The Trojan Room Coffee Pot
I have often been credited in the media with inventing the webcam. This is not really justified - at least, I certainly didn’t do it single-handed! But I was part of the team that did.
Articles about the pot have featured in many major newspapers around the world, but the peak of its publicity came when we decided it had run its course, and it was time to switch it off. It made the front pages of both the London Times and the Washington Post in one month!
The very first reference to it, though, was a decade earlier in Bob Metcalfe’s column in Communications Week in 1992; at this point it was a networked camera, but not yet a webcam, for the simple reason that web browsers could not yet display images.
The first video footage of it was taken by a Japanese TV network – I think perhaps TV Asahi – and you can find a (very poor quality) copy of it here.
An early TV appearance was when I was interviewed by Leo Laporte for his show on the American ZDTV network in 1999. This clip has webcam appearances by both me and the coffee machine, on the same screen, on the far side of the world!
There’s more information about this clip in one of my recent blog posts.
The pot was even mentioned on the world’s longest-running soap opera: BBC Radio 4’s The Archers. Here’s the clip. In Nov 2012, Paul, Martyn and I got together for an edition of the BBC World Service’s ‘Witness’ programme.
More recently, we discussed the story on a nicely-edited episode on the Computerphile channel:
I’ve put together a simple gallery of images of the pot here, and you can find movie and audio clips below.:
- Washington Post 20010401.pdf
- Times Coffee Pot 20010307.pdf
- The Archers 240205.mp3
- CBC The Design Behind The Webcam 20141105 0917.mp3
- BBC Look East 260598 800Kbps Quicktime movie
- BBC Look East 260598 Quicktime movie
- Observer article 020297.pdf
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire 111194.wav
- Japanese TV clip (c. 2003-4) Quicktime movie