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Web cam coffee pot served up in auction

It is perhaps the most famous coffee pot in the world, and now it has become one of the most expensive.

The machine, in the Trojan Room at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of Internet surfers via a frame grab posted on the Web. It's developed such a cult following that eBay bidders pushed the price of the pot up to £3,350 in an online auction, which ended on11 August.

The story began in the pre-Web days of 1991, when researchers working on Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) networks pointed a digital camera at their coffee pot and wrote software enabling members of the lab's "coffee club" to view an image of the pot on their computer screens. That way they could save themselves long, late night trips through the corridors for a caffeine infusion when the pot was empty. Later, the image was broadcast via the Web, and the popular XCoffee site, reputedly the first-ever Web cam, was born.

Now the lab is moving buildings, and the 10-cup Krups ProAroma - actually the latest of several machines to have served in the spot - is being retired.

"Times move on and we want to buy a shiny new espresso machine because from the new building it's too far to walk to Starbucks," said the researchers.

It's not too late to get a last look at the XCoffee site, though the pot is obscured by a hand-lettered sign reading "Sold".

However, if the proud new owners are looking forward to freshly brewed cups of coffee, they may be disappointed.

"We must warn you that the machine is broken, possibly beyond repair. It leaks water and we've cut off the mains plug," said the academics.


Further information:
XCoffee: www.cl.cam.ac.uk/coffee/coffee.html

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