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This article was published on July 23, 2011

8 essentials for every self-respecting geek’s office

8 essentials for every self-respecting geek’s office
Brad McCarty
Story by

Brad McCarty

A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty. A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty.

If you pride yourself in your geekery, then there are a few things that are essential to your office. Whether you fancy yourself a minimalist, a bit extravagant or somewhere in between, wearing the geek badge is like joining a team. You need to don the uniform.

Fortunately for you, this uniform doesn’t require cheap polo shirts and ill-fitting pants, but rather quintessential office stuff. I say stuff because it doesn’t all fit into one category, so let’s go down the list.

Great Speakers or Headphones

Let’s face facts, even the best of laptop speakers still suck. Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank or run yourself short on space in order to get some top-notch audio. Brands like Logitech are renowned for making great-sounding audio equipment that will save both space and cash, such as its Z623 THX-rated speaker system.

If waking up your neighbors or disturbing your office-mates is a concern, shoot for some headphones. We’ll stick with ear buds so that you can easily stash them in a bag. I did a round-up of four great ones that are all under $50 which you can read here but if I had my choice, I’d have to go with the Shure SE535-V. Oh yeah, they’ll run you more than $400, but they’re worth every penny for drowning out that cubicle slave next to you with pristine audio serenity.

Device Charging Station

If you don’t have one yet, get one. There’s nothing quite as annoying as trying to shuffle around 5 different cables with 2 USB ports, especially when you end up unplugging your keyboard or mouse. iDapt’s i4 should fit the bill nicely, offering you 3 exchangeable “tips”, then a spare USB charging port on the side.

Cheeky Movie Memorabilia

Maybe you’re a huge fan of Office Space (aren’t we all?) or perhaps Clerks is more your style. Whatever the case, you have to have a nod, at least somewhere, to your favorite flicks. In my office, it’s Lord of the Rings, thanks to my other half. We have a life-sized bust of a goblin that we’ve named Reggie. He’s found a home on top of a book shelf.

Maybe you don’t have room for something that big. Never fear, stores such as ThinkGeek have you covered with items like the famous red Swingline stapler. Whatever room you have, make sure you have paid homage to the Hollywood greats (or not-so-greats) somewhere.

Rechargeable Batteries

There’s nothing worse than being 3 hours into your frag-fest…err…I mean data entry work…and having your mouse batteries go dead. Well, OK, not being able to find spares around makes that situation suck a lot more.

It’s for times just like these that you should plop down a few bucks on a set of rechargeable batteries. In fact, make sure you have enough to power all of your devices, plus having a set fully charged for when the inevitable happens. Not only will it keep your frustrations low, it will also help to create less waste by eliminating the need to throw away the dead ones.

If you are in an office that gets a fair amount of sun, I’m a big fan of this AA/AAA battery charger that will get you juiced back up with solar power. Since small batteries such as these don’t hold loads of power, it doesn’t take long to get them filled back up and it keeps another plug from running up your electric bill.

Something Green

Humor me here for a bit. If you haven’t managed to get something to stay alive in your office, you should give it another try. I don’t know the scientific reasons behind it, but having a living plant in your office just makes things nicer. In fact, if you work in a noisy environment, a broad, leafy plant can even cut down on the ambient noise.

There are other options out there, too, for those of you whose thumbs are more black than green. If you’re the type of person that forgets to water your cat, try a Philodendron or a Jade plant. African Violets are great for a splash of color beyond green. Any of these can manage to go the better part of a couple of weeks without dying due to a lack of water. Just keep them in some light, pour out your water cup into them at the end of the day and you’ll be set.

Need a geek spin to make you feel at home? Here’s a project that you can do which will remind you to water your plants by letting them talk to you.

Proper Lighting

While nothing can beat the light from that big ball of gas in the sky, it’s not always the best light to have when you’re trying to work on a reflective screen. It’s incredibly difficult to direct sunlight, but the benefits of that type of light are well known.

For those of you stuck in cubicle hell, try adding a sunlight desk lamp. These little guys will give you the benefits of sunlight, without having to work by a window all day. Better yet, they’re directional so you can keep them from reflecting your own face back at you all day.

Look, we may be the pasty-skinned and proud of the world, but there’s no reason to be the ones with eye strain and seasonal depression.

A Great Keyboard

How you define a great keyboard is going to vary greatly from person to person. I’ve used loads of them over the years and my present favorite is still Apple’s USB keyboard with the keypad. I’ve tried using the Bluetooth, smaller version, but I tend to use the keypad too much to go without it.

If you want to earn some real geek cred, though, you’ll need to buckle down and grab yourself something like the Das Keyboard (pictured above). Designed for those of us who have an addiction to that click-clack sound from the old IBM PS-2 keyboards, the Das Keyboard has a model that doesn’t even bother with screening the keys. After all, you know where they are, right?

Proper Book Displays

Chances are, you’ve collected a mass of books over the years. Between manuals, “Idiots Guides” and just old favorites, you’ve probably got drawers and shelves stuffed with them. While we might be in the digital era, no Kindle can ever compare with kicking back with a nice copy of an MCSE or Cisco certification guide.

You’ve gathered them, so do them justice and display them properly. Whether it’s with a trippy, floating shelf like the ones pictured here or some other choice, a good book collection is the sign of true geek credibility. Show those things off proudly.

I’m sure you have some others, but this is my essential list. Granted, mine goes a bit deeper because I have entire boxes full of cables and audio gear that no self-respecting audio geek could live without, but this should be a great start for the rest of us. So what did I miss? Drop a comment below and tell me what needs to be in my office next.

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