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This page is about Internet Relay Chat: what IRC is, how to use IRC, where to go to use IRC, how to type right on IRC, and, at right, a game you can play on IRC.

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IRC is the abbreviation for an element of the Internet that, if you don't know about it, you might want to.  In short, if you're on Internet Relay Chat you can chat in real-time, by typing, with everyone else anywhere in the world who's on it, for free.

(If you've used an AOL Chat Room or something similar, IRC is just a much bigger and better way of doing the same thing.)

All you need to get started is a connection to the Internet, which presumably you already have.

To join IRC, then, all you need to do is

  • download the special software and install it,
  • choose an IRC network, and
  • log onto that network and start chatting.

A thorough explanation of how to exploit IRC would take a book, and I'm not qualified to write it.  In fact, books have been written about it.  And so have hundreds of Web sites (a Web search conducted on May 10, 2002, on Alta Vista found over a million returns for the term "IRC"), which you can get at right now.  To learn more about IRC, start here:

What I can tell you about is my own experience with IRC so far.  An IRC habitué whose nickname is prairie suggested I try IRC, and a few days later I downloaded mIRC and installed it and configured it and logged on through AOL to the Dalnet network.  I was hooked.

I went to the channel she suggested, #Finznez, and by doing so at that time, November of 1996, I happened to get lucky.  I got to meet a lot of people, a lot of whom I liked.  There were more Americans there than any other nationality, but second were Norwegians, then Canadians, then random pop-ins from all sorts of other places.  I found the experience of logging onto the #Finznez channel of Dalnet exhilarating.  At first I was just agog that I was conversing in a room with such a varied collection of people who seemed to know one another even though they'd never met in person.

Each time I visited the channel I got to know more about who was who, and I started to sort out the people I wanted to converse with more.  I have met a relatively large number of people in #Finznez I'd like to know in person.

You know how, above, I said "even though they'd never met in person"?  Well, that isn't strictly accurate.  A few #Finznez aficionados have met in person.

For example, artemis (a/k/a akadiana a/k/a wondering a/k/a annette) and dizzzy have met TightByte (Norwaynian), RedMix (Norwaynian), Growler (Norwaynian), and scguy.  In fact artemis introduced dizzzy and scguy on Dalnet, and they subsequently decided to save time communicating with each other by getting married.  In further fact, artemis's daughter was the flower girl at the wedding.  Artemis has also met BlueMix (RedMix's brother), WizKid (Norwaynian), ^Picard (Norwaynian), ^TopGun^ (Norwaynian), Dixie (Norwaynian), Vein, Misstyc, prairie and lugeslider.  Oh, and me.

Seeing as how that's the record to date for just two #Finznezians -- dizzzy and artemis -- and seeing as how all the American-to-Norwaynian meetings required international travel -- I think it's fair to say #Finznez spawned a few R-L (real life) friendships.

I have gotten a lot of pleasure from the various one-on-one and many-on-many conversations I've participated in on IRC, and you should try it too.  IRC is what you make of it.

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To get onto IRC you need special software, called an IRC client.  If you run a Windows computer, I recommend you consider the most popular IRC client, named mIRC.

mIRC is shareware, and I've found it to be so well done that I actually sent my U$15 to the author to register it, even though the freely downloadable version is not missing any features or set to time out after a while or crippled in any way.  About a month later I got a real London postcard (37p postage) from the author, Khaled Mardam-Bey.  I'll bet you get one too.

mIRC is a feature-rich and highly configurable IRC client.  It's friendly, it's easy to use, and it's well thought out.  And you can figure it out without much effort.

mIRC has been downloaded and used by millions of people around the world, so it seems likely, if you're typical, that at least half of those people are no more computer-savvy than you are.  And the fact that there are so many users of mIRC means you're probably not far from help.

mIRC is so simple to use straight out of the box that anyone can do it, even without reading the extensive help files that come with the program.  

But if you care to you can tap into mIRC's wealth of programming capabilities.  Using what are called aliases, pop-ups and remotes, you can program mIRC to perform a bewildering variety of tasks that can help you enjoy IRC more, from the simple and mundane to the complex and exotic.  For the programmers among you, mIRC offers variables, goto statements, comment lines, if-then-else statements, and even string parsing.

mIRC gets updated frequently with major, minor and maintenance releases, just like a "real" program.  Older versions continue to work fine, so you don't have to upgrade if you don't want to bother.  I myself do not recall ever running across a bug in any of the four or five versions I've downloaded since I got hooked on IRC in November of 1996.

The mIRC software is not scary.  If you follow the instructions about downloading and installing you will be fine.  Configuring mIRC for first-time use takes only a little effort, and if you read the instructions you will be fine on that too.  If you know me personally and you're having trouble getting mIRC set up, .

(As of January 2002 if you are not using a Windows computer, mIRC is still not available to you.  For Mac and Unix boxes, software is available if you search for it.)

OK BY ME.   GO TO www.mirc.co.uk

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Once you've logged onto IRC in general using your IRC software, you must choose from a number of networks in particular, one of which is DALNET, which is the only one I've bothered with so far.  (Other large ones are EFNET and UNDERNET.)

Dalnet is big (as of this exact moment, there are 55,795 users on Dalnet) and well-serviced.  In addition to chatting you can send and receive files, listen to sounds through your speakers or play them for others, and, if you're mature enough, ping and finger people.  You can enter into private conversations or you can speak your mind in a rollicking public debate. 

Now, to be sure, many of the channels are worth only a little of your time, especially since it's so easy for users to be anonymous. The anonymity fosters a willingness to talk freely, but it also fosters irresponsibility, which means many channels are populated by childish or pointlessly perverted or hopelessly stupid or close-minded or ignorant or boorish or just plain boring people.  That's to be expected -- and, in my opinion, welcomed -- in a medium of communication as unfettered as IRC.

Update of February 17, 2022: The Internet has grown up quite a bit since 1996, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.  As an example of the better, more people can get to this very site.  As an example of the not, there are more trolls and perverts and QAnon nuts and Trumpists out there, and unfortunately some people, some loud people, get their news from sites hoping you're loud and stupid.

And IRC is unfettered.  IRC is an excellent way of fostering the right to freedom of assembly, because by exerting a little effort using the search features of the IRC software, you and anyone else can probably track down other IRC users with your same interests, no matter what they are.  Or you can track down channels you'd like to check out just to see what goes on there.

What goes on on IRC runs the gamut from the mundane to the exotic, and -- within the next half-hour or so -- you can participate from the safety of the very chair you're sitting in now.

  • OK, OK, I want to get the mIRC SOFTWARE (Windows)
  • I don't know how I missed the link above to the essay on the game of 20 Questions.  Take me there now.
  • I don't know how I missed the link above to the article on how to typewrite well.  Take me there now.
  • I don't know how I missed the link above to the article on the game of Charades.  Take me there now.


The Game of 20 Questions

20 Questions is a classic mind game.  All you need to play is at least one other person you can talk to who knows the rules.  And there are only two rules.

No game pieces, no dice, no score cards.  Just two or more people communicating verbally -- striving to express themselves clearly and striving to understand what the others are saying.

Which is what an IRC channel is, or should be.

As it turns out, playing 20 Questions has been so much fun for me that I wrote an essay about the game.  If you already know how to play 20 Questions, you might want to go straight to the Appendix, which gives information specific to playing online.  (Note: The HTML version you'll see was ported from my straight word-processing file by Eivind G. Nilssen, aka wizkid, to whom I owe thanks.  You can see the impressive Web site he created for the now-defunct Dalnet channel named #Finznez.)

OK by me.  I want to read the 20 Questions essay.


And if you like the game of 20 Questions you'll probably like the game of Charades.







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How To Type Good

There's an ESSAY you might want to read about how to type god when you're on IRC.  It's on a different Web site altogether, but feel free to explore it, particularly the IRC page, before you come back here.

























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