A Chinese Town's Get-Rich Scheme: E-trash to Cash

A visit to a provincial town opens a window on an unsavory business

4 min read

Here in Guiyu, in China's southeastern Guandong province, it's not difficult to find the back-street shacks where thousands of tons of old motherboards, printers, and monitors from the United States end up each year. All you have to do is follow the slow-moving trucks that look as if they're about to tip over from their brimming loads of electronic trash [see photos, " Electronic Rag Picking" and " Trucking"].

Once the trucks turn off Guiyu's main road, they drive down unpaved paths that separate half-completed cement and brick structures. The buildings are being hastily built to provide sorting space for the town's fast-growing industry for recycling electronic trash. Just past the main roads, the trucks unload huge garbage bags full of computer parts, leaving laborers, a half dozen working under one roof, to sort through and break apart the used wares for their valuable components.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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