pack.
If the seeming high price of games makes you want to
rule them out as
gifts, there are more and more available at relatively bargain prices.
For example, you may be able to find re-releases of older software,
a sub-$20 price tag... I saw products like Chuck Yeager?s Air Combat,
a PGA Tour Golf/World Tour Tennis combo at that price range. Comics
might enjoy the X-Man Interactive CD, also at that price.
Gamesters often find the standard computer keyboard +
mouse combo frustrating...
take a look at joysticks and gamepads. Burnaby?s Advanced Gravis makes
a Nintendo-like PC GamePad for about $20. Joysticks start at that
and quickly move up-- one current fave is SunCom?s Raptor, which
a fighter plane stick, costing about $89. For $70, you can get a bundle
including the new MegaMan X game, along with an innovative 6-button
OLDER AT HEART?
There are lots of options for the older computer user,
Planning a trip? Maybe Rand McNally?s TripMaker ($59)
will help make
it more enjoyable. Or how about a trip to Cyberspace... if the
already has a modem, but isn?t yet hooked into the Internet, there?s
Internet Canada Access kit, which for $20 includes all the necessary
and a 20 hour credit on the cross-Canada Access service. Similar
are available from most local Internet Service Providers.
Gift-givers with deeper pockets might want to speed up
A user stuck with an old 2400 bps modem will be thrilled with a $149
14.4 model, while a 14.4 owner will love you forever for a $300
Less expensive gifts can help computer users manage
clutter-- copy holders
for around $40, CD holders under $10, Multimedia Organizers under $20.
Improve someone?s health and safety with an ergonomically-designed
keyboard and mouse padded wrist rests for $15 each, on up to a
keyboard, such as the $100 Microsoft Natural Keyboard.
Screen savers once helped protect monitors, but now
are mostly for fun
and decoration. For about $50, there are a wide range available, often
with comic book, movie, or cartoon themes, allowing you to find the
one for that special person. For the graphics user, CDs have made it
to distribute huge numbers of pictures at a much lower price-- such as
ClickArt?s 25,000 picture ImagePak for $70.
If your special someone hasn?t yet added sound to
their PC, a sound
card such as the Sound Blaster 16 Value Edition will cost $149... but
to that the price of a pair of speakers... from $20 on up. If they DO
a pair of $20 speakers, you may want to improve their sound quality--
speakers, with a sub-woofer for more impressive lows, start about $90
can go up to about $170 or more.
If sound seems to frivolous, what could be more
practical than a surge
protector? Is the computer safe from power surges or lightning bolts?
about the modem in the phone jack? Very cheap powerbar-type surge
are actually pretty useless, but models that do protect start at $39,
more protection available for about $100 or so. Make sure there are
plugs for those modem lines.
Notebook users would appreciate a bag for their
computer, with room
for some file folders, cords, disks, modem, and all. Colorful cloth
start around $50, with prices going up to $200 for classier leather.
Then there are the gadgets and gizmos. Scanners allow
users to digitize
pictures and text-- getting them onto their computer screen where they
can be added to documents or manipulated in all sorts of wonderful and
wacky ways. Black and white (?grey-scale?) models start just over $100,
while colour models costs closer to $300. For the same price, check out
Snappy... a little unit that lets you capture still shots from a TV or
video player. One bargain unit is the Connectix QuickCam-- around $100.
This ping-pong ball-sized gadget is a real video camera that plugs into
a computer, allowing still or full motion (black and white only-- what
do you want for $100) shots. The Windows version may be in the stores
the time you read this-- the Mac version should be available now.
Upping the price point, there are more and more
gadgets... tape backup
drives for under $300, for example (if she/he already has one, a couple
of tapes are a more affordable, but still appreciated gift). A cordless
mouse from Logitech, for $137 to get rid of some of those desktop
An 850 meg hard drive for $400 or so.
Or if you?re nowhere near those price ranges, how
about decorative laser
paper? Lots of different styles, about $10 a pack. In fact, special
paper, for $5 a pack, lets you laser print letters home, on an
As you can see, there are a wide range of presents
available at various
prices for computer users of all ages. If forced to choose, Joey
down his choices to MegaMan X or NHL Hockey ?96. (Are you reading this,
Grandma?) As for me? Oh, anything will do, thank you.