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FogCam Is Signing Off in San Francisco

Indeed, it was a cult favorite among certain quarters of the technorati. Those were the early days of the internet, and everyone, it seemed, was experimenting with new technologies. Netscape released its first web browser that year. Steve Jobs, a co-founder of Apple who was ousted in 1985, was making software at NeXT. (Mr. Jobs returned to Apple in 1997.) A year later, Pixar’s “Toy Story” would debut in theaters. The FogCam, by contrast, didn’t do much of anything special, which was part of its quirky charm. It was enough of a novelty in that time, long before streaming video, to see live images from an ordinary, everyday place.

Mr. Schwartz said the men created the webcam with a Mac computer and camera they bought at the campus bookstore. Webcam photos were updated on the site every 20 seconds. For a short time, they had a chat room. In a 2004 interview with the Golden Gate Xpress, Mr. Wong explained that he and Mr. Schwartz created it to give outsiders “a typical view of campus life.” But Mr. Schwartz said they often had run-ins with school administrators who threatened numerous times to shut it down.

As a result, they were forced to frequently change the webcam’s location. Their first choice was the student center, but they were denied access. (It was an era when people still guarded their privacy, Mr. Schwartz said.) Over the years, they placed it in front of the student health center, in a room overlooking Tapia Drive and where it is now, facing Holloway Avenue on the edge of campus.

Despite its name, the FogCam rarely captured the rolling banks of soupy gray now famous on the Twitter account KarlTheFog. But it had its uses. When it faced Tapia Drive, Mr. Schwartz said, “people used it to look for open parking spots.” When it was situated near Café Rosso, a campus coffee shop, customers watched to see when the lines were shorter. (In that sense, it had a lot in common with the Trojan Room coffee pot webcam at the University of Cambridge.)

“People used it for practical reasons,” Mr. Schwartz said. “Parking and coffee, two things important to university life.”

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About Alfred Jackson

Alfred R. Jackson writes for Technology section in AmericaRichest.

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