What Was The First Ever Online Livestream?

Streaming has become an ever-increasing part of business IT support, in no small part due to the increase in remote working and events with contributors presenting either from home or from their office using systems such as Microsoft Teams.

Whilst most people associate it with entertainment thanks to the success of Twitch and Youtube Live, the first-ever webcam displaying the very first live stream has a much more mundane purpose; making sure there was coffee in a University of Cambridge computer laboratory.

The Trojan Room coffee machine stream was originally set up in 1991 but was not originally on the World Wide Web, with the first-ever web browser only being released to the general public in August of that year.

The computer labs at Cambridge were all based on different floors and were working on a wide range of research projects, but all needed a steady stream of caffeine to get through long days and nights of research.

The problem was that the coffee machine was based in the Trojan Room, the main computer lab, and that meant not only a lot of walking for some teams but the potential that the pot had been drained.

To avoid the long, disappointing treks, Dr Quentin Stafford-Fraser and Dr Paul Jardetzky rigged up a small Philips digital camera fitted to an Acorn Archimedes computer capture card and wrote a program called XCoffee which would allow anyone on the lab’s network to see a live feed of the pot.

It only displayed three tiny (128×128) black and white images a minute but that was enough to cause a stir, which only magnified when the system was connected to the internet around the time that many users started to adopt it, becoming the first-ever livestream in the process.

It became a worldwide sensation and an early sign of the potential of the internet, and it would take until after the pot was switched off in 2001 and the surprising pioneering work of Keith Chegwin for livestreaming to take a form we recognise today, a coffee pot was part of the dynamic remote working environment we know today.