Ho Chi Mihn City is the hub for sourcing the materials and tools driving the growing Vietnamese economy. Whether you’re building new, or keeping existing equipment running, the supply chains and service companies aren’t yet in place and the markets of HCMC are the go-to for parts and equipment. Let’s get a little taste of what I saw in my tour of the markets.
One of the unfortunate things about Hackaday’s globe-spanning empire is that you often don’t get to meet the people you work with in person. Since I was in China and it’s right next door, I really wanted to pop over to Vietnam and meet Sean Boyce, who has been writing for Hackaday for a couple of years, yet we’ve never met. I suggested we could make this happen if we put together a meetup or unconference. Sean was immediately confident that the Ho Chi Minh City hardware hackers would turn out in force and boy was he right! On Sunday night we had a full house for the first ever Hackaday Vietnam Meetup.
I spent a full day on Saturday in the electronics markets of Shenzhen, China. The biggest thing to take away from this is the sheer scale of business that is going on here. It’s a consumer-electronics tourist trap, it’s a manufacturing and wholesaling nexus point, and it’s a community of people working incredibly hard to get ahead in life.
A big thanks to Scotty Allen for introducing me to several store owners in the markets, and to a translator who went around with me. These connections were crucial for an inside look on the lifestyle of Huaqiangbei (HQB).
Shenzhen, China is the home of the legendary electronics markets of Huaqiangbei. Friday was my first full day in the city, having spent the previous three days in Shanghai. We got a little bit of a late start as our flight didn’t arrive until after 1 am and we stayed at the first night at an airport hotel. We met up with Scotty Allen for an amazing meal followed by a very unique experience in the electronics markets, not just seeing the items, but meeting the booth owners who showed off some of their secrets.
The day was capped off by an absolutely packed meetup at X.factory, the collaborative creative space run by Seeed Studio. They lined up a half dozen hardware talks that were quite excellent, and there was a ton of hardware being demonstrated as the night progressed. They had to kick us out or we’d have stayed all night!
Thursday was my final day in Shanghai. After spending all of Wednesday at Electronica Asia, I headed over to the Espressif Headquarters which is just one subway stop away. This is of course the company behind the well-known ESP8266 and its younger sibling, the ESP32. My host was Ivan Grotkothov, Director of Software Platforms. The backstory on how he found his way to the company is truly interesting, as are the stories he shared on some of the legend and lore surrounding the WiFi capable chips the company makes — and the new one whose existence just leaked out this week.
Join me below for that and few other fun things from my last day in this city of 26 million people.
My first full day in China was spent at Electronica, an absolutely massive conference showcasing companies involved in electronics manufacturing and distribution. It’s difficult to comprehend how large this event is, filling multiple halls at the New International Expo Center in Shanghai.
I’ve seen the equipment used for PCB assembly many times before. But at this show you get to see another level below that, machines that build components and other items needed to build products quickly and with great automation. There was also big news today as the 2019 Hackaday Prize China was launched. Join me after the break for a look at this equipment, and more about this new development for the Hackaday Prize.
It turns out that Shanghai is a very long way from my home in Wisconsin. I’ve traveled here for Electronica China, and although it made for an incredibly long travel “day”, it turned out to be quite enjoyable. I hacked some hardware on the plane ride, I took a maglev to my hotel, met up with Sophi for drinks, and explored the neighborhood for some Shanghai breakfast. Continue reading “Hacker Abroad: A Very Long Way to China”