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September 13, 2013

Webcam Mania of Days Gone By

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

I have no idea what got into me, but about 14 years ago I decided my office needed its own webcam. Back then, it was a fad.

Webcams today aren’t big news. Nearly every laptop comes with a built-in webcam. Many desktop PCs have monitors with builtin webcams or the classic eyeball webcam perched atop the monitor. These devices are used primarily for video conferencing, Skype, and occasional salacious activities. Rarely, however, are they just hooked up to the Internet for pure voyeurism.

What inspired me was the web’s original webcame, the Trojan Room Coffee Pot cam from the University of Cambridge. I remember visiting that page and viewing the coffee pot many times back in the 1990s.

The Trojan Room Coffee Pot cam, typical image. (Stolen from Wikipedia.)

The Trojan Room Coffee Pot cam, typical image. (Stolen from Wikipedia.)

According to legend, the coffee pot cam was installed so that programmers could see whether it was worth a trip to the Trojan Room to get fresh coffee. So the webcam served a purpose. Plus it became famous as the world’s first Internet web cam.

I knew that my own attempts at a web cam would never become famous, but I set up one anyway.

The Wambooli DrivewayCam went online sometime in July, 1999. Below you see one the first images captured by the camera.

One of the first captures from the DrivewayCam back in 1999.

One of the first captures from the DrivewayCam back in 1999.

Back then I had only dialup Internet. I lived in the sticks so getting DSL or cable was completely out of the question. The DrivewayCam was programmed to capture an image (very low resolution, 320×240) every 90 minutes and upload it to the Wambooli website. Occasionally interesting images were captured. In fact, as an aside, the current descendant of the DrivewayCam, the Wambooli PorchCam, is demand-driven and it rarely captures anything interesting.

The Trojan Room Coffee Pot cam went offline in 2001. The oldest webcam still operating is at San Francisco State University, the FogCam. It’s been online since 1995.

Traditional webcams, like the FogcCam and the Coffee Pot cam, are getting more rare. They still exist, but a majority of today’s live webcams tend to be traffic cameras run by state transportation departments. In fact, I used one last year to see how snowy the pass was before a road trip. But online, all-the-time webcams are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Below you’ll find a gallery of images I collected from the original DrivewayCam. These were taken from my office window (on the second story, above the garage) in my former house out in the wilds of northern Idaho.

Obviously a glorious day with the UPS van delivering something I desired.

Obviously a glorious day with the UPS van delivering something I desired.

A lovely sunset in September, right after the rain.

A lovely sunset in September, right after the rain.

My kids playing in the snow in December. These guys are all adults now.

My kids playing in the snow in December. These guys are all adults now.

January 1, 2000. This may not seem like a big deal, but it meant that we survived Y2K.

January 1, 2000. This may not seem like a big deal, but it meant that we survived Y2K.

A beautiful January sunset. Yes, given our latitude, sunsets happen at 4:20 in the afternoon.

A beautiful January sunset. Yes, given our latitude, sunsets happen at 4:20 in the afternoon.

I don't mind winter, but I truly love it when the sun shines upon a snowy countryside.

I don’t mind winter, but I truly love it when the sun shines upon a snowy countryside.

That's not me on the plow, it's the kids' grandfather. Glad he took a turn while I was pounding out somesuch For Dummies title.

That’s not me on the plow, it’s the kids’ grandfather. Glad he took a turn while I was pounding out somesuch For Dummies title.

That's my eldest running out to catch the van on the way to school.

That’s my eldest running out to catch the van on the way to school.

Not a DrivewayCam picture, but a photo of me on the 4-by used to plow our 700-foot driveway.

Not a DrivewayCam picture, but a photo of me on the 4-by used to plow our 700-foot driveway.

Sears delivers our new washer and dryer.

Sears delivers our new washer and dryer.

A foggy day in October.

A foggy day in October.

God bless those UPS drivers, delivering us Christmas goodies from Amazon. Even in the frozen Pacific Northwest.

God bless those UPS drivers, delivering us Christmas goodies from Amazon. Even in the frozen Pacific Northwest.

My eldest waiting to go rescue his mom, stuck in the snow.

My eldest waiting to go rescue his mom, stuck in the snow.

The grandparents stop by.

The grandparents stop by.

It's very odd to not see any snow in the middle of January, but it happens. Even more unusual is to get a mid-January rain.

It’s very odd to not see any snow in the middle of January, but it happens. Even more unusual is to get a mid-January rain.

Weird pink sky, and tons of snow just 10 days after a warm spell.

Weird pink sky, and tons of snow just 10 days after a warm spell.

The official last image from the DrivewayCam.

The official last image from the DrivewayCam.

The last daylight image from the DrivewayCam.

The last daylight image from the DrivewayCam.

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