technology waste

If your secondhand laptop could talk…

Every year, households in Britain throw out two million tonnes of waste electronic products. A few of them are taken back for dis-assembly by the manufacturer, some go in the bin, and others are exported. But what if you could those secondhand laptops and tablets could keep communicating? What if, like trackers attached to the legs of birds, they could tell you where they had ended up?

In 2011 the SENSEable City Lab at MIT hatched an idea to fit laptops bound for recycling with a little programme that would periodically send a webcam image and location, along with a sticker explaining the programme on the case of the laptop. The equipment left the docks at Seattle and ended up all over the world, and all these interesting people and places turned up in reply:





  1. pretty cool. I bet a lot of these used laptops, phones etc get stripped down for their parts/metals. It’s nice to know some of them have a productive life after we are done with them.

  2. Computers have a useful working life of ten years. Most of them are only used for web access and a bit of word processing. Anything that has run Windows XP will run a lightweight Linux perfectly well. Disk drives and screens can be cannibalised quite easily. These things should not be thrown away.

    More recent computers ie from about 2006 onwards, with an interface for a SATA hard drives, will go like lightning if the operating system and software are put on an SSD.

  3. Laptops can help students write papers more easily as well. Typing can make the writing process go faster, and the tools in word processing software make it easier for students to edit their work.

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