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5 perfect computery Christmas gifts for your mother, father or family elder

Let's be honest: if you're reading Download Squad, you're in the 99th percentile when it comes to computer technology. You probably know how to touch type, or send a file across the world at the speed of light, and in all likelihood you own one of the big three video game consoles. Like all things that you've grown up with and come to rely on, though, you don't realize just how lucky you are to have high-tech gadgets in your life.

Don't worry, I'm not going to go on about the malnourished kids in Sub-Saharan Africa and how you ought to feel thankful for food and good health this Christmas. Instead, just take a moment and think about what life would be like without a computer, without an Internet connection -- without LOLCATS.

The sad truth is, only the last couple of generations have attained computer mastery. Your parents might use computers, but as a means to an end, not as a tool. I don't think I've ever heard my mother say she likes Microsoft Word, but it gets the job done. You and I both know that technology can be so much more than that. It can become an extension of our everyday life -- and there's no reason your older relatives should miss out on the fun!

I've compiled a list of five items that can all massively improve a nascent computer user's enjoyment of technology. Some are cheap, and some are expensive -- but do your parents a favor and buy them something from this list this Christmas.

A new keyboard ($30), mouse ($20), and a touch-typing course (free)
A modern computer harbors an immense amount of processing power. The only real bottleneck on a computer, in fact, is the interface. The computer processor might be whirring away at three gigahertz, but what good is that if you can only type a few letters per second, or it takes you a few seconds to click an icon?

The slowest part of a computer is the human operator, and the only way to speed that up is to improve the interface. While we can't do much about the software we use, a new keyboard and mouse are the next best thing. A good ergonomic keyboard does wonders for the associated strains of typing, too.

As for touch-typing, think about how much of your parents' time is spent writing emails, or messages on Facebook. If they could type two or three times as fast, imagine how much spare time they would have! Imagine how many more messages they could write, or how much extra FarmVille playtime they could accrue.

A Flickr Pro account ($24.95/year)
By default, Flickr only lets you share 200 photos -- which is great and all, but rather crippling if you want to share and archive decades of family photos. Yes, with a Flickr Pro account, your parent (or grandparent) can begin the process of uploading old photo albums into new, digital, tagged-and-sorted digital albums!

Most old people love taking photos, too: family get-togethers, school plays, holidays; you name it, they'll snap it. Flickr is the perfect place to store those photos, with the social network aspect being a very nice added bonus.

Of course, if your relative doesn't have a digital camera, a Flickr account is a little pointless. If you feel like spoiling them this Christmas, some excellent point-and-shoot cameras have emerged this year. The latest Pansonic Lumix is both waterproof and rugged, and thus great for adventurous types; and you can't go wrong with the latest Canon PowerShot. Both shoot HD video, which is ideal for recording those memorable holiday moments!

A new Web browser -- Chrome / Firefox / Opera (free)
As obvious as this sounds, getting your parent or family elder onto a new, free browser such as Chrome, Firefox or Opera is one of the best upgrades money can't buy. A lot of older people are still using IE6 or 7, and even IE8 (which ships with Windows Vista and 7) still leaves a lot to be desired. Upgrading their browser to the latest-and-greatest hardware-accelerated browser will massively improve their surfing experience.

Don't just install the browser for them, either. Spend Christmas Day walking them through the browser's key features to ensure they get the most out of it.

Nintendo Wii ($175) + games ($30+)
I might get a few odd looks for this one, but hear me out. Whoever said video games are for younger people is lying. Games are fun, period. It doesn't matter whether they are card games or board games or video games -- they are fun.

The problem comes in choosing a video game that is suitable for an older person. While the latest Call of Duty or Halo title won't be well received, I've heard some fantastic reports of parents and grandparents enjoying Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit. There are some great puzzle games, too, like Boom Blox, and the best game ever made: Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Like a new Web browser, I suggest you spend at least a couple of hours introducing your lucky relative to the world of video gaming. If you buy Wii Fit, do it before Christmas lunch though... or a few hours after.

A streaming music subscription:
Zune in the US; Spotify in Europe ($14.99/month)

Vinyl is dead, yo! Tapes are all but defunct, and, thanks to streaming music, CDs are fast becoming annoyingly easy-to-scratch wastes of space.

Both Zune and Spotify have vast libraries of music that span every genre imaginable. Seriously, I'm constantly amazed by the variety of music that I can find on Spotify -- sure, it doesn't have everything, but who does? For a few dollars a month, your family elder will have access to digital versions of almost every song they know and love, which is much better -- and cheaper -- than the only alternative: digitizing every old record and tape in their collection.

Incidentally, a good alternative to a streaming music subscription is an iTunes gift card -- especially if your parents are into the Beatles...

If you can you think of any other technology-oriented things that would make perfect gifts for parents or grandparents this Christmas, leave a comment!

Tags: flickr, hgg, hgg2010, nintendo wii, NintendoWii, spotify, web browser, WebBrowser, wii, zune