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Internet Relay Programming
July 4, 2010 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) has been around since 1988, and discussed several times on metafilter. It has been used as a communication medium, a news source, and now, as a programming language.
posted by grandsham (68 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ive been on irc since 1990 :)

/Is also old
posted by MrLint at 9:17 AM on July 4, 2010


I used to love IRC. It was what hooked me on the internet. Ah.... #truthordare in '93/94. :)
posted by dobbs at 9:22 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I first started using IRC when AOL chat rooms became what they became. Back then, the only way I knew how to connect was through a rogue AOL keyword -- I think it was "anarchy." You were brought to a page that had a graphic of some sort and it said "Anarchy on the web." You could connect and chat without the fear of AOL moderators dropping their account-canceling banhammer. Shortly after that I figured out I could connect to IRC independently from AOL, and that IRC was a whole separate entity on its own. The same sort of revelation I had when I realized I could use a browser outside of AOL's walled garden.

Since then, I've run eggdrop bot networks on EFnet that numbered into the thousands. It was my outlet during high school. My thing. I haven't been a regular IRC user in years, though.
posted by nitsuj at 9:26 AM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good documentation:
http://esoteric.voxelperfect.net/wiki/IRP?#Documentation
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2010


IRC taught me to type. I spent all summer on it one year in middle school. Type slow, you won't get the lols.
posted by Netzapper at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2010


IRC is where I used to say a lof of dumb shit before I found metafilter.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:30 AM on July 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


I've never been able to get into IRC, perhaps because it's too much like talking to a real human (tedious and unthreaded).

That said, the IRC programming language is awesome. Reminds me of Amazon's Mechanical Turk, issues of power in a capitalist society and "I was just following orders" defenses.
posted by DU at 9:31 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


dobbs: "I used to love IRC. It was what hooked me on the internet. Ah.... #truthordare in '93/94. :)"

How about #initgame:)
posted by MrLint at 9:33 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to skip class, go to the unused tiny computer lab (most didn't know it was there, most woudl use the bigger, nicer ones on the bottom floor) at the Uni made out of older, amber-monochrome monitors that were just hooked up via a terminal server to the Sun machine - and I'd hang out on IRC all day - write code, do stuff.

Back then you could still perform remote ICMP resets on connections - so I recall writing up a bot in C that would hang out online (this was way before eggdrop/etc). It's purpose was to get back nicks (nicknames) from people who wouldn't give htem up (no nickserv back then).

I'd fire it a nickname and channel, it would use that ICMP hack to cause a netsplit, then join the other side of the split, then change it's username to that person. When the servers rejoined - you'd get a nick-collision, and their default behavior was to kick off both users (allowing whoever wanted to take over).

It was prankery- nobody got hurt, we're not talking about them massive bot-floods of these days - and in the early days of the net it was kind of like the wild west - you really felt like you were in a movie or something - writing code that subtly manipulated things halfway around the world in order to take over chat rooms :)

Ahh.....
/msg stinger "Kill JoeBob #BC"

And to the operators of the node in france that I kept using over and over again for this trick, I apologize for any headaches caused :)

Since then - I've been on IRC continuously (though our channel has moved from network to network a few times) since about 1993, with the odd gap. Those regulars are a friend of sorts - some of us have purposefully gone on vacation and met, had little get-togethers - after more than a decade you realize those people, however much/little you know about them are one aspect of your life.

Good memories for sunday morning :)
posted by TravellingDen at 9:40 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


#metafilter is definitely not the cabal.
posted by public at 9:41 AM on July 4, 2010


I learned to type on irc as well. In fact I can remember it was when one guy in some random room mentioned that glass is wavy in old houses because it had flowed over time. I was all HELL NO THIS WILL NOT STAND. The ensuing argument/flame war was what got me from hunting and pecking to staring at the screen in rage while the words flowed from my fingers.
The creation of an internet person.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:42 AM on July 4, 2010 [13 favorites]


99% of the computers logged on to IRC these days are doing so because they're part of a botnet, and use IRC as the command-and-control channel. I'm not sure if the advantages of IRC outweigh that.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:42 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


#initgame circa 1990-1992
posted by zippy at 9:51 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


IRC allowed me to talk to my partially deaf girlfriend because she could barely hear anything over the phone.
posted by yeloson at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Netzapper: IRC taught me to type. I spent all summer on it one year in middle school. Type slow, you won't get the lols.

cjorgensen: IRC is where I used to say a lof of dumb shit before I found metafilter.

A little from column A, a little from column B…
posted by paisley henosis at 10:17 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


!warez
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:24 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are times when I'd trade the modern internet in a heartbeat to have usenet/IRC/mailing lists back in their prime.
posted by bonaldi at 10:25 AM on July 4, 2010 [16 favorites]


I feel the same sometimes bonaldi. You can never go home again.
posted by chmmr at 10:29 AM on July 4, 2010


bonaldi: There are times when I'd trade the modern internet in a heartbeat to have usenet/IRC/mailing lists back in their prime.

Obligatory plug for BBS: the Documentary.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:35 AM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


DU said:
I've never been able to get into IRC, perhaps because it's too much like talking to a real human
If you're on IRC and not talking to a real human then you're doing it wrong.
posted by komara at 10:39 AM on July 4, 2010


IRC was where I clicked on a link promising naked lady parts, infected my machine with something that overtook it completely and was back online 20 minutes later because I'd literally just taken an image of the machine. I impressed my friends in the forum with my posession of (at the time) specialist imaging software whilst also impressing them with the stupidity of not having any kind of virus defence at all.

Good times.
posted by vbfg at 10:39 AM on July 4, 2010


Please say "Hello, World!"
Hello, World!


Please.
posted by dabitch at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2010


I think your 'now' is a little off, given IRP popped up in 2005-2007.

Remotes to read in from channel text and do something based upon the text have been around for ages. You've got options such as scripting within clients, typically using mIRCScript, which can do most things if you beat it with a hammer for a bit and convince it that yes, it does want to tokenize that variable, or for a dedicated separate bot you're best off going for an Eggdrop bot which, with the last update being mid-2009, may even still count as being in current development. Others include PIRCbot's Java API and a reasonably popular and up to date python-based Phenny. They've been used for anything from Megahal talker bots to complete pen+paper RPG organization systems to hooking into Google APIs to administrative channel control; the vast majority of bots build on these bases.

99% of the computers logged on to IRC these days are doing so because they're part of a botnet, and use IRC as the command-and-control channel. I'm not sure if the advantages of IRC outweigh that.

You could say that about any part of the internet, right down to 'passing packets of data around'.

For what it does - multiplayer MSN with multiple levels of moderator control / ownership / privacy on rooms - IRC's still pretty much the best thing out there. It's just a matter of finding a good (i.e. preferably small and quiet) network.
posted by stelas at 10:40 AM on July 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


99 bottles
Due to a bug in the IRP interpreter, it is very difficult to produce a working implementation of the 99 bottles program in this language. Shown below is a typical result of this bug.

GregorR: Please, write the lyrics to the song 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.
memonic: go to hell


Ha ha ha ha ha.
posted by dabitch at 10:41 AM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


IRC's still pretty much the best thing out there.
Nostalgia aside, that's pretty damning. IRC can be a bugger to use even if you're technically savvy, if you're not it's going to be frankly daunting.

Yet, since a lot of those people are the people I'd love to have conversations with, it makes IRC a less interesting place for those who can use it. They drift off, and the cycle continues.
posted by bonaldi at 10:52 AM on July 4, 2010


I have a moderate amount of nostalgia associated with IRC, but it's not quite as much a blast from the past for me as it is for some of the commenters here because I still use it every day at work. Even in this age of IM and Campfire and so on my last couple jobs ran private IRC servers.
posted by thedaniel at 10:54 AM on July 4, 2010


A bit like applying the Turing Test to the Mechanical Turk.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:55 AM on July 4, 2010


/me slaps Gregor Richards around a bit with a large trout.
posted by cgomez at 11:15 AM on July 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


IRC is how hackers talk when they don't want to be overheard
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:24 AM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Back in sophomore year of college i downloaded custom xbox firmware to help a friend hack his system and play games from images on a custom installed hard drive. Let's see facebook do that!
posted by codacorolla at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


> IRC's still pretty much the best thing out there.
Nostalgia aside, that's pretty damning.

Pretty much. None of the major chat programs really offer you anywhere near the same level of customization or permanency when it comes to creating and moderating rooms; AIM/MSN/GChat basically just go 'here is a room for you to use right now. You'll never see it again. Hooray!' - an approach which has advantages of its own but doesn't really engender community.

That said, IRC got a lot easier to use with the rise (and rise, and rise) of Mibbit, which takes away the (not very big anyway) hassle of downloading $client_of_choice.

Oh yeah, obligatory song link.
posted by stelas at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


ERROR 8: DON'T_BE_A_DOUCHE_TO_YOUR_INTERPRETER ERROR


Best error ever.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


iirc irc is for nerds
posted by 29 at 11:39 AM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, we run a private IRC server at my job as well. A lot of our team is remote, so we need a collaborative chat area. What's the alternative, Google Wave? :P IM software is geared more for one-on-one conversations, and "chat rooms" aren't secure enough.
posted by cj_ at 11:53 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't been using IRC as long as a lot of people have, but I have been using it since I was ten years old, so I feel similar pride, even if my bragging rights are limited by my age. (I've reached a decade of usage, though!)

IRC is what gets me hooked on communities. I've learned a few handles on metafilter because they post often/well, but I haven't really gotten to know anyone. Does mefi have an IRC channel? :}

It's hard to have personal conversations on forums-- I feel that hogging threads meant for everyone, or making threads just for certain people is kinda.. selfish? And usually discouraged where I've posted. Maybe an analogy would be a meeting or lecture. A little bit of sidebar discussion is tolerated, but you can't spend the entire meeting ignoring your boss to talk to the cute engineer seated next to you.

on the contrary, channels in IRC are aptly described as rooms. My impression has always been that servers are buildings-- small private ones are single family homes, larger ones are immense skyscrapers. Each channel is a room where a party is going on. People can talk to the people they're comfortable with and ignore the rest, or mingle as they please. Sometimes the party spills over into adjacent rooms, and so a community will take up an entire floor of a building.

Talking via IM (group chats not included, as they tend to be kinda gimmicky and impermanent), to extend the metaphor, is going into a private room with one other person. Conversation feels forced if you're just want to get to know someone.


This is getting kind of ramble-y, so I'll just finish up here by saying that IRC is a good medium for me because I love the ability to be in a crowd and be as introverted or extroverted as I want to be.
posted by rubah at 11:57 AM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Aw, I thought it was a real language you could run on your computer. Actually, I might be able to whip something up...
posted by spiderskull at 11:58 AM on July 4, 2010


/me wonders why I keep getting kicked from #mefi
posted by clvrmnky at 12:03 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


iirc irc is for nerds

*kick*
posted by hal9k at 12:04 PM on July 4, 2010


@rubah: http://mssv.net/wiki/index.php/IRC
posted by clvrmnky at 12:04 PM on July 4, 2010


<GregorR> Please, write the lyrics to the song 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.
<memonic> go to hell


Coincidentally, this was Skynet's first reaction.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


IRC: Multiplayer Notepad

I've been on it since '93, and used to run one of the major EFNet hub servers (irc.texas.net). I've gotten jobs through IRC, and I met my late wife there as well in '98. It's also the reason I type 117 words a minute.

Some friends and I got tired of EFNet drama and power squabbles and DoS attacks and set up our own small semi-private network that's run for about ten years now.

*** Current local users: 23 Max: 31
*** Current global users: 35 Max: 43

posted by mrbill at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been on IRC almost constantly for 15 years. It's the best practical and technical resource for internet junk I know of.
posted by rhizome at 12:14 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


mrbill wrote: "I've been on it since '93, and used to run one of the major EFNet hub servers (irc.texas.net)."

I'm sorry for causing you so much trouble. What can I say, I was just a kid having fun.* ;)

It didn't take all that many of us assholes to make EFNet not so much fun to be around, what with constantly forcing netsplits and all the other chicanery. Of course, that chicanery did learn me a lot about how TCP works. Nor did it help that a significant fraction of opers were doing it themselves.

* It's all in good fun until you find yourself in the pokey for having fun a little too close to home. That was a good lesson in not shitting where I live.
posted by wierdo at 12:34 PM on July 4, 2010


Also, it is amazing what you can do with ircII script. It's even more amazing what you can do with a little ircII script and a few choice programs.
posted by wierdo at 12:39 PM on July 4, 2010


After BBS irc was my main internet vice for years and years. mIRC is still the first install on a fresh box. We used to be able to put together some fairly advanced shit with mirc scripting. My fave was when I could get an sms telling me my dcc had dropped and to go for a resume. Also enjoyed when the moo.dll came and you clue in the universe about your available ram.

The queer channels were a godsend to a kid with no other resources in the pre--and-early-www-world. Grew up on Undernet, and even when I've spent long periods elsewhere, somehow none of the other nets really felt like home.
posted by Iteki at 12:48 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


rambling here but i am surprised that no one really talks about how twitter is basically a worldwide, privately owned, corporate and privately owned IRC chat room...we all know that in the 90s a bunch of mbas sat around and looked at usenet/irc/email and plotted about how to make as much money as possible online but it has taken a lot longer than i expected.

"how can we convince people to be as public as possible and make money on it" seems to be the ongoing revenue / data stream for internet space.
posted by lslelel at 12:51 PM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry for causing you so much trouble. What can I say, I was just a kid having fun.* ;)

All is forgiven. I can look back *now* and laugh at getting phone calls to my unlisted, unpublished number at 3am whereupon someone with a bad fake Russian accent demanded THREE MEEEELION DOLLARS if I wanted my IRC server back.

Otherwise, being the prime example in smurf.c was not fun.
posted by mrbill at 1:00 PM on July 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


aw man. IRC from gladstone.uoregon.edu back in 1994. I wrote my own client in Perl. IRC was how I practiced my French. With real French people, in France! So much fun. (I'm still in touch with many of them, though no longer via IRC. We all ended up being able to meet in real life.) When I eventually got caught using IRC in 1996, I said I was using it to practice my French, and the (masters student) co-sysadmin said he didn't believe my story. No more IRC until I went to France a year later and used it from univ-lyon1.fr because back then there weren't any Internet PCs for use at the univ-lyon2 where I actually studied.

Oh and I met Mmmm. He, err, had a certain, ahhh, way... of speaking to women. I decided to pretend I was a man with unfamiliar people from thereon out.

/me waves from her apartment in France by the way mumble grumble I was telling the truth about practicing French and still use my French IRC-slang, ben ouais c pratique koi à l'époque c't du neuf, mntnant on appelle ça du SMS, mais c pô vrai !
posted by fraula at 1:09 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


mrbill wrote: "Otherwise, being the prime example in smurf.c was not fun."

Yeah, nobody liked you guys.
A HUGE FUCKING FUCK to texas.net
Soldier made me laugh, until I did a hundred hours of community service thanks to his shenanigans.
posted by wierdo at 1:54 PM on July 4, 2010


I, too, can thank IRC for my typing speed. Also, for my near complete inability to abbreviate when composing text messages on my phone. *mutter*

I think I was on IRC for three or four months before I realized that there were clients, and I didn't have to implement the protocol myself by telnetting to port 6667. I taught myself C by printing out the source of ircII and going over it line by line until I mostly understood what was going on. While I was one of the co-admins of irc.washington.edu, I wrote some code to make smacking local users easier, which either one of the other admins sent to a friend or which someone else developed independently around the same time. The results were as you might expect.

These days I'm mostly active on a private network and in a private channel on EFnet, but I think I've been on IRC more or less continuously (thanks to screen(1), I do mean continuously) since 1992. Yow.

(Funny thing, fraula--for a while, I pretended to be a woman with unknown people so I'd know who to ban from the channels and servers I ran. That got old fast.)
posted by hades at 2:24 PM on July 4, 2010


bonaldi: "IRC's still pretty much the best thing out there.
Nostalgia aside, that's pretty damning. IRC can be a bugger to use even if you're technically savvy, if you're not it's going to be frankly daunting.

Yet, since a lot of those people are the people I'd love to have conversations with, it makes IRC a less interesting place for those who can use it. They drift off, and the cycle continues.
"

A lot of the most useful stuff was built ages ago. Email, for example. They've both evolved over time, and the "usability" of a network protocol is largely determined by the programs that place themselves between users and the protocol. There have been some terrible attempts at this, but there's been a lot of improvement overall in both the clients and the servers. mIRC and xchat is not the beginning and end of things.
posted by pwnguin at 2:36 PM on July 4, 2010


Everyone's talking about IRC in the past tense....
posted by Joe Chip at 3:11 PM on July 4, 2010


Joe Chip wrote: "Everyone's talking about IRC in the past tense...."

Ironic, then, that I'm idling on EFNet as we speak. I think it's more that the juvenile fun times are behind us now, so it's a different place.
posted by wierdo at 3:19 PM on July 4, 2010


I done wrote about IRC recently (Self link)
posted by Jofus at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


FNET FOREVER!!
posted by The otter lady at 4:03 PM on July 4, 2010


mIRC and xchat is not the beginning and end of things

You're right. That's irssi. :)

Actually, I'd totally ditch irssi if someone wrote one that was based on an embedded python interpreter for scripting, rather than (gag) perl.
posted by cj_ at 4:47 PM on July 4, 2010


#emu & #warez on FDFnet/FEFnet was my main hang when I was 13
posted by wcfields at 5:04 PM on July 4, 2010


Yeah, nobody liked you guys.

* AND A BIG HUGE ENORMOUS FUCK YOU TO myc, throwback, crush, asmodean, Piker,
* pireaus, A HUGE FUCKING FUCK to texas.net, and the last HUGEST FUCK IN
* INTERNET HISTORY, AMM.


What's funny is that in '97-98, I sat about ten feet to the left of piraeus.

1995 through 1998 was wild times; the "good old days" of the ISP business. Everyone who worked at a local ISP knew everybody else who worked at the local ISPs; we criticized each other all the time but at the same time, would go for beers after work. At one point when I was working for Texas.Net, a competing ISP had a fire that wiped out one of their POPs (dialin locations). Other local providers offered spare hardware to get them back up and running temporarily.

There was also the time when EA (or whoever it was that ran Ultima Online at the time) had a T3 card in their primary router go out, taking down the entire "world". We happened to have a spare, so a group of guys from work got to go deliver the card to their offices out on Loop 360, take a tour, and from what I heard, take as many EA games home as they could carry. Unfortunately, that was the week I was on vaction.
posted by mrbill at 5:22 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wasn't two or three years ago I had to loan my WISP a T1 router after his had a little lightning issue.. :p

It's amazing how much things change, yet stay the same.
posted by wierdo at 5:39 PM on July 4, 2010


I created Acrophobia, the first IRC game that went commercial. That game launched my game career. I will never forget the original #acro and many of the people in it.

And wow, my name has changed twice over. "Ace" is long, long since passed.
posted by andreaazure at 6:55 PM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


OK, here's my "chat" story. I attended UCSD right around the time the school changed from old teletypes to these newfangled video display systems. After a little fooling around with them, I realized that you could send command sequences through chat that did cute things like sound an audio alert or invert the screen.

So, one day, I spot a young Psychology major struggling to figure out how to log in. (Psych majors had accounts so they could do statistical work.) From the other side of the room, I sent him a message: TO COMPLETE YOUR LOG IN PROCEDURE, PLEASE HOLD YOUR FACE CLOSE TO THE SCREEN AND LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD.

He does this.

I sent him a message that inverted/reverted the screen a few times, so the whole thing flashed that poisonous green color that video monitors used then. Then a sent a message that buzzed his terminal (the "bell" character).

THANK YOU. YOUR PHOTO HAS BEEN RECORDED. YOU ARE NOW LOGGED IN.

As far as I could tell, he completely bought this story.
posted by SPrintF at 10:43 PM on July 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


andreaazure wrote: "I created Acrophobia, the first IRC game that went commercial. That game launched my game career."

YOU! You're the one responsible for that ever-creeping hideousness! Where is that "opposite of favorite" button? ;)
posted by wierdo at 10:55 PM on July 4, 2010


Internet Relay Chat (IRC) has around since 1988...

Did you a word?
posted by Evilspork at 4:40 AM on July 5, 2010


<3 acrophobia
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:04 PM on July 5, 2010


I love Acrophobia's wikipedia page:
Acrophobia is a [clarification needed] ...
Really?
posted by cj_ at 6:43 PM on July 5, 2010


I met my partner on IRC, in 1996. In those days, I was part of a couple communities on IRC. It was special.
posted by Goofyy at 9:51 AM on July 6, 2010


oh hai mai irc chanal

I have been running, had ops in, or been otherwise involved in an IRC channel continuously since... 95? Maybe earlier. I don't have my transcripts (yup, still have most of them) handy. <3 IRC!

(The IRC channels I've been a party to have resulted in a better per capita rate of marriage/cohabitation/happily ever after than any internet dating site by like an order of magnitude. Ironically, I did NOT meet my sweetie on IRC. But, you know, I'm still happy to matchmake for you if you log on.)
posted by Eideteker at 9:59 AM on July 6, 2010


When I was in college, a group of my friends all had the same Technical Writing class, and we needed to communicate, so we set up an IRC server and a channel.

We've used that channel to keep in touch over the past eight years or so. We all have desk jobs, and always have irssi fired up in a screen session somewhere, so no matter where we log in we can read up. We've had fights over the years, people have left and come back, but it's remarkably stable now. I'm not sure our friendship would have survived moving to different cities without it.

We've talked about switching to something else, but nothing else scales as well between immediate, deep discussion and more store-and-forward twitter style updates.
posted by heathkit at 1:50 AM on July 7, 2010


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