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Pick of the day: A Global Graveyard for Dead Computers

I've had a bad year, technologically speaking. Our five-year old desktop computer died, so we bought a laptop to replace it. Inside of six months, my husband tripped over the electrical cord and sent it crashing to the ground, never to reboot again. We then bought a small netbook, which I promptly dropped on the ground, though not as hard. It still works, but only when it's feeling up to it.

I've kept the dead laptop in hopes of reviving it and sold the desktop for parts to a guy in the neighborhood. Its final destination, though, could turn out to be a slum in Ghana, where computers become carcasses picked to oblivion at by scavengers.

A computer graveyard outside Accra was the subject of an incredible online photo essay on the New York Times site this weekend. (It may have also run in the dead wood version, but I didn't fork out the cash for the Sunday edition.)

Many of the photos are of teenage foragers, who pick away at the dead machines to get the precious metals inside, at risk to their health and safety. Copper is the most valuable quarry, followed by brass, aluminum and zinc. Extracting the metals entails burning the computer carcasses, some of which found their way to the graveyard as donations by people in richer nations to those in poorer ones, with the intention of closing the digital divide. The images of the dump's landscape, however, are what stayed with me. They are post-apocalyptic. I'm not sure words could have done it justice.

By Annys Shin  | August 16, 2010; 10:32 PM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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