The first Web celebrity was a coffee pot

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Back in 1991 at Cambridge University’s Computer Laboratory. Quentin Stafford-Fraser worked in the Trojan Room. The coffee pot lived in the hallway just outside. He set-up a camera facing the pot and ran wires under the floor to his computer. His friend, Paul Jardetzky, wrote a program that captured images of the pot every 30 seconds. No longer would Quentin, Paul and their fellow students make the journey to the coffee pot in vain.

Two years later, in November 1993, students Daniel Gordan and Martyn Johnson adapted the program so the coffee pot could be seen via a standard Web browser. The Trojan Room coffee pot became a sensation overnight.

The Trojan Room Coffee Pot

The Trojan Room Coffee Pot

The first commercial webcam was introduced in 1994 by the US company, Connectix. Only available for Apple Macintosh computers, the QuickCam was expensive and the image quality poor. Crucially, other than a variedly full coffee pot, there was not much to look at.

As with many Web technologies, interest was eventually fueled by a naked woman. In 1996, Jennifer Rigley switched on JenniCam, an uncensored window to her bedroom. At her peak, Jenni was receiving 4 million visits a day. A flurry of Webcam Girls followed. Suddenly, there was a very good reason to spend $100 on a Webcam. Ten years later, Justin Kan took this to its logical conclusion, launching, a 24×7 webcast of his daily life from a head mounted camera.

As the Web and the physical world converge, the role of the Webcam becomes more central to our online experience. So much so, that the next generation of Webcams are wearable. Soon lifecasting will be just life.

This is an extract from 100 Ideas that Changed the Web, available on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

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