Last-Minute Gifts for Technophobes

Gift ideas for bringing low-tech friends and family into the digital age.

Dec. 20, 2010— -- We've all got at least one of them in our lives.

They shudder at the sight of a virus alert. They wince at the thought of a new phone. They know that technology is supposed to make their lives easier, but figuring it all out usually means more work for them than it's worth.

Thankfully, there are a few ways to ease our favorite technophobes into the 21st century. If you're still holiday shopping for a tech-shy friend or family member, check out some ideas below.

Give the Gift of Google

For tech-savvy children, it's an annual tradition. You come home for the holidays only to get saddled with a list of techie to-dos by your parents.

Well, a group of Google employees has banded together to help give your parents' tech-IQ a much-needed boost.

Launched in time for the holidays, lets you send your parents "tech support care packages."

The playful website hosts dozens of how-to videos on a wide-range of digital-era skills that you can select and then e-mail to parents and others you think need some tutoring.

The videos teach the basics ? like copying and pasting and changing your screensaver ? but they also cover topics that may be more sophisticated for a low-tech parent ? like video chatting, changing an e-mail address and tracking a flight's status online.

Says the tech giant about its new tech support site, "A few of us at Google thought there had to be a better way that would save us all a few hours each December..."

Give Your Own Expertise

If your parents (or tech-shy friends) would rather listen to your voice than a Googler's, give them the gift of your own IT expertise.

Draw up a homemade gift certificate redeemable for on-demand tech support and then steer them over to The Web service offers free downloadable software that gives users secure, remote access to other computers.

As long as both you and your giftee have downloaded the desktop-sharing program, you can view their screen and share control of the mouse and keyboard (only when they give the green light, of course).

Next time they need help updating security software, editing photos or troubleshooting general computer problems, you can hop into their computer and talk them through the fix, no matter where you are in the world.

If you want to make sure they're covered even when you're unavailable, you can buy a gift certificate from CrossLoop that they can use to pay one of the thousands of tech professionals that offer their services through the site.

Each CrossLoop helper has a profile that lists their areas of expertise and hourly rate, along with comments and ratings from the people they have helped.

Techie Help for Dummies

It may not be the kind of gift best suited for display under the Christmas tree, but for friends and family constantly fighting with their gadgets, consider buying a tech-support subscription.

With a Best Buy gift card, your favorite technophobe could sign up for the company's GeekSquad subscription and receive 24/7 technical support for personal computers, connected devices (like MP3 players, smart phones and digital cameras) and a home network. The service costs $69 to setup and then $19.99 a month.

For new Apple product owners, Apple offers a one-to-one support service that costs $99 a year and includes set-up services and ongoing training. You can buy it for someone else, but the company says it has to be purchased within 14 days of purchasing the product. is offering a special holiday promotion that includes three months of unlimited tech support for $19.99 (the regular cost is $14.99 per month).

Break Them in Slowly

Non-tech-savvy friends may be bored (or scared) by the season's latest laptops and digital cameras, but you might be able to tempt them with gadgets related to their favorite hobbies and interests.

For your favorite wino, try an electric wine bottle opener. For a wannabe chef, why not spring for a digital thermometer? For sports buffs, consider giving a fitness tracking device. New parents might be made more modern with video baby monitors.

If they have an iPhone, you could even get them an iTunes gift card so that they can buy the iPhones apps that fit their interests.

Connect with the Computerless

For older family members (or your Luddite friends) who don't see a reason to bother with computers at all, check out the Presto Printing Mailbox and Mail service.

The Presto system is a great option for older loved ones who don't have a computer but still want to receive hard-copies of e-mailed messages, photos and other documents. The Presto Mailbox costs $49.99 and prints out incoming mail, while the Presto Mail Service (which is needed to use the Mailbox) costs as low as $12.99 a month and enables the communication.

The service includes a custom e-mail address, spam prevention, message scheduling and more.

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