It used to be that if you wanted toreach out and touch someone,you used the telephone, e-mail or, even (gasp!), snail mail.
Today, theres another way to make contact from the Notre Dame campus, courtesy of a collection of cameras that broadcast images on the World Wide Web. They have a loyal following in cyberspace, where people check regularly for campus views, keep an eye on loved ones, or catch a glimpse of the weather.
A lot of people use them for weather if theyre stuck in a basement office or an office that doesnt have a window,says Wes Evard, the photographic/multimedia specialist who manages the Webcams for the Universitys Office of Information Technologies (OIT).
Beyond knowing whether to pack an umbrella, the cameras also have become popular as a way to keep in touch with off-campus friends and family.
Godspeed, Capt. Jeff DeBerry and all military deployed. Go Irish!read a sign held up to the Webcam in theEngineeringLearningCenter. Evard recalls one student fromEnglandwho would stand in one particular spot and wave to herMumback home every day.
E-mails from parents confirm the value of just a quick peek of campus, with or without a student in the frame.
It makes me feel a little closer to my daughter to be able to see the campus live,writes one mother of a freshman.It is comforting to see the Quad when I am missing my son,says another.
Jeffrey Miller, manager of videoconferencing resources in OIT and himself the father of a new college freshman, understands the benefit to parents of catching a regular glimpse of their child.Just to be able to see her and know shes okay. I can talk to her anytime, but its good to actually see her,he explains.
Images from the cameras are available via theVisitorslink on the Universitys main Web page ( http://www.nd.edu/ ) by clicking onDome Camin the box markedVirtual Campusin the lower left-hand corner. There, viewers get a birds-eye view from each of 10 campus Webcams, which update every two minutes. Visitors to the Webcam site most frequently check the views of the Golden Dome and Basilica of the Sacred Heart; the North, South and DeBartolo Quads follow in popularity.
Enterprising students also have found other ways to use the Webcams for practical and entertainment purposes. The cameras trained on theEngineeringLearningCenterand Coleman Morse and DeBartolo Computer Labs, for example, are useful in determining whether a computer is available before trudging across campus to print out a paper.
A resourceful few have figured out that Webcam coverage ends on Friday afternoons by capturing a final frame and leaving it in place over the weekend. On one instance, the freeze-frame image captured students in a mock martial arts action pose.
Also popular with alumni who enjoy the occasional walk down memory lane, the cameras provide a view that many on campus may take for granted. Fans would like more views, including one that shoots straight into Notre Dame Stadium. (So far, the stadium is not included in Webcam coverage due to concerns over broadcast rights.)