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Cast-off Netbooks send home snapshots of 'afterlife' (photos)

MIT researchers set up cast-off Netbooks to send back pictures and location data from the computers' new owners in developing countries. The images are random windows into the everyday lives of people in Africa, South Asia, and Indonesia.

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Eric Smalley
Crave freelancer Eric Smalley has written about technology for more than two decades. His freelance credits include Discover, Scientific American, and Wired News. He edits Technology Research News, where he gets to preview the cool technology we'll all be using 10 years from now. Eric is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CBS Interactive. E-mail Eric.
Eric Smalley
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1 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Kathmandu, Nepal

MIT researchers tracked cast-off Netbooks to find out what the "afterlives" of our electronic gadgets are like.

They sent refurbished Netbooks to people in developing countries. The researchers set up the computers to record location and take pictures, and send the data home to MIT. The Netbooks carried stickers explaining the project in the local language.

The ghostly images are random windows into the everyday lives of people in Africa, South Asia, and Indonesia. Here, we're traveling to Kathmandu, Nepal.
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2 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

A new home in Kathmandu

One Netbook found a home in a shop in Kathmandu, Nepal.
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3 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Hello, world

Not every shot captured the computer's new owners unawares.
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4 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Unaware, self-conscious, or unconcerned?

Was she unaware, self-conscious, or unconcerned?
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5 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

The shop in Nepal

The sign on the wall gives you a good picture of the shop.
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6 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Accra, Ghana

Another Netbook found a second life in a classroom in Accra, Ghana.
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7 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

A classroom in Ghana

MIT collected the pictures and location data with the new owners' permission.
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8 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

The Ghanaian flag on a classroom wall

A Netbook in Ghana snapped a photo of the Ghanaian flag on a classroom wall.
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9 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

A moment in a Ghanaian student's day

A refurbished Netbook's camera captures a moment in a Ghanaian student's day.
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10 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Wandering attention?

Is this Ghanaian student's attention wandering?
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11 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Calcutta, India

A third cast-off Netbook's new life is in a home in Kolkata (Calcutta), India.
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12 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

A home in India

The images provide a glimpse into the lives of computer users in developing countries.
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13 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

An empty room

The Netbooks snapped pictures every 20 minutes, sometimes capturing empty rooms.
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14 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Random framing, beautiful image

Random framing sometimes results in beautiful images.
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15 of 15 MIT Senseable City Lab video; screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Intent on work in Calcutta

A computer user in Kolkata (Calcutta) seems intent on his work.

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