Celebration Gadget
December 27, 2019 12:55 PM   Subscribe

I want to treat myself to a physical gadget for around $100. Not a video game or app, something physical.

So it's been a long, difficult year. My wife had health problems. I switched jobs, she switched jobs, it's been....a lot. The good news is my new job is great, and I was surprised with a year-end bonus.

Most of that money is going to savings and paying off student loans, but I'm holding back around $100ish to treat myself with something fun. Problem is, I can't think of what.

I used to love little doodads like Palm pilots or similar. Useless but fun to play around with. Those kind of electronic gizmos don't seem to exist anymore, they've all become phone apps. I'm not looking for video games, and I already have a nice phone and a Kindle.

Any ideas?
posted by Eddie Mars to Technology (28 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Smart Watch
Wireless ear buds
VR Goggles
Bluetooth Speaker
posted by willnot at 1:03 PM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This isn't exactly my thing, so I don't have anything specific, but I think you could probably have fun looking around everyday carry blogs -- people getting weird about the coolest possible pocketknife or flashlight or multitool or tactical assault wallet or whatever. Searching the words "everyday carry" got me this blog: https://everydaycarry.com/ but I'm pretty sure there's also a subreddit and a bunch of other blogs.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:04 PM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Look here or there for things.
posted by falsedmitri at 1:05 PM on December 27, 2019

Best answer: Physical things that I have been enjoying lately: fidget toys, puzzle magazines (with a good pencil), jigsaw puzzles.

And we're never too old for Lego.

Non-phone electronic thought: fancy watch with interesting things to look at or fiddle with?
posted by asperity at 1:05 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

My brother just bought me a Firestick which turns a regular (not Smart) flat TV that has usb and hdmi ports into a Smart T.V. and allows you to stream videos or other programming with all kinds of apps. I haven't paid for cable in decades, so I expect this to be a game changer for me!
posted by itsflyable at 1:12 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Decent but not crazy pair of Bluetooth headphones is about $100.
posted by PMdixon at 1:16 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Everyday carry-type items have already been suggested, but I can provide some additional links and whatnot.

$100 would buy a pretty nice pocketknife/multi-tool/pen/headphones/etc.

If you want something more explicitly toy-like, pocket spinning tops for grown-ups are also a thing, and might meet the 'useless but fun to play around with' standard.

If you enjoy cooking, something like a sous-vide machine, an immersion blender, or an instant-read thermometer might be an option. Or something coffee-related, if you're into it.

Alternately, and this isn't really answering the question--if you're not sure what you want, what about buying something that's consumable? Fancy meal, fancy booze, something along those lines.
posted by box at 1:18 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Kevin Kelly's long-running Cool Tools blog might be up your alley.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:18 PM on December 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

If you like messing around with music, how about a Pocket Operator?
posted by moonmilk at 1:33 PM on December 27, 2019 [12 favorites]

Except when traveling by air, where it's verboten in the passenger compartment, my Leatherman skeletool gets used on a daily basis. Even the mechanics at work are amazed at how often I'm able to do little fixes with what's in my pocket.
posted by notsnot at 1:33 PM on December 27, 2019

How a about a 3D pen? Doodling in one extra dimension sounds like great fun!

Also, I’m intrigued by Blackboard by Boogie Board, also known as “liquid crystal paper”
posted by rw at 1:41 PM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A good quality clip-on macro lens for your phone?
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:44 PM on December 27, 2019

How about a decent fountain pen or other machined pen? If you do any sort of regular writing by hand, this would be an object that would remind you of this celebratory moment for years or decades to come.
posted by pingzing at 1:47 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It looks like they're sold out until late next month, but you could get an OpenTheremin kit for about $100.
posted by usonian at 1:49 PM on December 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Get a Raspberry Pi / Arduino development kit with breadboards and LEDs and sensors and motors and buttons. Build things to do things, then pull it all apart and build something else.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:27 PM on December 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

You can get a pretty nice knife for less than that, along with something to sharpen it with. However, you can spend an unbounded amount on sharpeners. Also, pawn shops are a good place to occasionally find a deal on knives. Most of them don’t wear out—the owners get tired of them. Lot of chaff to separate from the wheat, though.

On review, that Cool Tools blog *is* great.

On further review. Theremin? Cool.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 2:39 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Instax camera if creating physical photos would be fun for you.

I've found that I enjoy having wireless earbuds a lot more than I expected to because they're easy to carry so I always have them now.

If you like listening to music at home, the Grado SR-80 headphones are a nice experience (but are open ear, so not as practical outside of a quiet environment).

A few smart lightbulbs.
posted by Candleman at 2:49 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you like to cook, how about a sous vide cooker? Anova has models in the $100 range and it's a fun thing to experiment with.
posted by briank at 3:09 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I keep meaning to pick myself up a Turing Tumble.
posted by kalimac at 3:33 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Instant Pot.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 3:38 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

A GoPro clone that you can throw around in random places.
A digital microscope.
posted by trig at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2019

Benchmade knife or Leatherman tool. Either will be handy, and remind you that you made it through this year's storm. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 4:15 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

How about a SodaStream bubbly water maker? They range from $79 to $199 on Amazon, take your pick.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:06 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have played with 3D pens and they’re not all that. It was pretty frustrating, actually.

3D printers, on the other hand, are great. But about 3x your budget. I have a FlashForge Findrr and have been happy with it.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:12 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Near impossible to get, but try to find yourself a Durr.
posted by dobbs at 10:48 PM on December 27, 2019

As mentioned above, the Pocket Operator or the similar-ish subtractive synth Kastle by Bastl. They're in the Czech Republic - I think - but have stateside resellers. I've been going to Control Voltage in PDX
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 6:19 PM on December 28, 2019

I had $100 from Christmas to blow on a gadget, and I got myself an electric toothbrush.
posted by roadrunner9 at 8:26 AM on December 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

« Older Mystery of the missing toenail   |   Lemmings? Or? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.