Interactive Internet Training Workshop Web Archives


Posted by: Patrick Douglas Crispen
Date Mailed: Thursday, November 17th 1994 04:30 PM


     "The future ain't what it used to be." -- Lawrence Peter "Yogi"
      Berra, attributed

I was trying to decide what I should write about IRC when I realized
that "the EFF's Guide to the Internet" probably had the most complete
discussion on IRC I have ever seen.

From the EFF's Guide to the Internet:

Many Net systems provide access to a series of interactive
services that let you hold live "chats" or play online games with
people around the world.  To find out if your host system offers
these, you can ask your system administrator or just try them -- if
nothing happens, then your system does not provide them.  In general,
if you can use telnet and ftp, chances are good you can use these
services as well.

One of the most popular "chat" programs is Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

IRC is a program that lets you hold live keyboard conversations
with people around the world.  It's a lot like an international CB
radio  - it even uses 'channels.'  Type something on your computer and
it's instantly echoed around the world to whoever happens to be on the
same channel with you.  You can join in existing public group chats or
set up your own.  You can even create a private channel for yourself
and as few as one or two other people.  And just like on a CB radio,
you can give yourself a unique "handle" or nickname.

IRC currently links host systems in 20 different countries, from
Australia to Hong Kong to Israel.  Unfortunately, it's like telnet --
either your site has it or it doesn't.  If your host system does have it,
Just type


and hit enter.  You'll get something like this:

     *** Connecting to port 6667 of server
     *** Welcome to the Internet Relay Network, adamg
     *** Your host is, running version 2.7.1e+4
     *** You have new mail.
     *** If you have not already done so, please read the new user information
     *** with +/HELP NEWUSER
     *** This server was created Sat Apr 18 1992 at 16:27:02 EDT
     *** There are 364 users on 140 servers
     *** 45 users have connection to the twilight zone
     *** There are 124 channels.
     *** I have 1 clients and 3 servers
     MOTD - Message of the Day -
     MOTD - Be careful out there...
     MOTD -
     MOTD - ->Spike
     * End of /MOTD command.
     ... snip snip snip ...

You are now in channel 0, the "null" channel, in which you can look
up various help files, but not much else. As you can see, IRC takes over
your entire screen.  The top of the screen is where messages will
appear.  The last line is where you type IRC commands and messages.  All
IRC commands begin with a /.  The slash tells the computer you are about
to enter a command, rather than a message. To see what channels are
available, type


and hit enter.  You'll get something like this:

     *** Channel    Users  Topic
     *** #Money     1      School CA$H (/msg SOS_AID help)
     *** #Gone      1      ----->> Gone with the wind!!!  ------>>>>>
     *** #mee       1
     *** #eclipse   1
     *** #hiya      2
     *** #saigon    4
     *** #screwed   3
     *** #z         2
     *** #comix     1      LET'S TALK 'BOUT COMIX!!!!!
     *** #Drama     1
     *** #RayTrace  1      Rendering to Reality and Back
     *** #NeXT      1
     *** #wicca     4      Mr. Potato Head, R. I. P.
     *** #dde^mhe`  1      no'ng chay? mo*?` con o*iiii
     *** #jgm       1
     *** #ucd       1
     *** #Maine     2
     *** #Snuffland 1
     *** #p/g!      4
     *** #DragonSrv 1

Because IRC allows for a large number of channels, the list might
scroll off your screen, so you might want to turn on your computer's
screen capture to capture the entire list.  Note that the channels
always have names, instead of numbers.  Each line in the listing tells
you the channel name, the number of people currently in it, and whether
there's a specific topic for it.  To switch to a particular channel,

                /join #channel

where "#channel" is the channel name and hit enter.  Some "public"
channels actually require an invitation from somebody already on it.  To
request an invitation, type

                /who #channel-name

where channel-name is the name of the channel, and hit enter.  Then ask
someone with an @ next to their name if you can join in.  Note that
whenever you enter a channel, you have to include the #.  Choose one
with a number of users, so you can see IRC in action.

If it's a busy channel, as soon as you join it, the top of your
screen will quickly be filled with messages.  Each will start with a
person's IRC nickname, followed by his message.

It may seem awfully confusing at first.  There could be two or
three conversations going on at the same time and sometimes the
messages will come in so fast you'll wonder how you can read them all.

Eventually, though, you'll get into the rhythm of the channel and
things will begin to make more sense.  You might even want to add your
two cents (in fact, don't be surprised if a message to you shows up on
your screen right away; on some channels, newcomers are welcomed
immediately).  To enter a public message, simply type it on that bottom
line (the computer knows it's a message because you haven't started the
line with a slash) and hit enter.

Public messages have a user's nickname in brackets, like this:


If you receive a private message from somebody, his name will be
between asterisks, like this:


Here are a few IRC commands that will probably come in handy:

     /away         When you're called away to put out a grease fire
                   in the kitchen, issue this command to let others know
                   you're still connected but just away from your terminal
                   or computer for awhile.

     /help         Brings up a list of commands for which there is a help
                   file. You will get a "topic:" prompt.  Type in the
                   subject for which you want information and hit enter.
                   Hit enter by itself to exit help.

     /invite       Asks another IRC to join you in a conversation.

                             /invite fleepo #hottub

                   would send a message to fleepo asking him to join you on
                   the #hottub channel.  The channel name is optional.

     /join         Use this to switch to or create a particular channel,
                   like this:

                             /join #hottub

                   If one of these channels exists and is not a private
                   one, you will enter it.  Otherwise, you have just
                   created it. Note you have to use a # as the first

     /list         This will give you a list of all available public
                   channels, their topics (if any) and the number of users
                   currently on them.  Hidden and private channels are not

     /m name       Send a private message to that user.

     /mode         This lets you determine who can join a channel you've

                             /mode #channel +s

                   creates a secret channel.

                             /mode #channel +p

                   makes the channel private

     /nick         This lets you change the name by which others see you.

                             /nick fleepo

                   would change your name for the present session to
                   fleepo. People can still use /whois to find your e-mail
                   address.  If you try to enter a channel where somebody
                   else is already using that nickname, IRC will ask you to
                   select another name.

     /query        This sets up a private conversation between you and
                   another IRC user.  To do this, type

                             /query nickname

                   Every message you type after that will go only to that
                   person.  If she then types

                            /query nickname

                   where nickname is yours, then you have established a
                   private conversation.  To exit this mode, type


                   by itself.  While in query mode, you and the other
                   person can continue to "listen" to the discussion on
                   whatever public channels you were on, although neither
                   of you will be able to respond to any of the messages

     /quit         Exit IRC.

     /signoff      Exit IRC.

     /summon       Asks somebody connected to a host system with IRC to
                   join you on IRC. You must use the person's entire e-mail


                   would send a message to fleepo asking him to start IRC.
                   Usually not a good idea to just summon people unless you
                   know they're already amenable to the idea; otherwise you
                   may wind up annoying them no end. This command does not
                   work on all sites.

     /topic        When you've started a new channel, use this command to let
                   others know what it's about.

                             /topic #Amiga

                   would tell people who use /list that your channel is meant
                   for discussing Amiga computers.

     /who <chan>   Shows you the e-mail address of people on a particular

                             /who #foo

                   would show you the addresses of everybody on channel foo.


                   by itself shows you every e-mail address for every person
                   on IRC at the time, although be careful: on a busy night
                   you might get a list of 500 names!

     /whois        Use this to get some information about a specific IRC
                   user or to see who is online.

                             /whois nickname

                   will give you the e-mail address for the person using
                   that nickname.

                             /whois *

                   will list everybody on every channel.

     /whowas       Similar to /whois; gives information for people who
                   recently signed off IRC.

IRC has become a new medium for staying on top of really big
breaking news.  In 1993, when Russian lawmakers barricaded themselves
inside the parliament building, some enterprising Muscovites and a couple
of Americans set up a "news channel" on IRC to relay first-person
accounts direct from Moscow. The channel was set up to provide a
continuous loop of information, much like all-news radio stations that
cycle through the day's news every 20 minutes.  In 1994, Los Angeles
residents set up a similar channel to relay information related to the
Northridge earthquake.  In both cases, logs of the channels were archived
somewhere on the Net, for those unable to "tune in" live.

How would you find such channels in the future?  Use the /list
command to scroll through the available channels.  If one has been set up
to discuss a particular breaking event, chances are you'll see a brief
description next to the channel name that will tell you that's the place
to tune. (1)


Now some words from me:

If you site does not allow you to access IRC, there is still a way that
you can access other types of "talkers." All you have to do is telnet
into a MUD or a MOO.

"MUDs" are Multi-user Dungeons (or Multiple User Devices), and they were
originally created so that Dungeons and Dragons player could role play
in real-time with other players around the world.

MUDS are no longer limited to dragon-slaying, though. A large number of
MUDS have been set up for teaching purposes -- imagine my teaching Roadmap
*real time*, where you would see what I type as I type it -- and there
are even social MUDS where you can just sit and talk with people around
the world.

A list of the telnet addresses for several MUDs can be found in Yanoff's
List (which I told you about the other day). Most MUDs commands are
different from IRC commands -- the *commands* are different, but the basic
functions are identical -- but you will soon find that most MUDs have
an EXTENSIVE help menu system.

MOOs are "MUDs: Object-Oriented," and they are "text-based virtual real ity
adventures." (2) It's hard to explain ... you'll just have to check it out.

There are four warnings that I want to give you about *all* of the "talkers":

     1. IRC, MUDs and MOOs are time *SPONGES*! They will suck up all of
        your time if you are not careful (I speak from experience --
        I have over 2 *DAYS* (that's 48 hours plus) login time on one
        of the social MUDs ... and that's only since June of this year!!)

     2. Most Internet service providers frown on your using their system
        to access a "chat" service during business hours (for obvious
        reasons). Please check to see what your provider's policies are
        *BEFORE* you join a talker.

     3. Chat services seem to be a magnet for liars. People pretend to be
        more than they are, and they will say whatever is necessary to boost
        their own "image." Please be careful, and consider EVERYTHING that
        you hear over a talker to be, at best, an exaggeration or, at worst,
        a bald-faced lie.

     4. If you see someone on one of the social MUDs named SimGod
        who says "ROLL TIDE" a lot, watch out ... he's a squirrel :)


     (1) The EFF's Guide to the Internet, reprinted by permission
     (2) Internet User's Glossary at Gopher using
         the keyword: MUD



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