Life streamed online

Jennicam compositeImage copyright

In 1996, 19-year-old Jennifer Ringley turned on a webcam that sat on top of the computer in her college dorm room. In that simple act, writes Aleks Krotoski, she changed the modern world.

It would be, at first glance, a perfectly innocent thing to do. But rather than use the cam to speak to friends and family back home in Harrisburg, Pennyslvania, she used it to do a most unusual thing: to broadcast herself live, to a globe of strangers, 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

In our social-media-strewn world of overshared snapchatting, this is not news.

The only remarkable thing a modern-day Facebook Live consumer might find about Jennicam, as it was called, would be how rubbish it was: one innocuous, grainy, still, black-and-white image on her website was replaced every 15 seconds by another innocuous, grainy, still, black-and-white image.

But it propelled Jennifer Ringley to unprecedented fame and laid the foundations for the conversations we have about the web today.

Webcams were a profoundly future-feeling technology then, during the era when you had to use a modem and a dial-up connection.


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