Gift ideas?
October 29, 2012 7:12 AM   Subscribe

My dad is turning 60 - any great gift ideas?

My dad is turning 60 this month and I am at a loss as to what I should get for him. I am thinking something technology related; any ideas using the following information?

-He definitely prefers things that are functional, ie not gag gift or novelty
-Definitely into computer-y/electronic types of things. He messes around with Arduino circuits, builds speakers, disassembles hard drives for kicks, etc.
-Likes retro computer related things. I think one of my most successful gifts to date was recreating an old Infocom poster and getting it framed.
-Usually likes Steampunk themed gadgets. I have seen some amazing steampunk keyboards, but the nice ones on Etsy are like $600-800 and I don't think I could build a very nice one myself.

Ideal budget would be somewhere between $50-250, but that could be extended for something super awesome if necessary. Thanks for the help!
posted by cccp47 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Perhaps an old (non-electric) adding machine? In my opinion, they out-steam-punk steam punk. I see a nice Allen Wales model going begging on ebay right now.

(FWIW I'm also 60)
posted by mr vino at 7:37 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got my (similar) Dad a subscription to MAKE Magazine - he seems to really enjoy it. To build out your gift more with that budget you could accompany it with a gift certificate for their catalog or get a multi-year subscription or both.
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to spend $200 or less, I appreciate my Amprobe AM-160 DMM. Full service multi-meter, except it doesn't do inductance.

He might also get some mileage out of an entry-level Tektronix scope. Indispensable for doing electronics stuff. About $800.

Seems expensive, but look at it as $ per decade and it's 1/6th as dear. He'll have a reason to learn new stuff, grow his brain (valuable for old critters like us), and most of all, women go wild for men with fast digitizers and multiple channels. I am not kidding. The built-in FFT (standard) is icing on the cake. (If you are feeling flush with money, Tek will sell you stuff up to about $100k.)

Kidding aside... maybe consider professional level tools like these instead of the usual TV crap, food, ties, booze. Feed his brain with meaty, luscious tools! Boys love tools. Even elderly boys.

And if you think 60 is old, you'd be surprised how fast that particular owl will come to roost on YOUR young ass. Go big! Dad's worth it.
posted by FauxScot at 8:21 AM on October 29, 2012

Best answer: Oh, and check out Cool Tools. Stuff what works.
posted by FauxScot at 8:23 AM on October 29, 2012

Best answer: I was also going to suggest a subscription to Make Magazine, and maybe some spending money or an item from their Maker Shed store.

This year my dad also turned 60, and we rented a pontoon boat for him. It was something he's always wanted to do, and the weather was brisk but the leaves were really pretty while riding around the lake, and there weren't many people out. The next 4-5 times I talked with him on the phone, he thanked me and my sister for the experience and said he really liked it.

If there is something your dad has always talked about wanting to do, or some nearby museums or something to see as a day trip, he might really enjoy spending time with you and his family.
posted by shortyJBot at 8:30 AM on October 29, 2012

Make Magazine also has some one-off publications that are collections of projects in a particular theme or field. I know for certain there's a Make Arduino book-- maybe that and a fresh-of-the-shelf Arduino? Does he need any electronic supplies? Soldering gun? Breadboards? PCBs? One of those doohickeys that holds (with gator-clamps your project in place under an equipped magnifying glass so you could see detail and solder same?
posted by Sunburnt at 8:40 AM on October 29, 2012

Best answer: Hackers and Makers are pretty into the Raspberry Pi. You could buy several!
posted by cushie at 8:42 AM on October 29, 2012

Best answer: Perhaps this thread might have some good ideas. I was thinking of a stirling engine kit, but didn't know enough about it to suggest a good one and remembered that someone else had been asking for things like that.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:00 AM on October 29, 2012

Best answer: I agree with FauxScot that getting him a nice multimeter or even better a decent used oscilloscope if he doesn't have one is a great suggestion. That said, the problem with buying electronics stuff is that unless you're familiar enough with his current setup you might not know what he needs or could really use. It really might be worth inquiring what piece of test equipment he was thinking of buying next and if it's something specialized what specs he thinks he needs. For instance it would stink to spend a bunch of money on a 40 MHz bandwidth oscilloscope if he is really interested in higher frequency stuff.

Also, I tend to prefer fluke multimeters if you do go that route, but from all that I've seen Amprobe is a great brand too.

I wish the latest set of tek scopes we bought only cost 100k each. Youch.
posted by Quack at 9:52 AM on October 29, 2012

Response by poster: Great answers everyone - thanks for the help. He has had a MAKE Magazine subscription for years, but something from the Maker Shed may be a good idea. The other links are also helpful, I will do some browsing.
posted by cccp47 at 7:34 AM on November 2, 2012

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