Webcams are now an integral part of the Internet, used for live-streaming everything from online gaming and sports events to the constant monitoring of baby zoo animals. However, the first live webcam broadcast was more mundane. It was set up in the early 1990s by computer scientists at the University of Cambridge, and it monitored the only coffeemaker in the the seven-story Computer Laboratory, located in the Trojan Room. Since researchers worked in different labs on different floors, they wanted to be able to see if there was coffee in the pot before making the trek down to get a cup. In 1993, the Trojan Room coffee pot webcam was put online for the entire world to see, earning it a revered status in tech history right up there with Guglielmo Marconi's first static-filled radio transmission.
Good to the last drop:
- The camera was connected to the lab’s local network through a video capture card on an Acorn Archimedes computer. The software, dubbed XCoffee, used the X Window System protocol.
- The outdated technology meant that the webcam had to be switched off in 2001. Coverage of the shutdown included front-page mentions in major publications around the world.
- The last of the four or five coffee machines seen online, a Krups model, was auctioned on eBay for £3,350 (about $4,359 USD) to the German news website Spiegel Online.