Let’s face it. The holidays are expensive. When it comes to gift ideas we at MAKE naturally advocate making your gifts because it can be a lot cheaper and, well, we’re MAKE. That’s what we do. But if you’re busy like us, there’s no way you’re making all your gifts. You’ve got to buy some of them. But fear not. We asked around the office for maker-friendly gifts that won’t break your holiday budget. And if you don’t get want you want this year, think about buying one of these items for yourself. They’re all less than $25. You’re worth at least that much.
Evil Mad Science’s clever Art Controller kit has a pre-configured ATtiny2313A microcontroller that controls a relay, allowing you to activate the relay on a schedule, or when a button or other trigger is tripped. All of this without having to learn programming or ever plug in the Controller to a computer. EMSL uses a series of DIP switches and jumpers to control timing and repetitions. This is just the ticket for aspiring kinetic artists (hence the name) who want to play without getting bogged down in technical matters. —John Baichtal
I love taking my electronics apart, especially after conquering the annoyance of those tiny screws hidden deep in hard-to-reach recesses. The secret: this flexible-shaft precision screwdriver kit. Sure, it costs a few dollars more than a 20-spot, but the case stores 54 bits, including flat, Phillips, hex, square, Torx, Pentalobe, tri-wing and more — basically, anything you need for small project work. And it really comes to life when you insert the flexible shaft that lets you route the bit into tight spaces. With it, changing the RAM in my old MacBook became such a joyous undertaking that I bought a set of these for everyone in my family. It can even unscrew MacBook Air screws — don’t tell Apple. Shhh! —Mike Senese
There is absolutely no reason for you to own a plush 555 timer IC. And yet you must have one, if only to remind yourself that you are not the only one who harbors special warm fuzzy feelings about the 555. It’s adorable, costs a measly sawbuck, and is named after the original inventor of the chip we all (that’s right, all four of us) know and love so well. —Sean Ragan
At $19.80, version 3.1 of the Teensy USB Board from PJRC comes in just under the limit. This update to the popular (and tiny) hardware development board includes more memory, a faster processor, and is now 5-volt tolerant. —Matt Richardson
This is the first multimeter I owned. It lacks many of the bells and whistles (e.g., IR thermometer, autoranging, capacitance testing) of the expensive models and mostly just measures DV and AC voltage, DC amps, and resistance. When it made sense I upgraded, but I always kept this guy around as a backup. It’s actually great for 90% of what you’re likely to need for a basic project, and useful around the home as well. If the person you’re buying for is just starting out, $8.95 is a pretty safe gamble! (The DT-830Bs currently being sold are yellow.) —John Baichtal
Ever since I learned that there are groups of nomadic mushroom hunters that travel up and down the California coast, gathering elusive, hard-to-cultivate mushrooms, I’ve been thinking about what that sort of life is like. Langdon Cook explores the mushroom hunting subculture in his book, The Mushroom Hunters, and I think it’ll be just the ticket to satiate my curiosity. —Laura Cochrane
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