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Ask Slashdot: Gifts For a 90-Year-Old, Tech-Savvy Dad?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the subscription-to-vibe dept.

Christmas Cheer 211

First time accepted submitter Bearhouse writes "My Dad amazes me with (a) his longevity & energy, and (b) his continued ability to mess around with electronics stuff. Since he already has things ranging from valve amps made from war-surplus, via an original IBM PC kit to an Android tablet, I was going to buy him a Raspberry Pi for Christmas. Turns out he's already got one. I saw nothing that really got me excited here, so your ideas would be appreciated."

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An Arduino kit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349483)

How about an arduino starter kit? Help him start putting together his own gadgets :)

Re:An Arduino kit? (3, Funny)

Georules (655379) | about a year ago | (#42349649)

Help him start putting together his own gadgets? It sounds like he's been doing that for a lot longer than any of us. Without Arduinos.

Re:An Arduino kit? (3, Interesting)

aurizon (122550) | about a year ago | (#42350149)

Has he converted his home/laptop computer to an SSD? Get him an Intel 160 to 256 gig SSD, with the install kit. It makes a large difference - but, only if he does not have one.

Re:An Arduino kit? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350191)

I second Arduino, I recieved an Arduino based quadcopter kit and have found it to be a lot of fun both from the programming and aeronautic point of view.

Re:An Arduino kit? (1)

bluescrn (2120492) | about a year ago | (#42350235)

Quadcopters are great fun, and you can build one quite cheaply these days - but flying/learning to fly one might be a bit much for a 90yr-old? (they do need decent vision and good reactions)

Re:An Arduino kit? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350441)

Heathkit Pacemaker


Maybe a 3d printer? (5, Insightful)

joaommp (685612) | about a year ago | (#42349497)

Perhaps it's a bit expensive, perhaps it's not, depends on your bugedt, but he most likely would enjoy it as a nice addition and compliment to his projects.

Re:Maybe a 3d printer? (5, Funny)

laejoh (648921) | about a year ago | (#42349527)

Add in the plans of a coffin!

Re:Maybe a 3d printer? (3, Funny)

jcoy42 (412359) | about a year ago | (#42350199)

I'm sure he has stacks of books, whey not get him a nice bookshelf coffin [dornob.com]?

I've always loved this idea. Doubt it would ship by Christmas though.

If he is into tech and cameras.... (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#42349511)

Get him a Camera Axe. Utterly cool things being done with that toy.

Max out his RAM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349557)

Unless he already has 32GB or more.

same thing I always tell others (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349591)

I always tell people the same thing everytime they ask this question. Ask them. I am sure they have a list... If they dont buy them something retarded. The problem fixes itself the next year :)

Re:same thing I always tell others (4, Insightful)

toutankh (1544253) | about a year ago | (#42349673)

For some people (including me), surprising someone and showing them that we really tried to find something they like is a very important part of making a present.

Re:same thing I always tell others (4, Insightful)

cruff (171569) | about a year ago | (#42349791)

Unfortunately for those who are really into the details of a subject area, it can be next to impossible for the gift givers who are not also into those details to determine what would be a meaningful gift, especially of the recipient can afford to purchase their own items whenever they want, and they do so.

Re:same thing I always tell others (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#42349975)

I find the best gifts, tech-wise, are ones that are form non-tech people who spent the time to research what's out there and manage to get something good. My step-mother buys wood working (and other) tools for my dad all the time, and it amazes me how well she selects them, even though she knows very little about the subject. She takes a lot of time to research and find out what's good, without just going out and buying the most expensive thing. This shows a lot of thoughtfulness, and he usually appreciates them a lot.

Re:same thing I always tell others (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350227)

That's like saying "Don't ask me what I like about sex, try to figure it out by yourself and surprise me".

Romanticism has its place. That place is called "novels".

Re:same thing I always tell others (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350179)

My parents' did that for their grandson - they asked what he wanted for his birthday and all he said was "I don't know/care". Well, that year he got a pink dress. Next year, he had plenty of good ideas.

Re:same thing I always tell others (5, Funny)

Translation Error (1176675) | about a year ago | (#42350545)

My parents' did that for their grandson - they asked what he wanted for his birthday and all he said was "I don't know/care". Well, that year he got a pink dress. Next year, he had plenty of good ideas.

Of course he did! Now he can accessorize!

Re:same thing I always tell others (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350537)

For most I would agree, but when you're 90, next year isn't guaranteed and it sounds like the OP wanted to make the most of this christmas

What about... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#42349599)

An electronics DIY kit? Check out these [a1parts.com] to begin with. DIY radios are pretty cool, so is anything dealing with a DIY motor. Another idea is one of those christmas lights programming kits, but that might be a bit much.

Another Pi so he can network (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349607)

You can always get more than one Pi

Viagra (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349633)


-- Your 90 year-old dad.

Captcha: Buttocks.

Re:Viagra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349761)

And a flesh light.

A couple of suggestions (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349635)

Not knowing your Dad, or what tools he has, or how geeky he is, or knowing your budget ....

How about some Geek tools?
One thing I'd like is a PC -based oscilloscope.

Variable power supply to power his projects/bread boards?
Bread board kits?
kit to make his own boards?
subscription to Make?
electro luminescent wire and drivers? (coolneon.com)

good luck

Re:A couple of suggestions (3, Interesting)

I Mean, What (2778851) | about a year ago | (#42350045)

Spinning off the breadboard idea, a friend of mine built a light-sensitive theramin on a cheap Radio Shack proto board. Normally theramins are played with movement of your hands around an antenna, but the light sensitive one plays different notes as you cover the photo resistors. Here's a great source of info: http://www.instructables.com/id/Light-Theremin/ [instructables.com]. He'll probable have more fun building it, but the fun of having one may not be apparent until he sees it in action.

FPGA Dev Board (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349639)

a fpga dvelopment board with a few accessories would be a really cool present!
they are relatively cheep and can provide hours of fun and can be used to make pretty much anything

Time (5, Insightful)

Dynedain (141758) | about a year ago | (#42349643)

If your Dad is 90, and has the money for whatever gadgets he might want (as evidenced that he goes out and buys them on his own) then what he'd probably most want is to spend some quality time with you.

I know it sounds cheesy, but I run into the same problem trying to buy gifts for my grandmothers. They have everything they need or want, but what they can't buy is time with family.

Re:Time (2)

DoctorBit (891714) | about a year ago | (#42349965)

Maybe a trip to the Tech Museum in San Jose or the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Re:Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350427)

When I worked at Motorola in the early 2000's, they had a museum on the campus of their world HQ in suburban Chicago. It wasn't open to the general public except by appointment and they only gave guided tours. It was fascinating - they are one of the oldest tech companies in the US (maybe the world) and have vintage examples of almost everything they've ever done - which is a lot.

Re:Time (3, Insightful)

MMC Monster (602931) | about a year ago | (#42349979)

How about a project the two of you can do together. Maybe wire a room for inbuilt speakers, add a video projector that hangs off the ceiling and a screen on a remote control and you've got a home theater. Throw in an XBMC system and a way to automatically rip DVDs and serve it off the network, with a universal remote control. Then add a TV tuner card, movie chairs, etc. Lots of things that can be done piece-meal but with a goal in sight.

Interview this guy for Slashdot (5, Insightful)

wjwlsn (94460) | about a year ago | (#42349645)

Maybe he's not famous or well-known, but I bet he is interesting as hell. We should all aspire to have that much energy, drive, and interest as we get older... I know way too many people in their 50s and older that refuse to learn anything new. Hearing about a guy that has probably been on top of the latest tech continuously for 70-odd years is just inspiring!

Re:Interview this guy for Slashdot (5, Insightful)

bmxeroh (1694004) | about a year ago | (#42349891)

Seriously good idea. One of the things that stuck me when my grandfather died was just how much knowledge was lost. That probably bothered me more than him actually dying, but mostly because we knew it was coming.

Re:Interview this guy for Slashdot (0)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year ago | (#42350023)

I'm 47 and starting to tech myself to write a video game and am looking at inexpensive starter guitars. I hope this helps.

Re:Interview this guy for Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350337)

congrats on the video game interest but the guitar screams midlife crisis.

Re:Interview this guy for Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350075)

Or better yet interview him as part of the StoryCorps project: http://storycorps.org/

Re:Interview this guy for Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350531)

The people in their 50's who refuse to learn anything new were either the people in their teens that didn't want to learn anything new 40 years ago, or the people who made a decision to be lazy !@#$%ers somewhere between then and now. If you are aspiring to have that energy, then you're probably on the right track. Fight to keep it.

Fleshlight and viagra. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349663)

And lube.

Re:Fleshlight and viagra. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349733)

And lube.

LOL that's literally what I was going to post.

Best gifts for techy people (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349665)

Anything non techy.

Re:Best gifts for techy people (1)

edrawr (1572199) | about a year ago | (#42350501)

I have to agree, I generally like to buy my own new tech as I find things that peak my interest. I have gotten a lot of nice non-tech gifts that I use on a daily basis- wallets, (analog) watch, and my favorite are benchmade knives. They even have a custom shop to make your own Griptilian series with different steel, colors and blade styles: http://www.benchmade.com/customize/default.aspx [benchmade.com] [benchmade.com]. Maybe add engraving of a special occasion, service or milestone in life.

A membership to a hackerspace (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349703)

See if you have a local hackerspace around and give him a couple months of membership. Then he can work on whatever he wants.

Wait for his answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349705)

This one is really easy. We just wait for Timothy's dad to read this and post his idea. After all he can't be a tech-savvy without reading /.

Re:Wait for his answer (1)

timothy (36799) | about a year ago | (#42350465)

Heh: I just posted the question to the site (submitted by reader Bearhouse); it's not about *my* dad. (My own dad does very occasionally read Slashdot, and is tech savvy in his own, very scattershot way -- he's an EE, which helps, but he can make VCRs blink a mean 12:00. But he's got all the tech toys he needs, scattered somewhere around his basement.)


For the man who has everything ... (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#42349819)

A nice bottle of scotch or bourbon.

He can sip away at it while he noodles away with all of those gadgets.

It doesn't sound like he needs your help in finding technology.

Coke and hookers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349839)

You could start a family tradition.

If he's into his health and stuff... (4, Interesting)

Jesse_vd (821123) | about a year ago | (#42349847)

http://www.indiegogo.com/misfitshine [indiegogo.com]

This is like the Fitbit but new and more durable, longer battery life etc. They don't ship until March but they're leading the CES Last Gadget Standing Contest right now. I got one for my mom and one for myself

Add 4 more Rassberry PI and a router (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | about a year ago | (#42349869)

He can start his own small Beowulf cluster.

Or 2 lego Mindstorm sets. Then you can compete building the best machine.

I tend to buy in two's for Christmas. That way a remote racecar has something to compeat with.

digital oscilloscope and logic analyzer (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42349913)

affordable ones such as the hackable rigol (50 to 100mhz).

there's an OLS (open logic sniffer) for $50ish that is kind of cool and lets you see 16/32 lines of 3.3v or 5v logic signals. runs on usb (laptop friendly) and is kind of cool for not too much money.

I'll also let on that one of my hidden-gem favorite tech toys is a 1950's or 1960's era power supply that is just so 'retro' its cool and he'd appreciate it. its now affordable, where back in the day, only high end labs could afford or own it. search on 'power designs precision' and you'll find $100ish power supply boxes that are restorable (easily) and the metal 'dial it in' knobs are just too cool to explain in words. techies 'get it' and I bet he would, too.


GPSr & a Geocoin (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#42349939)

Get that man Geocaching.

There's an 82 year-old out hiding and finding caches and having a blast, around here.

Give him what he needs.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349951)

Viagra and a trip to the Bunny Ranch

Weather Station? (3, Interesting)

Java Commando (726093) | about a year ago | (#42350007)

What about a networked weather station? Nearly everyone's interested in the weather, and from direct experience I can tell you it's really cool to be able to connect to your station from your smart phone, tablet, or any web browser, and observe current conditions. There are relatively inexpensive complete systems available now, such as from the likes of AcuRite. I have a Rainwise MK-III LR, myself, but those are probably more expensive than most would wish to spend.

Well wishes to your dad-- If I make it to that age I hope to exhibit the same energy and curiosity he still engages. This is great to hear about!

Fenix flashlights (1)

billmil (59216) | about a year ago | (#42350019)

While more "gear head" than "techy", the new hi-tech LED flashlights (Fenix) can probably fit in anyone's home arsenal of tools and toys--whether it's one to 'always carry' or 'store at home for emergency'. These AFAICT are "police grade"--well engineered tools

I've read that some of the models are effective in temporarily blinding intruders


A video camera (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350097)

Then sit down and talk to him about his life on camera. Your kids will thank you. Or their kids.

If he's that cool, he deserves to be remembered.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350147)

Sorry about this, I have no issues with your dad, but apparently there is law [wikipedia.org] against this.

A stack of dollar bills (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#42350169)

and strippers..lots of strippers.

Re:A stack of dollar bills (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42350187)

you mean..... dikes?

(tech's will get this, I'm sure)

Re:A stack of dollar bills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350301)

They prefer to be called "sidecutter pliers," you insensitive clod!

Some cool toys: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350189)

From least to most expensive, here are some mid budget items that would get me excited:
In the $200 range, and because I enjoy programming:

For super extra bonus fun, integrate the sensor with the robot operating system [ros.org] so that you can use their cool 3D visualization tools [ros.org].

Another sweet toy, slightly more expensive at $400, is the Lytro camera [lytro.com].

My final toy choice would be a very open 3D printing platform, like the 3rd generation Solidoodle [solidoodle.com], which at $799 is actually only accepting pre-orders now.

If I had all that stuff, and had enough time to play with it, I'd be pretty happy.

Computer Supplies?? (1)

Art Challenor (2621733) | about a year ago | (#42350251)

I bought my 80+ year old father-in-law a whole box of punch cards and 20 rolls of paper punch tape. He's always complaining he needs computer supplies, I have a feeling these will last him a lifetime!

Ham Radio (1)

gorodish (788476) | about a year ago | (#42350253)

Ham Radio is a great hobby for someone like your dad. There are technical, social, competitive, and public service aspects to it, and there are so many areas of interest within the hobby that any technical person can find one or more things to pursue. Check out the information and publications at the ARRL (arrl.org) web site.

nixie tube clock kit (1)

Yonder Way (603108) | about a year ago | (#42350323)

These things are all over eBay and beyond. He'll have the thrill of building himself something hip & electronic that is practical and works well with tired older eyes.

XGameStation Mach64 CPLD kit (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year ago | (#42350331)

Check out the Mach64 CPLD kit at xgamestation.com.

It requires a computer with a "real" parallel port (non-USB), but pcmcia ports work fine (be careful with ExpressCard... they're probably pci-express, but COULD be usb in disguise), as will docking stations that implement them via pci or pass through the "raw" (hidden) signal lines from the southbridge (like Thinkpads).

It even works with Vista, Win7, and/or 64-bit Windows. I've personally confirmed and tested it (I didn't want to risk having Christmas ruined by a nonworking new favorite toy) on my T61 running Vista/32 with generic cardbus parallel port bought on eBay. It installed & flashed the board without a hitch :-)

Whatever you would want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350405)

... just make sure it's left to you in his will.

Don't give him tech. Give him future. (1)

Shoten (260439) | about a year ago | (#42350421)

This man has technology from 70 years ago, all the way up to what is current and cool. Forget buying him technology...especially since something that involves a project is best purchased by the person who finds that project interesting at a particular moment in time.

I would ask this: how technically savvy are you? How much are you like him?

Your father sounds a lot like my grandfather. The man was an electrical engineer, and I have memories of him working at his workbench...he was retired by then, mind you...fixing TVs and other electronics for his friends. He'd get up in the morning, make breakfast, and talk to his friends via CB radio. He kept active, was the first person I knew to get a computer (even before I got mine, back in the mid-80s), and was always looking at new technology.

I'll get to the point in a minute...it's this. One day, I found myself getting up in the morning, making coffee and breakfast, and then talking with my friends on IRC as I read the first emails of the day. I was working from home as a consultant, good at what I do and successful professionally. I help my friends with their computers, and am always playing around with new technologies. And I have to think that perhaps my grandfather would be so happy to know that I followed in his footsteps in so many ways.

So, whether you're highly technical or not, see if you can get involved in what he's doing, a project, an interest. Or, if you have a son or daughter, see if your grandfather can do the same with him/her. At his age, progeny is more precious than any gadget...the idea that things keep flowing forward, the glimpse of the future, the marvel at what technologies his son or grandson/granddaughter will get to play with, even after he's passed away after a long, happy, and fruitful life. This, sir, (I assume sir...forgive me if I'm wrong) is more precious than any gadget you could give him.

Impossible to tell (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | about a year ago | (#42350551)

what we know of the guy is "he has a raspi", and an active mind.

For gifts, my personal opinion is that experiences are better than things: concert, play, opera, fancy diner, spa... Unless you're really really sure of an object he'll like, which you don't seem to be.

Gift Certificate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42350703)

Since your father is savvy enough to stay up with electronics curve, how about a gift certificate from an online retailer that deals in gadgetry.

It's usually hard to buy for people who've been around long enough to have virtually everything they need. Your father seems to be an extreme example.

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