Okay, so I was just snooping around trying to figure out what the cheapest PIC is that will run the application I'm working on. In general, it seems like, of my already memorized options, Jameco has good prices but less selection, and Digi-Key and Mouser have the opposite problem. A cursory search yielded Allied Electronics (alliedelec.com), which pretty much beats all of them in terms of PICs. In particular, their cheapest PIC in a DIP case with USART appears to be the 16F688, coming in at $1.47. Jameco and Mouser want over a dollar more for the same thing.
It sounds like a good deal, so, naturally, I'm skeptical. Has anyone ever dealt with them? Are they legit?
If no credit is set up first, looks like $50 minimum as they go COD. With acceptable credit in place, doesn't seem to say. Shipping is out of Fort Worth, Texas, and although I've ordered mouse microswitches from them some time back for repairs, I don't recall the shipping being other than 'as reasonable and expected.'
Brings up a question: Is there a large place where hobbyists can buy tools and all kinds of parts, like what Conrad is for Europe? I get asked a lot but only know Jameco which doesn't carry that much stuff. It's strange, Europe has lots of large hobby suppliers but no Digikey or Mouser. Here in the US it seems the other way around.
The legal terms don't seem to say anything about paying with one's own credit card (unless that's the same as setting up credit with them) but their site seems to be perfectly willing to go all the way up to the "Place Order" page for a ridiculously small order (the cart is 1 ct.
16F688 currently) with shipping and tax pending. Firstly, I wonder what would happen if I actually hit it, but I won't...yet. Secondly, I wonder if the case would be different if I tried debit instead of credit...
Still, great to be a hobbyist and not someone with a development budget, eh? :-/
I really don't know, but what the heck. I'll take a shot at it.
In Europe, there are much longer vacations, as a norm, than in the US and that allows more time for hobby interests. I don't know what the situation is like regarding watching TV in Europe, probably not that much different than here perhaps, but TV really sucks away hobby time, as well, whenever it is available. So I'd guess that TV time nearly zeroes out what little vacation time we have left for hobbies, speaking broadly as an average, but still leaves some non-zero time in Europe. So that probably suggests a hobby market would be stronger there.
As has also been mentioned, hobbies in general don't flourish when there are simple products cheaply available in the form people want to have. It reduces the motivation needed to climb over the bottleneck in learning about it. So perhaps the US has lower prices for things? I've no idea on that score.
There may be a small additional bias, at least for Germans, from my modest experiences. I'm sure they vary about as much as the next person, but there seems to be a bit of a cultural aspect. Those I've known really thought that the insult of 'stupid' was worse than telling them they were screwing their mothers. In the US, that is probably turned around. Because of that dislike, they will go to some lengths to rise above some basic level of ignorance in their hobbies. And that may mean some extra knowledge, again broadly speaking in averages, that plays into caring a bit more about serious hobby interests, as well, and thus a somewhat better hobby market. But that may be just a prejudice born of my ignorances. I really have no idea about that, either. Just a random thought crossing my mind from past experiences I remain curious about and haven't put into context, yet.
I guess by now they are watching almost as much TV as people here. Almost. Vacations are usually not spent at home but the minute they are off on Friday, they pack and Saturday at the crack of dawn they head out to the airport, train, travel trailer or whatever. Upon which the autobahns will totally clog up.
Things are certainly a lot cheaper in the US. Except sometimes commodities such as RAM or USB memory.
They do take hobbies rather serious over there and open their wallets wider than for other stuff. To me it still doesn't explain the market situation though. I mean, we are >250M people.
Large place, no. But lots of small places... besides Jameco, there's All Electronics
and Marlin P. Jones
for lots of "general purpose" electronics (these folks have both been around for decades). For nichier applications, places like Ocean State Electronics
is good for RF & robottics. Opening up a copy of Nuts & Volts magazine lists dozens of other such places, and when you throw eBay into the mix, you can get just about anything you want today far more readily than, say, 20 years ago.
My experience is that they historically you had no idea whatsoever where their semiconductors came from, but they've been working hard over the past couple of years to make themselves more attractive to "production" users who need "traceable" inventory.
They are (generally) inexpensive, but it's still a case of you get what you pay for: I've bought some RF connectors from them that were utter crap, and their shrouded double-row 0.1" headers are noticeably more brittle/junkier than nice ones from, e.g., 3M.