The end of ‘Fogust’ will also bring the end of FogCam, credited with being the oldest, still-operating webcam on the internet.
Before there was a Twitter persona called Karl the Fog, before there was even a Twitter, or a Facebook, a Google, or even old diehards like Amazon, Craigslist, or MSN.com, a couple of SF State computer science students got the bright idea to install what would lead to a concept now called the webcam. Back in 1994, when you couldn’t use your internet and land-phone at the same time, and most people did not even have internet access, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong decided to attach a webcam (then just called a “cam”) to broadcast a steady, 24/7 stream of web images of the fog rolling across the SF State campus. San Francisco FogCam has continued doing so for 25 years, with its original, charmingly throwback GeoCities-esque design, to this day.
After 25 years, Fogcam is shutting down forever at the end of August. Webdog & Danno thank our viewers and San Francisco State University for their support over the years.— Webdog and Danno (@FogCam) August 18, 2019
The Internet has changed a lot since 1994, but Fogcam will always have a special place in its history.
But it will stop next week. The San Francisco Chronicle alerts us, following a Twitter announcement, that FogCam will shut down effective next Friday, August 30.
"We felt it was time to let it go," Schwartz explained to the Chronicle. "The bottom line is that we no longer have a really good view or place to put the camera. The university tolerates us, but they don't really endorse us and so we have to find secure locations on our own."
The FogCam is not really a “cam” as we currently know it, but a retro, mid-90s iteration of a site showing a refreshed picture every 20 seconds, producing the kind of grainy image you see above that was considered quite revolutionary in 1994. The cam is propped at where Holloway Avenue meets SF State University, but it started at Burk Hall in 1994, moved to the university’s Humanities Building, and has popped around or near campus ever since.
While it’s the oldest continuously operating webcam on the internet, it was not the first. That distinction belongs to the Trojan Room Coffee Pot cam — from which the FogCammers got their inspiration — which showed University of Cambridge scientists whether the break-room coffee pot in their building had anything in it or was still brewing. That cam started in 1993, these two started FogCam the next year, and the medium took off in 1996 with the popularity of a similar still-photo stunt called JenniCam, which sounds pornographic, but was not. Not long after, the concept of “streaming video” was introduced via Macromedia Shockwave — which old-timers will recall only worked at first on Netscape Navigator.
All of the earliest webcams have since bit the dust, and next week, FogCam will too. The creators say they will leave the site up and are open to handing it all off to someone else.
Sidebar: If you want to know what the whole fog situation is at any given time at the San Francisco coast, just go to Fog Today.
Image: tinney via Flickr