If Santa Claus has subcontracted to you the job of finding stocking stuffers for techies, there are some options that won't break the bank.
Consider memory. It's usually a help to the system and prices are the lowest in the 20 or so years I've been watching them. On the Web, 512 megabytes are available for $50-$60 plus shipping for desktops and 256-megabytes for notebook computers go for around $25-$30.
Shipping charges will add an extra $7-$10 to the bill just about any time you buy something on line, but in some cases, CompUSA for example, things are available on the Web that aren't available in the retail stores. If you're not certain you'll order the right kind of memory, consider cash and a note and let your gift targets work out their own details.
Anyone with an inkjet printer will be happy to get replacement cartridges, available online or at office-supply stores. Online, some are as cheap as $2 for a generic cartridge (but the shipping on that one was $4). Remember to look at the printer to see the make and model number so you get a compatible cartridge.
If your tech-type is into digital photography, a pack of premium photo paper will be appreciated and won't set you back much more than $15. It would be nice combined with any special photocolor ink cartridges available for that printer. Around $25.
A mouse is always nice around a holiday house, particularly if it's optical. An optical mouse or trackball may be had online for $40-$50, typically bundled with driver software. Mice that sense motion optically are better because they both allow more precise control and don't care if they get a little dirty. Tip: check to see what kind of mouse connection the computer has now, and be certain that the new one matches it. Second tip: unless there's a very compelling reason, avoid cordless mice unless you don't mind supporting the battery industry.
It probably won't fit into a stocking unless you're buying for Bigfoot, but ergonomic keyboards are nice, and available online for around $35. Yes, it takes some getting used to working on a keyboard with angled keys. But for many, the payoff is preventing or reducing the pain that can develop when hands designed for swinging from tree to tree must hop from key to key.
Another communication accessory available for around $25 online is a webcam. That's a little video camera that sits on your PC and can take stills and videos for Web transmission. Be advised we're not talking TV-studio quality here, but it can be fun.
Source for online price quotes:
Questions and comments are welcome. Send them to Larry Blasko, AP, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020-1666. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.