2009-07-29 00:00:00 | History Technology

First webcast

On November 4 1994 I produced my first webcast for a metal concert in Simplon, Groningen.

In the year before, we already published near-realtime video clips of concerts online. But we wanted it to be really live. Just because.

So I sat down with Gerad from the video department and Rudo who was a Unix fan. We managed to trick Netscape 1.12b(?) with a HTTP-keep-alive / Server-push-JPG trick. This technology is still popular with webcams.

I used a Macintosh Performa 638 computer because of its video-in capabilities. We captured frames from the live video feed and saved these as images. A small script automatically sent the saved images to a web server via our new ultra fast 28.8K modem.

A CGI script on the web server pushed the JPGs to the browser, magically replacing each previous image without the need for a page reload. No audio. Perhaps just one frame per second. The real webcast was planned for the week after, but since it already worked we decided to just go live. So we had just four viewers. But it was live video! 

I realised that we were with the first mortal souls who had done a live video transmission over the Internet without a broadcasting license, without the infrastructure or the deep pockets of broadcasters or cable operators. Just us, a crazy idea, a computer, a modem, some scripts and some spare time.

I thought: this will change the way people watch TV. This will enable broadcasting for an enormous bunch of companies who want to broadcast video, but have no means: no frequencies, no budget. It brings true democratization of the media.

And I decided that I was going to dive deep into this small revolution and make it happen. Not even for commercial reasons. Because this was just so great.

I was so enthusiastic that I forgot which metal band actually was performing…

Coincidentally, on November 4 1994 the first conference about the commercial potential of the Internet was organized in San Francisco, with Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen as one of the speakers. If we had known that back then, we would have broadcast that event live instead of a metal festival :)