Paras Chadha

Webcams: Then and Now

History of Webcams

The first webcam was at Cambridge University in 1991 and was in gray-scale black and white.  The webcam was pointed at a coffee pot in the “Trojan Room”.

First Webcam Pictures

First Webcam Pictures

Thanks to Wikipedia for picture

In the past couple of years there has been a giant boom in the amount of things you can do with this nice little service we affectionately call the internet. One of those things is using a camera to show video and/or pictures. Ever since people started using cameras with the internet there has been a race to make them in higher quality. The early webcams were used for video only and were not very high in picture quality. The newer webcams come with still-picture ability. Some webcams even shoot pictures in HD (Yours truly’s) Most webcams now have the ability to shoot stills (normal pictures) and record video.

Still-Photo Differences

8 Mega-Pixel

8 mega pixle (shot with QuickCam 900)

8 mega pixle (shot with QuickCam 900)

HD (960×720)

HD 960x720 (Shot with QuickCam 900)

HD 960x720 (Shot with QuickCam 900)

Uses for Webcams

There are many uses for webcams. Some people like them to take pictures and record video. Others use them to chat with friends and some use them to “broadcast” the webcam view to others using sites like For most people the webcam is used to video chat with friends using program such as Skype. Skype is a free* video chat service with millions of users. (*It also has the ability to call land lines and cell phones for a cost).

Others use their webcam to take pictures. Most webcams come with software to do this (Logitech cams come with software called “QuickCam”)

Then there are those people who use their webcam to broadcast what they are doing over the internet to viewers (Just like a telivision). All you need for this is a webcam and highspeed internet (the faster the better). There are many sites to do this on such as, and more.

A form of webcam called closed-circuit cameras have been in use in places that need recorded (stores, gas stations, banks etc.) These cameras are normal in a closed circuit (Direct-in) meaning that they cannot be turned off or tampered with. Some webcams show things like roads and highways. Most local New TV stations have them on highway billboards and are accessible via website.



There have been many improvements of webcams over the years. Here are comparison specs between a 2009 QuickCam 900 Pro and a 2003 Playstation EyeToy.

Playstation Eye Toy Logitech Quickcam 900 Pro
Top Video Output 640×480 Pixels 960×720 Pixels
Connection Type USB 1 USB 2
Microphone Yes Yes
Focus Manual Lens Turn Auto-Focus
Mount Ability Flat Surface Clamp/Flat Surface/Monitor
OS Compatibility Windows XP 32, 64. Vista 32 Windows XP 32, 64. Vista 32, 64
Zoom No Yes

Still Photo Broadcast Comparison Broadcast Comparison


QuickCam 9000