A Freshly Brewed Idea

Before Facebook Live videos, Skype and videoconferencing, there was sometimes an empty coffee pot outside a computer lab at Cambridge University. Because necessity is the mother of invention, that empty pot led to the creation of what we know as the webcam.

In 1991, computer scientists at Cambridge found a way to connect a camera to a computer and transmit images across their lab’s network. They decided to focus the camera on the coffee pot in the break area because most of them had felt the sting of disappointment that occurs each time you enter a break room only to find the pot empty.

The camera was dismantled in August 2001. By then, we were already sharing images and video online. We’re guessing there was also a strong coffee culture in place at Cambridge, and that coffee pots were never left empty for long.

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