Cornell staffer revives “PumpkinCam” site, twenty years later

It’s been twenty years since the mystery of the pumpkin atop Cornell’s McGraw Tower caught the world’s attention, and this fall, a Cornell staff member has revived the “PumpkinCam” web site he created in 1997 so viewers around the globe could watch the gourd.

A webcam let viewers around the world keep an eye on the Cornell Pumpkin 20 years ago.

Oliver Habicht, now the IT Manager for Cornell’s Chemistry Department, says the site is “pulled from a floppy disk I had lying around.” (If you haven’t been using computers for twenty years, a “floppy disk” is like a USB thumb drive in that you can carry around a collection of files or share it with a friend or colleague, but it was based on a spinning magnetic circle in a thin plastic case. No, really!)

The site served up 80,774 pages over a three-week period in December 1997, and it was shut down in the spring of 1998. Habicht says the site ran from a Power Macintosh 8100 with a GE VHS camcorder hooked up and SiteCam software updating the image, which was captured from the 7th floor of Cornell’s Olin Library, across from Uris Library’s McGraw Tower.

The site was his brainchild, Habicht says, and used a combination of tools he was already quite familiar with, “but lots of folks helped make it happen by giving support.”

Check out the PumpkinCam site, along with historical and recent links to pumpkin coverage, at pumpkin.library.cornell.edu.

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