The 1995 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony was one of the very first events to be webcast live. Robert T. Morris (who was notorious!), Trevor Blackwell, and Chris Small — all Harvard computer science grad students — engineered the webcast, with backing and encouragement from Professor Margo Seltzer. Today, Scott Kirsner profiles (for the BetaBoston web site) something else that Robert Morris and Trevor Blackwell were doing at that time:
Cambridge company born in Internet’s ‘big bang’ has lasting impact
The summer of 1995 was a “big bang” moment for the Internet. Amazon.com switched on its servers two decades ago this month, and the founders of AuctionWeb — later renamed eBay — were busily preparing to launch their site on Labor Day weekend. Browser-maker Netscape went public in August. And a company you likely haven’t heard of, Viaweb, was founded in a triple-decker in Cambridge.
Viaweb never became as well-known as the others, but it played a pivotal role in the evolution of e-commerce, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The founders were a trio of Harvard University computer science alumni and graduate students who saw that selling things on the Web was going to be huge, at a moment when most people were still apprehensive about typing a credit card number into a Web browser. They also realized that rather than businesses buying their own servers, connecting them to the Internet, and taking orders that way, “etailers” might want to pay someone else to operate their online catalogs, shopping carts, and cash registers….
Our repeated and continuing thanks to Robert, Trevor, Chris, and especially Margo, for making that first webcast happen. We have webcast the ceremony every year since. In the early years, our engineers (the aforementioned Robert, Trevor and Chris) had to invent/cobble major parts of the technology. In recent years, webcasting has of course become easier to do.
Here’s video of that historic 1995 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony (as you’ll see, it’s disjointedly edited):
Here’s our report, in the mini-AIR newsletter that went out shortly after that ceremony:
1995-10-05 Other Ig Nobelliana 1. This year's Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony was, as we had hoped, televised live the Internet MBONE facility. We were pleased to hear from people in a number of countries who witnessed the events as they folded and unfolded. The unfortunate part was that the ethernet cable into the hall was installed only two days before the ceremony, too late for us to get out a special issue of mini- AIR in time to notify most of you. Next year, all the technical aspects should be in place in plenty of time. 2. The theme of this year's ceremony was "DNA, the stuff of life and legend." DNA was celebrated throughout the evening in a variety of ways by everyone from 12-year old Kate Eppers to DNA pioneer James Watson to Sally Yeh, president of Bijan Fragrances, the creators of DNA Fragrances for Men and Women. 3. If you were at the ceremony, or if you saw it over the Internet, you witnessed the work of an extraordinary group of people, many from Harvard and MIT, many from elsewhere, who labored mightily and mighty lovingly to make this ceremony happen. Extremely special thanks to producer igstaordinaire Sip Siperstein, literary mathematician Stanley Eigen, stage manager Roger Kautz, organigzer igstraordinaire Christopher Thorpe and the Harvard Computer Society, Christopher Pimlott and Tangents, choreigrapher Nicola Hawkins (and the Nicola Hawkins Dance Company), lichtmeister and propologist Eric Workman, scientist/supermodel Symmetra (Deb Kreuze), jazz harpist and stage presence Deborah Henson-Conant, videontologist Steph Gainer, audiogrammatographers Dave Goodman and Jeff Bryant, Joe Wrinn and the Harvard News Office staff, Brian Yankee and the Sanders Theater staff, the Holyoke Center ticket office, the Harvard Parking Office, John Mather and the Harvard Science Center magicians, Alan Symonds, Tatiana Divens, Brett Neubig, Frank Wu, Focus Magazine, the incomparable and elusive R.T. Morris, Chris Small, Jerry Lotto, Trevor Blackwell and Prof. Margo Selzer & company, our friend Tom, our radio friends Thomas and Raymond, the Nobel and Ig Nobel Laureates and their families, and many other people whom -- most unfortunately! -- we do not have room to list here. And let us not forget Lucky the flying dog.