The Gearfuse Gift Guide 2010: Strictly DIY

When we talk about technology gifts, we’re usually talking big bucks. But you don’t need to be a spendthrift to equip the techies in your life; long before the maker movement came along, the do-it-yourself spirit was part of the technology lifestyle. To honor the grand tradition of hacking and making, then, Gearfuse offers a few money-free ideas for gifts. Well, maybe you’ll spend a little bit of money?as they say, it’s the thought that counts.

1. Give the Gift of Space As we’ve discussed at Gearfuse before, space travel is no longer the province of huge government programs or egomaniacal robber barons. One of the unanticipated results of mobile phone advances has been the rise of DIY missions to “space” (in fact the upper atmosphere) in the form of smartphones rigged to high-altitude weather balloons. Help your do-it-yourselfers set out on their path to the stars with a weather balloon from Edmund Scientific. You’ll probably want the sixteen-foot model, which when fully inflated boasts 2.4 pounds of lift?enough to carry a payload of a styrofoam six-pack cooler and your favorite Android phone into the stratosphere. These fine lighter-than-air craft are rotational molded of natural rubber, and they’re ozone resistant. At $79.95, they’re not exactly free?but then the Mercury program cost nearly $3 billion in 2010 dollars, which makes this seem like a bargain. (Although you might want to budget for a parachute, too).

2. The Sounds of Star Wars Most latter-day DIYers probably went through a Star Wars phase, dueling with whiffleball bats while buzzing their lips to mimic the light saber’s signature drone. In The Sounds of Star Wars, we discover that the same playful impulse lies behind many of the sonic effects award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt created for the movies. Burtt’s work on the Star Wars films is a record of inspired hackery: the first effect in Star Wars, the sound of the rebel blockade-running ship escaping the Imperial destroyer, consisted of a slowed-down recording of a WWII prop-driven airplane mixed with the roar of a 747; the roar of the Tusken Raider brandishing its weapon over a prostrate Luke was created by reprocessing the braying of mules used to pack the movie-making gear into the desert canyons where the Tatooine wilderness scenes were filmed. Equipped with a sound unit offering more than 250 effects from the entire Star Wars series, The Sounds of Star Wars, written by J. W. Wrinzler and Ben Burtt, is a compendium of hacker inspiration. At sixty bucks, it’s not free?but you can pick it up for $37.80 at Amazon.

3. Get Moleskined With its fake-authentic claim to the cachet of Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin, the Moleskine remains the favorite notebook of hipsters everywhere. And for good reason: they’re elegant and durable, and their sturdy, buttery-smooth pages bring out the best in the post-handwriting scrawl of the computer age. But they’re also a favorite of makers, who’ve transformed Moleskines in a bewildering variety of mods: you can make a Moleskine into an iPhone case, a wallet, even an external hard drive. Grab a Moleskine stocking-stuffer for your favorite creative-class member. Maybe they’ll be inspired to use them to make animations, like this group of art students in Japan, under the tutelage of clay animator Masaaki Mori:

4. The Keybrid “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson; “they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” Combining ring with key, the Keybrid produces enough alienated majesty to burst your pockets. It’s gotten a lot of attention: Wired has developed a full-blown Keybrid fetish, and the product has earned a 2010 D&AD award. As the promo video below shows, the Keybrid inspires some second-order hackery as well: it serves as a dandy money clip and, in a pinch, a bubble-blowing wand. Is there no end to Keybridity? Created by product designer Scott Amron, whose work is a catalog of inspired and knowing hackery, the $8.99 Keybrid will goad even the most alienated do-it-yourselfer to new heights of majestic inventiveness.

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