We polled IT pros on their nominations for the best geek gift ever, and the answers came back dripping with nostalgia.
Many said it was their very first computers that brought back the fondest memories. For Bob Plankers, a virtualization architect at a major Midwestern university, it was an Epson Apex 80 IBM XT clone that ran at 10 MHz -- "or the standard 4.77 MHz if you flipped the turbo switch off," he reminisced.
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"Dual 360K 5.25-in. floppies, 640 KB of RAM, four-color CGA graphics, MS-DOS 3.3, photocopied BASIC manual," he said. "It was awesome."
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Carl Brooks, an analyst at 451 Research in Boston, remembered an Atari 800 as his seminal computer system.
"It was a computer as well as a game platform and incredibly versatile for the time," he said. "I learned markup languages, BASIC, digital art and lots and lots of Seven Cities of Gold."
The Science Fair 100-in-1 Electronic Project Kit gave Paul C. Bryan, an architect at Salesforce.com, his start in a computing career.
Similarly, Charlie Gautreaux, a senior engineer, credited the IBM 5150, a hand-me-down Christmas gift, for getting him hooked on technology for life. A Commodore C64 did the trick for Sean Perry, CIO at Robert Half International.
Best geek gift of today: TiVo, iPhone, Kindle and more
The magic that was his first DVR updated the rules of leisure time for Sean McDermott, now CEO of Windward IT Solutions, an IT service management and systems engineering firm in Herndon, Va.
"Now it's completely passe, but at the time, it changed everything," he said. "You can't even watch live TV anymore."
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A close runner-up for McDermott was his first iPhone. "Before it came out, I would go through so many cell phones just searching for that perfect device," he said. "When the iPhone came out, I said, 'That's what I've been waiting for for seven years.'"
Another mobile device charmed Kris Bliesner, CEO of 2nd Watch Inc., a cloud computing consultancy and systems integrator in Liberty Lake, Wash.
"The year they were launched, I received a first-gen Kindle as a gift," he said. "This was the best tech gift I have ever received on many levels."
The Amazon Kindle lightened the load of Bliesner's briefcase, allowed him to quickly download books while on an airport tarmac awaiting takeoff. It was easy to read in direct sunlight in Cancun, and ensured access to Bliesner's library at all times through other mobile devices using a Kindle App.
"It is now easier than ever to educate yourself -- how cool is that?" Bliesner said.
Other best geek gifts include high-end digital SLR cameras, which touched off a hobby for Bill Hill, a senior engineer who works in the public sector. Programmable household light switches and entertainment center interfaces were among the consumer devices that also got high ratings.