My places to buy electronic components and PIC microcontrollers
In the south San Francisco Bay Area (Santa Clara, San Jose, Sunnyvale)

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I moved to San Jose several years ago. Initially I found it very difficult to find local suppliers for electronic components. Ordering online is sometimes fine, but I still prefer a real show where one can go and browse the shelves, or to get a part without having to wait for delivery.

Here are some of my favorite places:
  • Anchor Electronics. A great, very well supplied store. They have various PIC kits and, more important, they sell PIC chips separately. Very good prices and huge collection of all sort of electronic components, tools, prototype boards, and a lot of stuff that I could not find anywhere else locally. Because the shop is not big, not everything is on the shelves for you to browse through - if you need something that you don't see, ask and more often than not they will have it in stock.
  • HSC Electronic Supply. This is probably my favorite local shop. They have a huge and relatively well organized collection of parts and components, often at remarkably good prices. At least once a month I visit the shop to browse their clearance/sales section. They have all sort of strange surplus stuff there too (Are you by any chance looking for electron microscope cathodes? Well, they have some.) Limited selection of microcontrollers, but if you ask for something specific they often can call around and find it.
  • WeirdStuff. The name says it all. Really weird stuff. If you visit, make sure to check the back room - it's open to the public and most of the really fun stuff is there. I've seen traffic lights, old police car lights, huge circular PCBs with unknown purpose (maybe testers?), hydraulic actuators, boxes of ICs (not very well organized, to put it mildly), and everything from tiny surface-mount resistors to mysterious refrigerator-sized boxes with arm-thick cables sticking out. I often buy old hardware from there - for parts or for project boxes. You can also find used telephone equipment, VCRs, DVDs, routers, computer mice and other hardware. I haven't seen any PIC microcontrollers there yet.
  • Jameco Electronics. A very well stocked shop - they have excellent selection of almost everything on stock, including microcontrollers. You can either order online, or directly in the shop. One thing that you cannot do is to go to there and browse - the shop is mostly like a waiting room with very limited stock on the shelves. This is not a problem, however, because their catalog is very complete and you can just go to the store, look at the catalog, fill an order, and get the components in a few minutes. My preferred method of purchase is to fill an order online, then go to the store to pick it up.
  • Excess Solutions. I've never been to this shop, but it was recommended to me by Jerome Peters (Thanks Jerome!): "Overall clean, well-organized, they stock parts in bins and have surplus/used equipment as well as the online website. The equipment available changes weekly, and is often excellently priced. The only negative aspect is that since it is such a big building and they are using a lot of natural lighting that it can be dark inside - so it can be very useful to bring a flashlight. A lot of common electronic components, some hardware, wire (nuts & bolts etc). Test equipment varies, some PC stuff."
  • Strawflower Electronics. This shop is in Half Moon Bay. It's a hybrid between a new- and used electronics store. They have some components and ICs, but the selection is not big. When I visited they had no microcontrollers. Still, if you live nearby it's a nice alternative of RadioShack. Thanks to Andrew Cosand for the tip on this store.
  • Fry's Electronics. Their components section is OK - maybe they don't have everything, but they are convenient place to get some of the more common parts. They sell microcontroller stuff too, but mostly kits (no microcontroller ICs separately).
  • RadioShack. I guess everybody knows RadioShack. I use them as a last resort, because the selection in stock is quite limited. They sell some microcontroller kits, but again, no separate microcontrollers.
  • San Mateo Electronics. Recommended by David K: "Very friendly people". Store is located at 16 42nd Ave, San Mateo, CA. San Mateo CA
  • Hobby engineering. Recommended by David K: "A very nice one man store". Store is located at 282 Harbor Way, South San Francisco, CA 94080. San Mateo CA

If you know another good place in the South Bay, please let me know - my e-mail is at the bottom of this page.

As for ordering Microchip PICs online, the best place I've found so far for larger quantities is direct from Microchip's site. The prices are excellent, but the shipping and handling charges are quite high. For smaller quantities I find eBay quite useful.

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