Web Candid Camera

Like to just look out the window sometimes? What if you could look out a window anywhere in the world? Say, for example, to check out New York City's Times Square live (even when it's not New Year's Eve!) in real time, of course.

You can even go watch what your mechanic is doing to repair your car live (at JoeAuto.com) or shop for furniture online at Mattress Mac's famous GalleryFurniture.com where you can click on an item of furniture in a picture and the camera will change where it is pointing to give you a closeup of that item (& the price, of course!)!

Web cams (live, realtime cameras broadcasting over the Web) actually predate the Web.

The first was the Trojan Room Coffee Machine camera. A bunch of computer programmers shared the same coffee pot. Someone had the bright idea of keeping an eye on how much coffee was available in the pot at a given time by putting a camera in front of the coffee pot and sending the image to all of the programmers' computers. No more would a desperate programmer have to leave his desk, walk all the way over to the coffee room, only to discover that there was no more coffee to be had!

Fish Cam (from Netscape) came next. Bored programmers could now take a break from their work and waste time watching fish swim lazily around in their tank.

Soon thereafter Web cams started popping up all over the place, from people's offices to college campuses, etc.

No special software is needed to enjoy Web cams except Javascript (and Java, in some cases).

Where can you find a list of Web cams?

One place is Earth Cam. Another is Web Cam Central (which includes information about both the hardware & software needed to put up your own Web cam).

Since Web cams, by their nature, are realtime, up to one third of them may be dark at any given time because, while it may not be nighttime where YOU are, it is where the camera is. (Some sites do try to leave a light on in the room after dark but many can't.) Foggy, stormy days may also lead to reduced visibility.

Also, unlike chat, Web cams are mostly one-way. Some allow you to interact with the remote location but many are view-only.

Still, where else can you literally see where the clouds by looking at your computer screen (instead of merely out the nearest outside window)?

Next segment *Internet: The Next Generation*

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Last Modified: 2/22/2003