I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking. In about 2005 I bought an iSight, Apple’s relatively short-lived external webcam. It was a beautiful device. Sleek, easy to use and functional.
At least, I think it was functional.
For a device that cost me well over £100 I didn’t really think it through. No one else I knew at the time had a Mac with iChat. Or a webcam.
Before I finally gave in and sold it on eBay I did use it a few times with my then girlfriend (now wife). And it was really nice; like the future. Having grown up with old, slow computers the idea of playing video on them is still slightly magical to me. To have a computer simultaneously record, compress, transmit, receive, decode and display high resolution videos still strikes me as pretty amazing.
Even now, web chatting once a week, I think it’s neat. My son, before he was two, thought nothing of having long, detailed “conversations” with his grandparents. What’s high-tech to me is entirely normal to him.
And all this leads me to my latest technology purchase: a webcam. I got it for two reasons: firstly, I’ve been using my laptop with the lid closed a lot, which means I can’t use its builtin webcam. The second reason: it only cost £5.
I’ve probably already used it more than I ever used the iSight.
Is it as pretty as the iSight? Is it as well made? No and no. But it’s amazing what £5 can get you these days. I added the following as a review:
Considering the cost it’s remarkably well put together, comes with a decent length USB cable, has a flexible stand and works straight out of the box. The LEDs are a bit of a gimmick and the picture quality is a little muddy compared with the built-in camera on my MacBook, but it’s totally usable and easily forgiven given the price.
Webcams have moved from an expensive toy that I wanted to like but couldn’t actually use to a practically disposable tool — I’m sure there are drinks in your favourite coffee chain that cost more — that I use almost daily in less than ten years. I don’t mind being a foolish early adopter if it helps get genuinely useful technology into the hands of more people. If only all my other toys prove to be quite to useful.