Shopping for a techie can be tough, especially in a world where what’s new moves at lightning speed and self-driving cars are still, well, a wee bit expensive. Thankfully, UncommonGoods has your back this year. Of our many out-of-the-box gifts designed for the tech-inclined, we’ve selected ten of our favorites, from super-smart grow-it-yourself herb gardens to iPhone cases that defy the laws of physics. Maybe “UncommonGizmos” wouldn’t have been such a bad name after all? But I digress. Read on for more.
*Editor’s note: The Public Radio – Single Station Tuner is coming soon to our assortment. Get it first by pre-ordering here.
Modernity can be a little overwhelming. Don’t get us wrong, of course; the internet is an amazing tool, and smartphones make virtually everything easier, from navigating the wildlands otherwise known as the subway system to finding out whether it’s going to rain in fifteen minutes or if that cloud’s just looking a bit more angry than usual. We agree: These are all good things. But sometimes an escape from the wealth of information our era provides seems awfully luxurious. Sometimes you just want to turn your phone off for like, one second. And sometimes you’d rather not wonder which one of the hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there you should listen to today. You’d rather flip a switch, hear one thing (and one thing only), and move on with your life, complex as it already is.
Enter the Public Radio – Single Station Tuner, brainchild of media and sound technologist Zach Dunham and his childhood friend Spencer Wright, a manufacturing strategist. A breath of fresh air among the seemingly endless streaming options in today’s digital landscape, the Public Radio – Single Station Tuner radically simplifies your listening experience. Tuned to a single FM station of your choice, it has only one knob, for volume control. And while lowercase public radio (or, y’know, Hot 97) devotees will appreciate the ease with which they can tune into their favorite station, design aficionados will take to the gadget’s thoughtful construction, which allows it to fit into any wide-mouth Mason jar—not only the cute, compact half-pint variety it ships with.
When I was a kid, my mom had a beautiful old typewriter. I remember carefully inserting bright white sheets of paper, punching those big, round keys, hearing that delightful ding and the unmistakable sound emitted when I pulled back the lever, and the smell of a fresh, inky ribbon.
Although it may not always be practical to type hard copies these days, with liquid paper being more work than hitting backspace and all, just looking at a typewriter does bring happy thoughts to many who have used one, and some who haven’t–but see them in old movies, in antique stores, and on our some of our favorite period TV shows.
Balancing that need to keep an electronic record of our documents with the desire to capture moments in the creative process from a simpler time, inventor Jack Zylkin developed a product that celebrates the best of both worlds–the USB Typewriter.
Delighted by this innovative combination of past and present, I was excited to learn more about what drives Jack’s designs. He happily shared about his inspirations, collaborators, and what’s to come.
Q.) You said that you invented the USB Typewriter as a ‘statement about the disposable nature of modern communication and modern communication devices’. What is it about the typewriter, specifically, that you find so intriguing?
Many people have found that the overstimulation brought on by computers and electronic gadgets, whether it be emails, tweets, viral videos, or other distractions, interferes with the creative process. People dread the boredom associated with being “uplugged”, but without boredom there would be no daydreaming!
While computers and cell phones are increasingly used for consuming media, on a typewriter, there is absolutely nothing you can do except create — it forces you to hone all of your focus and heart onto a single, blank page. Still, the convenience of saving and editing your work on a computer, as well as being able to share ideas and inspiration online, is also an indispensible part of being creative.
With my USB Typewriter invention, I hoped to have the best of both worlds — while writing, you can turn your computer screen off and enjoy a sublime writing experience, directly connecting with a printed page and nothing else. Then, when your draft is finished, you can save it to a computer, edit it, email it, and so on. Even after your work has been polished and spell-checked, you will still have the original hardcopy you typed, to keep as an artifact of your first draft, or to mail to a friend. Hopefully, having a beautiful typewriter permanently on your desk –instead of a computer keyboard — will encourage you to turn the computer off altogether now and then, too!
Q.) You helped found Hive76 in 2008 and designed the USB Typewriter in 2010. How did working with a collective of artists, engineers, designers, and other creative folks influence your invention of this product?
I would never have been able to make the USB Typewriter without Hive76. They not only provided the tools, the parts, and the workspace, but also a group of enthusiastic hackers to encourage me and offer advice. For example, I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to cell phones and such, so I never would have had the idea to use an iPad with the USB Typewriter — that was actually fellow Hive member Chris Thompson’s idea. And the idea to print my own circuit boards came from a class we taught at Hive76 on making your own guitar effects. Ultimately, its just a really fun place to hang out, which gave me that extra encouragement I needed to come there after my day job night after night.
Q.) This invention takes an old standard and connects it with a “newfangled contraption”, creating something beautiful and functional. Are you working on any similar concepts, or is there another modern marvel with an old-school throwback you’d love to see materialize?
I have a lot of balls in the air right now. I try to just sort of make whatever idea pops into my head, so there is no recurring theme to my inventions. For example, I am very close to finishing work on a futuristic new board game with a very cool electronic twist, which I just filed a patent for…but right now I am working on a cheap word-processor that has an e-ink screen. E-ink would be so beautiful to type on — the next best thing to actual paper!
Q.) If you were to write a novel using the USB Typewriter, what would your first line read?
“Blank pages are the best kind. Write your own story. The end.”
Now that’s a statement we can stand behind! How about you, readers? We’d love to see the first lines of your novels. How does your story begin?
The holiday season is is in full swing, and we’re pouring through our assortment selecting great gifts for everyone on your shopping list! Many of our picks are inspired by our Twitter contest winner, Jodie. She won a $500 UncommonGoods shopping spree earlier this year, and we’ve had a ton of fun helping her choose the perfect gifts for her favorite people.
After creating guides for babies and kids based on Jodies’ nephews, age 8 months to 6 years, we realized that although Jodie doesn’t have a teen on her shopping list, many parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents (to name just a few) do. With this in mind, we picked a few of our favorite gifts for teens.
Remote Control SUV Kit- It may not be time to hand over the keys to a new car, but you can hand over this cool kit. The Remote Control SUV kit starts out as a puzzle and snaps together to become a motorized vehicle.
Bike Bells- A great stocking stuffer, these hand-painted bike bells are functional, funny, and stylish.
Guitar String Bracelets- Whether the teen in your life is a musician, music-lover, or just likes to look good, these unisex accessories are chart toppers.
Sneaker Customization Kit- Designer shoes are expensive, but this kit, which includes sneaker wipes, paints, and a high-quality paint brush, makes it easy for your favorite teen to create their own.
Recycled Cotton Animal Mittens- Trendy, but still uncommon, these cozy, cute mittens are made from yarn spun from leftover fabric from upholstery factories that would have otherwise been discarded. They’re also available in mink and skunk.
Black Cat Headphones- More comfortable than earbuds, these hand-crocheted headphones have a vintage feel that still appeals to modern teens.
Big Grips iPad Case- Available in blue or green, these grippy foam covers make your teen’s favorite electronic sidekick easier to hold on to.
From fashionable accessories and beautiful jewelry to techie gadgets and fun games, we’ve got all kinds of great gifts for teens. Stay tuned for more gift guides to find perfect presents for everyone in your life this season!
Need a gift recommendation for a hard-to-shop for teen? Leave a comment below.
We’ve gotten a great response to our Community Voting Tool, and we love hearing what you have to say about potential uncommon goods!
Now we’re calling all voters to help us make another important decision. Our buyers want to know which potential title you like best for this vintage-inspired “Book” E-Reader Cover.
This protective cover makes your e-reader look like a hardcover classic, so why not give it a classic book title?
Leave a comment and let us know if you’d like to see this “book” branded with Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Darwin’s On The Origins of Species, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Andersen’s Fairy Tales, or The Bible.
1) Product name
Discover Electronics Kit
2) Background Research
Not only do I tinker with a lot of electronic hardware as a hobby, but also in my day job. I’m always confused about the finer details of how that doohickey connects to that thingamabob, so what better way to help me better understand than an electronics kit! This kit looked like it would suite my purposes as far as materials and research is concerned, and on the plus side its travel sized so I can take it on the go.
With this kit I can teach myself how circuits works and hopefully create some cool gizmos and contraptions.
I’m dedicating an hour or more every day following the instructions, building little gizmos (love that word), and hopefully having a little fun along the way.
The instructional booklet was very detailed in how one can create something from nothing in a matter of minutes, before I knew it had created a series of LED lights in which blinked accordingly to serious of signals in which I set up, I was amazed. The walk-through in the booklet displays all of the pieces so that they are easily identified; this also helps with my memory retention since I could easily associate a picture to a piece and piece to a picture.
There is a section in the booklet where a formula must be learned so you don’t blow up your LED lights. (Nobody wants that!) But the formula was easy to follow and really helped in the more advanced sections of the kit. I was hardly ever satisfied with my decision of my final build, I either wanted to remove something or add more (more LEDS!)
The original breadboard was malfunctioning, but this was a probably due to the fact that I was building some rather unorthodox contraptions, so I had to get a new one. Regardless of the few speed bumps, it is an awesome kit!
After a few hours and days playing around with the kit, I didn’t need the booklet for reference any more. I felt like a pro, confident enough to speed through a build without fear of a though of “Will it work?” I have created tone-activated LEDs and LEDs that dim on and off almost like a Christmas light decoration. Overall it was an awesome and fun experience in a short amount of time.
Not only does this kit include the materials needed to get a understanding of electronics and circuitry, but it also comes with, in my eyes, the most down-to-earth, easily readable instruction booklet in the universe (well, maybe not the universe). I am waiting for the opportunity for anyone to ask me what Diodes do, what Ceramic Capacitors are used for, how to use Regulators, how timers work and where to put those darn Electrolytic capacitors so I can blurt out all the knowledge this kit has given me. I would definitely recommend this to a person of any age who is interested in making their own basic electronics, or someone who simply wants to have fun and learn at the same time.