6 Things About Jennicam I Couldn’t Include in Reply All Episode 5
As you might have gathered from listening to this week’s episode of Reply All I have been singularly fixated on Jennicam for a long time. Which means when I finally sat down to write the piece, I tried to cram every weird factoid and moment from her story into it, and the first couple of drafts were a gigantic bloated mess. So, since I couldn’t get them into the radio piece, here are the 6 things that ended up on the cutting room floor.
1. Precursors to the Jennicam
Jenni was the first person to turn a camera on herself on the internet, but there were a few webcams that preceded her. The first was the Trojan Room Coffee Camera – a webcam turned on a coffee pot in a seven story building at Cambridge University, so the people who worked there didn’t have to go all the way to the second floor only to find that it was empty. Here’s a BBC story about the Coffee Cam from 2004.
There is also the Fish Cam, which went live 20 years ago, and is still up. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a camera pointed at an aquarium. Here’s a screenshot I took this morning:
2. Jenni on Diagnosis Murder
In 1998, Jenni appeared as “Joannecam” on an episode of Diagnosis Murder (a show in which Dick Van Dyke is a crime solving doctor) called “Rear Windows 98.” She doesn’t do much besides drag around a club foot for a second and then get stabbed and die, but it’s still super entertaining. You can watch the whole episode on YouTube, but the Jenni-relevant section can be found below.
3. Jenni on This American Life
In June of 1997, This American Life did a now quaint episode called “Tales From the Net,” whose description sounds like it could describe Reply All: “Are people having experiences on the Internet they wouldn’t have anywhere else? Several weeks ago, This American Life invited listeners to help answer that question.” But man, it definitely feels of its time. It treats all of these things we now think of as so mundane – meeting people from the internet in real life, people accidentally getting email not meant for them – as utterly unique to this burgeoning medium. And there’s a short interview with Jenni on this episode that sounded so dated even a couple years later, that it was re-aired in 2006, in an episode called “How We Talked Back Then,”
4. Jenni on Letterman
A piece of this interview leads our episode, but it is definitely interesting to watch in full. Note that she mentions both the coffee pot cam and the fish cam as inspiration.
5. The Jenni Show
Around the time she started to get famous, a website called The Sync created a spinoff of Jennicam called The Jenni Show, which is notable simply for how uncomfortable Jenni seems when she’s asked to perform.
6. The First Image on Jennicam
According to the internet, this is the first image the Jennicam ever took. I mean, I know I can’t put that in a radio story, but still. Pretty cool.
Oh, and here’s the episode: