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Gifts for the digital dad

From flashy USB drives to DAP docks to a special place to keep that iPod. If you can't afford to give him that Ferrari, these gifts should make him smile. By Teri Goldberg

The routine is the same: When asked what he wants for Father’s Day, IT consultant David Stern tells his daughter a Ferrari.

“Any color any model ...not particular,” he says.

And then she replies, aside from a Ferrari, what do you really want? Some other items on Stern’s wish list this year include an Apple TV, a GPS navigation system — “preferably a portable one versus built-in so it can be used for driving, biking or wherever” — and a digital video recording device (DVR), which “is capable of transferring old home videos.”

A bit overwhelming, huh? Like Stern, many digital dads know what they want but it’s another story laying out the big bucks as well as making sure you buy the right model and brand. Fortunately, there are lots of dad’s day gifts for the technically inclined that require a little less forethought — and cash — but would be just as welcomed.

More memoryBecause there is always more to store, digital dads can always use extra memory, says Stern. The beauty of buying a memory card is there is a device for almost any budget. Generally the more Gs, the more it will cost you. Prices vary widely though. So make sure to shop around.

At the low-end, a 1G SanDisk memory card recently was on sale at RadioShack for $19.99, reduced from $39.99. For serious photographers and videophiles, memory cards are now available up to 16G. Dell’s 16GB Extreme III CompactFlash sustains “read/write speeds of up to 20 MBps” and sells for $353.99.

USB drives with flair

Just as useful but slightly more fun or “gift-able” are USB drives. And for the dad who has everything plus a sense of humor, there’s the wonderful world of whimsical USB drives. In general, the drives have less storage capacity but a lot more flair than the plain-old jump drives.

Chicago-based cyber shop Dynamism offers an impressive collection. My personal favorite is the USB drive that resembles a tree stump. Designed at Studio Oooms in the Netherlands, the “wooden memory stick” is just that — a stick attached to a USB drive. The inspiration being “nature’s imperfection,” no two should look alike because the sticks are picked from the woods. A 1 GB jump drive costs $89; 2 GB sells for $129.

Extremely romantic dads or members of the medical professional may favor USB drives shaped like a heart or the heart drive, 256 MB retails for $56. The “rubber ducky” is also cute or completely ridiculous, depending on your perspective, available in an array of colors including yellow, 256 MB runs $99.

MP3 player accessories rockFor years, mom has been accessorizing. Now it’s dad’s turn. Forget the tie though and think MP3 player or digital audio player (DAP) accessories — as in any product that helps dad stay connected to his tunes in whatever environment he finds himself — from the car to the gym.

Truly on the wild side are these iPod boxers. The tight-fitting, cotton-blend under shorts feature a small pocket below the waistband to contain dad’s DAP or cell phone. So dad can literally dance around with tunes in toe anytime anyplace. Available in solid colors or prints, the shorts sell for $22 at Freshpair. Go dad!

Another cool product by Hasbro’s Tiger Electronics is the iDog, a musical companion of sorts that makes the rock ‘n’ roll Elmo look dated. Plug the robotic creature in a MP3 player and listen to tunes through its speakers, watch its head and ears move and see its “mood” change or personality develop, depending on the music “you feed it.” Personalities include rock/punk, hip hop/rap, dance/techno, jazz/blues/big band and country western. Multi-colored lights also offer a disco effect by throbbing to the music.

When at rest, the iDog fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. It retails for $29.99 and is sold at Hasbro’s store online and toys stores and department stores nationwide. In addition to the disco model, iDog comes in a Spider-Man version, $27.97 at Target and a spotted Dalmatian, $27.72 at AA batteries required but not included. Recommended for ages 8 and up, dad will love it.

DAP docks for dadOn the more practical side, accessory shops are jamm packed with goods and gadgets that either protect or hook up to a MP3 player and extend its capabilities. At Charleston, S.C.-based Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO), products range from simple “jam jackets” or silicone cases to fit Creative Zen players, priced at $19.99, to the HomeDock Deluxe, which retails for $149, a remote-controlled system where dad can watch movies, music videos and TV shows stored in his iPod on a television.

Released just in time for Father’s Day, the HomeDock Music Remote hooks up to the stereo and can be controlled via a RF remote up to 150 feet away. It plays only audio not video (as compared to the HomeDock Deluxe) but dad can listen to and control tunes without being in the line of site of the stereo equipment. At $129.99, it’s priceless for the digital dad who wants to crank up the volume on the iPod docked to the stereo in the living room while chopping up vegetables for the grill in the kitchen. Yes the remote works through walls and dad is capable of multi-tasking (despite that moms are said to excel in this department).

And for the car, there’s the new TransDock Deluxe, which retails for $129.99. The dock not only lets the driver stream music from an iPod to a car stereo but also channels video downloads to flip-down screens or headrest monitors to view movies, TV shows and other videos. In addition, dad can control the action with a compact RF remote control that attaches to the steering wheel. In theory, that way dad doesn’t have to take his eyes off the road when changing programs.

DLO products are sold online at the company’s Web site plus electronic stores nationwide, such as Best Buy and Apple Store.