Got a software developer on your “nice” list? Or, maybe you’re the dev and need to drop some hints to people who have you on their list? Here are some gift ideas programmed to make devs happy this holiday.

(Alternatively, if you’re trying to please someone in the networking realm, check out my previous guide, Great Gifts for the Network Pro Who Has Everything.)

1. A hardware scratch pad

For hacking around and experimenting with coding ideas, a small, inexpensive, standalone computer like a Raspberry Pi is the ticket. Raspberry Pis are also built around a good collection of input/output ports, making them excellent for IoT experimentation.

Try a kit, like the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter PRO Kit, which has the computer, a case, and all the cables you need to get up and running ASAP. You might also want to pick up an accessory kit with electronics components (LEDs, distance sensors, displays, discrete components, and more) to go with it, like the Freenove Ultimate Starter Kit.


2. Keyboard for coders

Happy Hacking KeyboardFor a developer, the keyboard is where the mind meets the machine. And a good dev needs more than your typical squishy keyboard. Mechanical keyboards have key switches that are more tactile and far more pleasing to use. There are many options, including the line of Happy Hacking keyboards as well as models from Das Keyboard that can light up individual keytops with colors indicating various dev status flags, like if you have a new GitHub notification.


3. Get it off the desk

The desktop stands that come with computer monitors provide only limited options for placing a monitor. Worse, some of them don’t let you rotate a monitor from default horizonal layout to the more efficient for developers (and other writers) portrait orientation.  Check out Wirecutter’s guide to monitor arms for good ways to make monitor placement much, much better.


4. Never trust a programmer with a screwdriver

iFixit EssentialsWe get it. Programming is a cerebral pursuit. But sometimes you do need to get into a device.  iFixit’s electronics toolkits are very pleasing to use, nice to look at, and they make great gifts.


5. Programming starts at home

Smart home technology is at a great stage right now if you’re a developer. There’s a ton of stuff out there to play with: sensors, voice assistants, programmable lighting, and more. The home automation market is also a complete mess of competing standards and ideas. It is equal parts useful and perplexing, which makes it a great space in which to learn about standards, IoT concepts, scripting, and coding.

For maximum smarthome hackability, check out a software platform like Home Assistant (free to download), or, for maximum giftability, a dedicated home hub on which to run it on, like the company’s  Home Assistant Blue.


6. Stickers or it didn’t happen


Is there a dev ethos that says that every single sticker on a programmer’s laptop must be earned the hard way (by going to a conference)? We don’t think so. If your programmer friend wants a little optionality for decorating their laptop, you could do worse than this stocking stuffer: a whole bag of dev-related laptop stickers. (Also, see my previous story on Sticker Etiquette.)


7. Life-long learning

To be a developer is to be a life-long student. Help your student along with a great book about programming, a general-purpose pass to courses on a platform like Udemy, or the latest certification to get your developer up on the intersection of network infrastructure and coding, like Cisco’s own DevNet Associate Fundamentals course.


8. Mind your marbles

Dev gifts turning tumbleThis looks like a toy but is actually a fantastic diversion for people who think in logical operations… and also an interesting way to get kids into the mind of the machine. The Turing Tumble is a Pachinko computer in which marbles, a pegboard, gravity, and pieces of plastic replicate logic gates. Lots of fun, and clever as heck. Recommended.


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Rafe Needleman


Cisco Developer Relations