The Evolution of the Webcam

Although known today as being commonplace in society and a Must-Have when it comes to using a computer, not many people think of how webcams came to be, how they work or even where they came from.

How do Modern Webcams work?

The physical aspect of a webcam is no different than a typical camera in terms of structure – what really sets it apart is the software that enables it to connect to the web and web devices, most often through a USB port. Similar to a standard camera, light is captured through the lens which is comprised of light-detector grids that are part of an image sensing microchip. The image sensing microchip then converts the image within view into zeros and ones to achieve a digital format a computer is capable of interpreting. Specialized software is formulated to “capture” a frame in intervals (15 frames per second).

The ‘Coffee Cam’

Webcams have been around forever it feels like, but the first ideas leading up to the creation of the webcam can be dated back to 1991 at Cambridge University, where original purpose of the webcam was something completely out of the blue- to monitor the business coffee pot. Researchers decided to take it upon themselves to create a method in which they and others who worked in the same building could see if the coffee pot was full without having to walk down several flights of stairs to get their fix only to find the trip was pointless. In order to achieve this, they unknowingly laid out the groundwork for  the beginning concepts of the modern webcam today.

Installing it on a local network, the original ‘Coffee Cam’ was formatted to utilize a video capture card set up in a computer. Using the now outdated X Windows System for bitmap displays, researchers painstakingly drafted out the software while also writing the server. In short, the camera was wired to a computer which was linked into the building’s local network where static images revealing the status of the coffee pot were uploaded every second.


The success of this idea shortly after spiraled into the early stages of the webcam we know today, with the first webcam released to the public being the Quickcam in 1994:

The Quickcam | 1994


Being offered to the public for a pretty penny at $160 for black and white and $250 for color, the Quickcam represented the major starting point of the classic webcam format and the general public were crazy over the choppy, highly-pixelated videos they could now send to friends and family using the internet. Details included in the Quickcam were its overall 320×240-pixel resolution accompanied by a grayscale option that offered either 16 or 156 shades at either 60 or 15 frames per second depending on price.

Webcams have come a long way and are still essential parts of the computer usage experience which is why having a high quality one can make a world of a difference when communicating with family friends, or even business prospects. Check out our Logitech C525 Portable Webcam formatted with specialized auto focus that could take your webcam experience to a new level that your computer webcam cannot match:

Logitech C525 HD 720P Portable

Webcam with Autofocus



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