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.
We happened to be in Shanghai for Electronica trade fair this year and had a great time exploring heavy industrial gear and fantasizing about all the things we could do with it. However, we simply couldn’t ignore the fact that there was a whole city out there that we’re completely missing out on. So after less than a day of being surrounded by businesspeople and Miss Universe-dressed promoters, we decided to pack our bags and hit the streets.
The question was, where should we go? Finding interesting things in a city that keeps shapeshifting (the whole Shanghai skyline did not exist 20 years ago) can be a challenge. Fortunately, our friend [David Li] gave us a list:
It happened! The Gathering crossed the Pacific and landed in Shanghai on Thursday, March 20th. It took place at the venue ironically called ‘Abbey Road’ (it’s the only one we could find on such a short notice) and more than 150 people showed up. The whole scene had a huge Chatsubo feel too it – an eclectic mix of local and expat hackers and engineers, professors, students and all sorts of industry mercenaries from around the world. And everyone with skull-and-wrenches t-shirt or a sticker on.
I can only imagine what Chinese police would think if they happened to drop by. Not to mention if they asked how in the world did all these ‘anarchist’ t-shirts enter the country.
But that’s another story…
We met a lot of exciting people and heard all sorts of weird tales, such as the (off-the-record) one about the real reasons behind certain well-known laptop manufacturer’s batteries bursting into flames. We also got a lot of great advice on smuggling electronic components out of China and other everyday tips & tricks.
My favorite conversation was with [Alexander Klink] on his research in Denial of Service attacks using algorithmic complexity of collision resolution in (a priori known) hash functions. Though the original paper is more than two years old, its takeaways can still have a huge impact on all sorts of software and hardware devices out there.
The general theme of the night was how exciting it is to live in a place like Shanghai, where rapid urban growth and access to manufacturing resources meets a blossoming technology and art scene. It is even more so thanks to places like Xin Che Jian, which make being a “hacker” a socially acceptable thing on the other side of the Great Firewall.
That said, reading all of Hackaday content still requires a proxy.
Whether you live in Shanghai, are at Electronics China representing your company, or by dumb luck just happen to be in town this week you can meet some of the Hackaday crew and score yourself some sweet swag.
Anyone in town on Thursday night will want to get a ticket to Hackaday: The Gathering. Right now it’s all sold out, but we hope anyone with a ticket who is unable to use it will cancel so that another may take your place. Free food, drink, t-shirts, stickers, and other swag await… no wonder the tickets are already gone!
The Electronica China conference started Tuesday at Shanghai New International Expo Centre, but it runs through Wednesday and Thursday as well. We’re attending, but we don’t actually have a dedicated booth. Hackaday is piggybacking with EEFocus, the Chinese contingent of our parent company. Both [Matt] and [Alek] will be hanging around the EEFocus booth (#W3.3686) shucking out hackaday T-shirts if you ask for one. Before he left, [Matt] mentioned that he’s excited to attend lectures on connected medical devices, the Automotive and EV boards, as well as the embedded systems forum.
Does Hackaday have any readers living in Shanghai? You bet! We’re going to be in Shanghai next week so we decided to invite the Hackaday community to a Shanghai Gathering!
We booked a venue and want to pack the place with at least 150 people on Thursday, March 20th. We’re picking up the bar tab and bringing along a few cases of T-shirts. At some point we’ll make some formal remarks about the path on which Hackaday is traveling, and where we hope to go. Get your tickets now, and start the perplexing process of deciding which piece of portable hacked hardware you want to bring along with you to show off to all of the other Hackaday aficionados.
Still not convinced? Check out the follow-up post from our Los Angeles Gathering back in January to see how much fun it is to get together with other readers. The Xin Che Jian hackerspace in Shanghai is helping us get this organized; we saw a hackerspace intro from them a couple of years back. Thank you so much to [David] and [Paul] for their help with this! If you haven’t checked out the hackerspace, this gathering is a great way to meet some of the members.
Some of the guys from our parent company were over in Shanghai on business. [Aleksandar Bradic] made time to visit the Shanghai hackerspace while in town and wrote about the experience over on their engineering blog.