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Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel

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Webcam

Things get really interesting when you make the images of digital video cameras available in real time over the Internet. Suddenly, the cameras are transformed from simple surveillance tools to the eyes and ears of potentially millions of people around the planet.

As best anybody can tell, the first Internet-based video camera was set up at Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory in 1991, pointing at the Trojan Room Coffee Pot. Fifteen graduate students shared a single coffee pot, located in the Lab's second floor "Trojan Room." The pot was great for students who worked on the second floor. The problem was that the graduate students on the building's other floors never knew when coffee was brewing. Of course, these students were too busy (and a little too lazy) to trek down to the second floor, put on a pot, and wait for it to be ready. They wanted to know when somebody else in the building had gone to the trouble of putting on a pot, so they could swoop down and enjoy it.

The students found an old video camera and a surplus computer that had a frame grabber. Paul Jardetzky wrote a program that recorded the video image from the frame grabber every few seconds. Quentin Stafford-Fraser wrote another program, called XCoffee, which contacted Jardetzky's program over the network and then displayed a picture of the coffee pot on the computer's screen. "The image was only updated about three times a minute, but that was fine because the pot filled rather slowly, and it was only ...

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