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Gift Ideas for Computer Programmers

Gift Ideas for Computer Programmers

So you’re looking for gift ideas for computer programmers in your life? Gifts for software engineers and programmers at all levels range from fun or techy accessories for the office to financial support toward their education. To be honest, some coders may just need a quiet, distraction-free room for their work. This post can’t help with that, but it does pull together a range of expert recommendations from Hackbright Academy staff and other great gift ideas.

Hardware and Workspace

There’s something about influencer coders and software engineers on social media that appeals to anyone working at a desk—and especially people who work from home. Soft ambient lighting blended with bright, direct lights, wrapped around a well-organized and ergonomic workspace with high-quality and specialized tech, playful touches that look interior designed, and impeccable cord management. And that’s to say nothing of the chair, whose curvilinear forms and space-age materials are optimized for pressure distribution, maximum adjustability, and full-body comfort to ensure deep concentration.

Make no mistake, a coder can do their work with just a laptop, but the more time spent at a computer, the better it is to have invested in getting the work station right.

If you know the coder in your life is in need of equipment or an upgrade, some aggregate and review sites focused on computer programming can help you zero in on the current hardware that make the vocation smoother. For example, these top monitors for computer programmers are based on the writer’s personal experience combined with extensive industry and user research. 

Keyboards

Since programming is all about writing code, we asked Ashley Trinh, director of education at Hackbright Academy to share the importance of a good keyboard and some of her favorite keyboard options.

“Typing for long periods of time can lead to repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. It doesn’t help that most of us type on keyboards with a staggered layout (because the first keyboard was modeled after typewriters), which forces you to move your fingers in an unnatural way. It doesn’t have to be this way! Ortholinear keyboards arrange their keys in a grid layout so instead of moving your fingers diagonally to reach different keys, you just move them up and down. This is more ergonomic and natural which reduces the stress on your muscles and tendons.”

Recommended keyboards:

Mats

Desk mats and floor mats or balance boards do the work of optimizing your workstation and your body position for long days at the computer.

Desk mats or desk pads really serve a couple of important purposes: 1) protecting the surface of your desk while adding an anti-slip surface and 2) adding a specific or even custom aesthetic to your workstation. Trinh points to Drop.com, where she notes “they sell matching keyboards so you can color coordinate your desk mat with your keyboard and cables.”

Another kind of mat sits on the floor and helps coders who have a standing desk option. An anti-fatigue mat like Fluidstance’s Springboard blends a flexible, comfortable surface of eco-friendly materials with the company’s stunning design aesthetic. Fluidstance also makes an array of handy on-desk whiteboards for quick notes and standing-desk balance boards to improve posture and engage your core.

Content Creation

For programmers who are also budding content creators, quality microphones and lighting as well as a decent tripod are essential accessories for video capture. Even a basic vlogger kit will be a huge improvement over the phone’s existing microphone—just make sure it comes with the right cable attachment for their phone. Of course, searching for “best YouTube starter kits” opens up a whole world of gear-heavy gift ideas since dedicated cameras, lens, memory cards, batteries, wind screens, and other accessories can all lend to a content creator’s technical capacity.

Online Learning, Software, Subscriptions, and Reading

Whether you’re gifting a coding novice or an entrenched professional, online learning and other digital tools are welcome gift ideas for programmers. It’s more obvious a gift for those who are learning to code but it turns out can be just as useful to people with careers in coding and software engineering who must stay current with the latest programming languages or to expand their technical ability.

Udemy offers individual courses to all levels that can be gifted and recipients will retain lifetime access to the course. Such self-study can help an aspiring programmer begin their journey or discover a passion before enrolling in a bootcamp to take it to the next level. It’s also great for continuing education.

For something more formal, Sophia Learning, an affiliate of Hackbright, offers online education and includes academic subjects ranging from humanities and English to computer science and IT general courses all culminating in credits that transfer to dozens of college and university partners. For example, Sophia’s Introduction to Web Development helps learners gain the foundations needed to hit the ground running in a Hackbright Academy or its other affiliate, Devmountain coding bootcamp. The best way to give the gift of Sophia would be to Venmo the money to cover the cost of the 1-month, 4-month, or 12-month subscription.

Additional software purchases or subscriptions will support your tech friend. Most top integrated development environments (IDEs) require a monthly or annual subscription, though there are also one-time purchase options. A new programmer might benefit from a monthly subscription while they’re feeling out the best interface and programming languages while coders with some experience may have gravitated to one IDE or another.

For programmers who are also content creators, subscriptions to online creative development and marketing services like Canva or Promo or the Adobe Creative Cloud might be welcome additions to their arsenal. It just might take some sorting with the Adobe team to get the subscription ID set up in your recipient’s email.

And, adds Trinh, “Give yourself the gift of freedom from writing repetitive, boring, boilerplate code with a GitHub Copilot subscription. I didn’t think I needed GitHub Copilot until I started my free trial and now I’m hooked. I never realized how much I hated having to write boilerplate code until GitHub Copilot wrote it for me. There’s no way to gift a subscription right now, but at $10/month (the cost of a fancy cup of coffee in the Bay Area), it’s one of the best, most affordable self-care gifts I’ve given to myself.”

To round out this section, here is some of Ashley Trinh’s recommended reading to keep things fun, educational, and interesting:

 Bubble Sort Zines has a ton of aesthetic, programming-related clothes, pins, stickers, and zines. The zines are a perfect gift for people who appreciate Sailor HG’s hand-drawn, pastel-colored aesthetic.” Recommended zines:

Puzzles and Coding Games

Also from Trinh, “The Zachtronics Puzzle Pack includes seven programming-adjacent puzzle games by indie developer Zachtronics. If you like optimizing code, reading documentation, or you really want to learn Assembly but it’s just not fun enough, these are the games for you. The bundle gives you a 20% discount but you can also buy the games individually if you don’t want all seven.” Trinh’s recommendation game from this packs:

In addition, Turing Complete is a terrific game for learning CPU assembly, architecture, and logic. And PICO-8 is an engaging fantasy console for creating and sharing tiny games.

And if you’re a mom and you’re looking for a meaningful and engaging engineering-inspired gift for your kid, Trinh recommends:

  • Spintronics focuses on solving puzzles through mechanical circuits to help visualize abstract concepts about electricity.

Turing Tumble, meanwhile, uses marbles and mechanical logic to help learners interactively discover how computers work.

Woman drinking coffee while on computer.

Miscellaneous

There are plenty more ways to have a little fun when giving a gift to a computer programmer. A quick search for “gift ideas for computer programmers” in Amazon or Google is a good place to start, especially if you look for the Small Business badge on Amazon. Running specific searches like “gifts for women software engineer” in Etsy is a fantastic way to sort unique and fun offerings abundant in coding puns (“code-blooded” jumps out) or inexpensive, yet refined, gifts like this Software Engineer Custom Notebook.

But First, Coffee

Make no mistake: coders and coffee may well have a closer working relationship than the water and grinds used to make the coffee. The gift of a single bag (or subscription) of very good coffee will almost always be welcome; likewise any of the vast array of brewing equipment now on the market feels leap years beyond Mr. Coffee (no shade on Mr. Coffee either; sometimes 12 cups of basic black coffee sitting on a hot plate gets the job done).

A one-time gift of Cometeer could really hit the spot with a coffee-loving computer programmer in your life. One of the year’s most innovative products, Cometeer partners with top roasters then extracts and nitrogen-freezes single-serve pucks of coffee with scientific precision. The box of coffee capsules are shipped in dry ice and everything is recyclable. Simply melt and drink. The gift recipient gets to pick their roast and consider a subscription special offer, which they’re likely to take.  This remarkably good coffee haunts the palate. 

A reliable alternative if you’re not sure of the right brew to send: the tech-darling Ember, a smart mug whose app lets users pick their ideal beverage temperature and maintain it for over an hour off the charger or, well, perhaps indefinitely when on the charger, but that’s probably not necessary. Also available in a travel mug.

Bootcamps

Now, what’s the very best gift you could give an aspiring software engineer who is trying to learn to code? It might just be some form of tangible support for that person to enroll in a Hackbright Academy prep course or software engineering bootcamp. Such support could certainly come in the form of financial assistance to pay for admission, but bootcamps are intensive and require a lot of focus and time. Helping students during their bootcamp may mean helping create space for them to learn and achieve by helping buy or upgrade their hardware and ensuring a solid internet connection or simply removing distractions during class or homework sessions.

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