Little Padded Envelopes from China

Hardly a week goes by without some little padded envelopes in my mailbox. 16×2 LCD character displays, 74HCT541 IC’s, 6mm encoders, some 10mm spirit levels, a couple more ESP-01 modules, and that is just this last month. Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific, there is no place I can buy electronic components. I must order everything.

Little Padded Envelopes from China
Little Padded Envelopes from China
Those envelopes often arrive from places like Hong Kong and Shenzen, China. I find them on my desk where Deb just drops the latest little shipment from the other side of the planet.

The surreal part of this is that it is even conceivable that it would be cost effective to buy components from halfway around the globe like this. Not only is it affordable, but it is easy. It is easy to locate the correct components , it is easy to pay for the items, and it is easy to ship the parts across oceans.

Just a few years ago, buying products like this would have indeed been an insurmountable challenge, now it is routine. The internet and electronic storefronts like eBay that make shopping easy.

Electronic payment networks, notably PayPal, that make payment easy. And a global shipping network capable of getting those little padded envelopes to the correct location. For anyone familiar with history these networks are simply stunning in their capability, something inconceivable even a few decades ago.

Some would question the quality of components from China. You do need to be careful, but unlike cheap consumer goods, electronics components are usually quite acceptable in quality. I have had very little trouble ordering from Asia, the items perform as advertised.

I would probably not order from China if building life support equipment. For my little electronics projects the stuff works. Just check the seller’s ratings and record, then press ‘Buy it Now’.

One More RadioShack Closes

Our local Waimea RadioShack shop is closing.

RadioShack Pile
A pile of RadioShack components purchased at the local closing sale.
Our local RadioShack has survived several rounds of store closures as the chain has moved in and out of bankruptcy court. Time has finally run out for the store and it is liquidating the stock and will close by the end of the month.

I have commented on my view on RadioShack before. As an electronic hobbyist I have mixed feelings about RadioShack. In my younger years it was a decent place to buy electronic components. Some of the early computers I learned on were RadioShack products like the TRS-80 and Tandy 1000. I even worked as a RadioShack sales clerk one summer during high school.

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Some Chinese Eyepieces

A Celestron FirstScope in need of eyepieces. Time to find a couple inexpensive eyepieces. With the telescope destined for an eight year old girl I really did not expect the eyepieces to live up to any demanding standards. But neither do I want the views to be truly horrible either, it would be nice if the telescope is properly enjoyable.

Chinese Eyepieces
A set of cheap Chinese eyepieces
Thus I went to the source of cheap optics and found a set of Chinese eyepieces on eBay that might just do the job. For $22 they were the right price. The set includes three eyepieces, a 23mm, a 10mm and a 4mm for high power, a nice selection of focal lengths. The right price, but how about image quality?

As the eBay sale is from a US seller the eyepieces arrive in just a few days. Unpacking the eyepieces is the first pleasant surprise… The quality is not bad, metal barrels, decently molded rubber bits, decent looking glass. An ebay sale often a bit of a gamble, but this does not look bad at all.

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Adventures on eBay

DS1013S Delay Line
A DS1013S delay line IC photographed for an eBay sale
My big project over the last month has been cleaning out the garage. Not the easy part either, but going through the pile of electronics parts I have on hand and organizing. Part of that organization is culling out and reducing the pile, a task that must be done every few years. I have repeatedly filled the trash can beside my workbench. Scrapping or simply throwing out some of the accumulated parts and bits. Some stuff is just obsolete, some is well past any sort of reasonable shelf life, some I just do not need anymore.

There is some stuff that could have some value. Components and gear that could be sold, for that stuff there is eBay. I have eight listings active right now, and a few more I need to set up. Much of the stuff is electronic components, ICs and DC-DC converters. I am making some money from this stuff, not a lot, a few hundred dollars so far, perhaps enough to buy a few new toys.