Noted hacker Andrew 'bunie' Huang first announced he was to produce a sourcing tool for Shenzhen visitors back in February, and we were naturally intrigued. Now, just four months later, we've got our copy in-hand - and it's everything we could have dreamed.
For those unfamiliar, Shenzhen - in particular the Hua Qian Bei area - is something of a holy land to electronics hobbyists. You can find everything there from cutting-edge smartphones to long-obsolete components, but there's an obvious catch: many makers don't speak Mandarin, and many Shenzhen natives don't speak anything but. The traditional, and undeniably best, solution is to hire a translator; if you're travelling alone rather than in a group, however, that can be an expensive proposition.
Enter bunnie's sourcing tool: The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen. Taking the form of an A5 spiral-bound booklet with an attractive gold-foiled cover, the meat of the tool is in its clever point-to-translate pages. Split into sections - Components, Tools & Tooling, Sealing the Deal, and Getting Around - these provide English and Mandarin translations. Simply find what you're after - the Resistors page, for example, which has the Mandarin for everything from "through-hole" to "cheapest" - and you can point to the question you'd like to ask while the vendor points to the answer.
The point-to-translate pages are undeniably the handiest sections of the book, but its charms don't end there. The last 30-some pages of the book are taken up by simple line-art maps of the Hua Qiang district, beginning with a guide to what you'll find where and culminating in tear-out maps onto which vendors can draw their location. Each map copy is prefaced by a plastic sheet with two pockets, one for a vendor's business card and the other for notes or component samples, making it easy to remember what was where.
Finally, there are some prose sections: the Introduction and the There & Back sections. Both are a great read: the introduction covers everything from the makeup of technical Chinese linguistics to how to spot fake or otherwise potentially underperforming components - rated by risk, from "serious impact" to "little or no impact" - while There & Back covers visas, travel, and customs issues.
While you're reading The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen, one thing comes across as clear as day: it's written by someone who has been there and done that. The proof of the pudding, though, will be in the eating - and we're very much looking forward to trying the guide out on our next trip to Shenzhen.
Bunnie's Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen is available from Crowd Supply.