Digital Archaeology: Ode to a Cantabrigian Urn

Tucked away on a backup disk yesterday, I discovered a few thousand of my emails from the 1990s. And in the folder from late Feb 1992, I found something I thought was lost forever.

Bob Metcalfe was visiting Cambridge, on sabbatical to the University Computer Lab, just as we were setting up the Trojan Room Coffee Pot camera. He wrote about it in his column in Communications Week, a publication which, sadly, closed down not long afterwards (roughly at the time when the camera was connected to the web and became quite famous). This original article was therefore, unknowingly, the first published reference to what was to become the world’s first webcam.

But I didn’t have a copy, and nor did Bob – the old Mac floppy on which he saved it would have been hard to read now even if he could have found it – and if anyone kept an archive of CommWeek articles, I haven’t found it on the web. (Few people in 1992 would have heard of the World Wide Web, even those reading this kind of technical article.) But, as it went to press, Bob sent me a copy by email, and, sure enough, just over 20 years later, there it was, easily readable by my Apple Mail program. There’s probably some useful lesson there about the longevity of different data formats…

Anyway, while it may have little interest to anyone not closely involved with networking technologies at the time, I’m still very glad that, with Bob’s kind permission, I can now make the article available here.

And I must take more care of my email archives in future…

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser