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Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 17:12 UK

Shopping in Taiwan's hypermarkets

With Taiwan the technological workshop of South East Asia, Spencer Kelly decided to take a look at its weird and wonderful gadgets at a Taipei tech hypermarket.

Digital TVs
Digital TV has taken off in South East Asia

It is well known that Asia really embraces new technology, and you do not have to look far to find stuff in common use in Taipei that the West is still dabbling in.

You can watch Sex and The City in the back of your cab. You can even sing karaoke, or KTV as it is known, on the way.

Live mobile digital TV has been much more successful in the East than in the West - the devices are popular, cheap and readily available.

And just like Japan and South Korea, there is definitely innovation for innovation's sake here.

One example is smelly laptops - as they warm up they start to emit perfume.

'Crazy cases'

But Taiwan is not overrun with madcap ideas. The island that brought us cheap tech manufacturing is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a practical place.

Motherboard case
In Taiwan you can build your own motherboard case.
All over South East Asia you will find electronic hypermarkets selling everything from mouse mats to motherboards.

It is the same layout each time - floors and floors of tiny stalls, stocking cameras, music players, accessories, laptops and desktops. They will build them for you if you want, or they will sell you all the bits you would need to do it yourself.

These places are havens for tinkerers. Places selling components that would only be found in specialist shops or by mail order in the West.

PC modders will know that there are all kinds of crazy cases which you can buy to house your motherboard and hard drives. But if you cannot find a case which suits your tastes then why not buy some strips of metal, and build your own from scratch?

All you do is buy the individual metal struts and joints and make whatever shape you fancy.

You can have a computer in the shape of a tank, robot, or - you can even have a spice rack.

Fake iPods

And if modding the cases is not down and dirty enough for you, you can work at an even lower level, by building and testing your own kit from the ground up.

Fake iPods
Fake iPods are sold at around a quarter of the price of a real one.

Resistors, chips and weird connectors I have never seen before are proudly displayed on the main shopping thoroughfare, along with the tools to build your own circuit boards from scratch.

One shop even sells the machines which control the pressure of the glue which sticks the chips to the motherboard.

And as well as building anything you want, you can package it anyway you want too. In fact there is very little to stop you copying someone else's design.

You can get an iPod Nano for 5,800 new Taiwanese dollars (about US$180). Or, you could have a fake for less than a quarter of the price ... just do not tell Steve.

It looks like one of Mr Job's creations, until you notice the USB port - more convenient than the proprietary Apple connector you would find on the genuine article.

Do not expect this to sync with iTunes, mind you.

All cheap, all fake, but - more than likely - all made just down the road from the factory which makes the real ones.


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