How coffee was the inspiration for the world’s first webcam

Image: Pixabay

If you can’t get any work done without coffee, you’re not alone. Coffee is such a vital component of the working day that at the beginning of the 1990s it was the inspiration for the world’s first webcam. Without coffee, we may not have had all the live video streaming technology we now take for granted – or it may not have been developed until much later.

The time: the early 1990s, before search engines, social networking and much of the other functionality that’s so much a part of modern life. The place: Cambridge University.

Computer scientists working on a range of projects got very fed up when they took a break and went to the main computer lab, where the percolator stood, only to find that the coffee pot was empty. Two of the research scientists decided to rig up a camera to monitor the coffee, and wrote some bespoke software which allowed the camera to send images to the internal computer network.

The initial camera sent images only three times per minute, but that was enough to save a wasted journey if the pot was obviously empty. A couple of years later, another scientist looked at the original code and decided to develop it. Soon, computer geeks around the world were able to access the real-time images of the ‘Trojan room coffee pot’ (so named after the lab in which it was kept). Soon, those in different time zones were requesting that a light be left on overnight so they wouldn’t miss out on the ‘action’.

Eventually, after 10 years and millions of hits, the system was retired and the original coffee pot sold via an online auction site – where it went for £3,350! The new owners, the German newspaper Der Spiegel, did use continue to use the pot for making coffee in despite its historic connections.

Twenty five years later, the internet has developed to such an extent that our top quality coffee beans, supplies and accessories are available only online and we’re proud to be the UK’s leading wholesale. To find out more about our range, take a look at our main website,