A coffeepot was the Internet's first star

By Matthew McCann Fenton
Updated November 06, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

Although many Truman Show wannabes, like JenniCam, use voyeurism to draw traffic, the very first webcam was trained on a…coffeepot. In 1991, Quentin Stafford-Fraser and Paul Jardetzky, grad students in the University of Cambridge’s computer lab, hacked together a primitive, remote camera setup after the tempers of lab members, who shared a single coffee machine, flared over finding the pot empty. In 1993, lab mates Daniel Gordon and Martyn Johnson used the nascent World Wide Web to take the pot global: Anyone who tapped into http://www.cl.cam.ac. uk/coffee/coffee.html was greeted with a mini-image, which was refreshed every 20 seconds. ”It was a purely benevolent gesture to other members of the group,” says Fraser, now 31 and a research scientist in Cambridge. Oddly enough, Gordon, now 30 and still at the lab, never craved the bean: ”I prefer tea.”