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The World's First Webcam Was Created to Check a Coffee Pot

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Nobody likes arriving at an empty coffee pot. Especially computer scientists at Cambridge University—which is why, back in 1991, a team of them invented the world's first webcam to keep an eye on coffee levels from their desks.

Rigged up in the corridor within the old Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, the camera stood next to a filter coffee machine. When switched on, the camera provided a 129×129 pixel grayscale image of the coffee pot, at 1 frame per second.


Modest, sure, but enough. Students and academics in the building could then keep one eye on the coffee level, by opening up the xcoffee stream on their desktop, to ensure they never had a wasted journey. (Incidentally, it's unclear who ever actually made the coffee, but let's not spoil a perfect story.)

Amusingly, if you count this as the invention of the webcam, it actually pre-dates the invention of the web by a couple of years. Needless to say, though, that as soon as the web went live the feed was up there—where it remained until August of 2001. Visit the site now, and you'll just find the final picture the camera acquired.


The camera was then auctioned off on eBay, for over $5,000, and it's since been refurbished and put back into use by Krups—for the exact same purpose. [Wikipedia via Peta Pixel]