Happy Birthday Fogcam
Happy Birthday Fogcam!
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In 1994, SF State students Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong constructed a device called a webcam, which captures snapshots every minute and broadcasts them in real time on the Internet. Today that webcam, nicknamed the SF State Fogcam, holds the distinction of being the world’s oldest webcam in operation.

“We placed the cam to be able to grab a typical view of campus life,” said Wong.

The Fogcam was originally intended to give outsiders an idea of the daily routine of SF State students. However, Schwartz and Wong could not get clearance to place it in the student center, their first-choice location. After broadcasting from an office in Burk Hall, a lab in the department of instructional technologies and the front of the student health center, the Fogcam now makes its home in the humanities department and broadcasts real-time pictures of Tapia Drive.

Schwartz, who as a student at SF State went by the name “Webdog,” built the Fogcam as a side project when he and Wong were earning their master's degrees in the department of instructional technologies.

“We got an old Mac and bought a Quick Camera from the bookstore. Then we custom-designed software that stitched it together. Now you can buy them ready made, but not then,” said Schwartz.

When Schwartz and Wong built the Fogcam 10 years ago, it was one of the first of its kind, said Kim Foreman, the instructional technology department chair who has been involved with the program for 16 years.

“If [Schwartz] was commercial enough, he probably could have sold the idea and made a lot of money,” said Foreman.

For a while, the Fogcam had competition. Cambridge University in England had a webcam running in 1993, which perpetually broadcasted real-time footage of a coffee pot. The Coffecam, as it was dubbed, was functional until March of 2001 when it ceased broadcasting, according to http://www.wired.com


“I feel honored that we have the distinction of being the longest functioning webcam,” said Wong, who is now a network administrator in the college of humanities.

While fooling around with technology is all part of the program, students also participate in educational enhancement activities. The department is in the planning stages for an educational trip to Africa, where students will teach integrating media technology techniques at universities. They will focus on analysis, design development and evaluation of effective instructional materials utilizing multimedia technologies.

“A lot of people think that we just play around with computers but what we really do is work with curriculum to help people learn better,” said Foreman.

The real time pictures can be viewed along with archived shots at www.fogcam.org.

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PHOTO
Judi Pulliam | staff photographer
Jeff Schwartz, co-inventor of FOGCAM, displays himself on the Internet from his portable web cam in a instructional technologies (ITEC) department lab.

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