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Internet Relay Chat

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 world.std.com
*** Welcome to the Internet Relay Network, adamg
*** Your host is world.std.com, 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 - world.std.com Message of the Day -
MOTD - Be careful out there...
MOTD - ->Spike
* End of /MOTD command.

23:13 [1] adamg [Mail: 32] * type /help for help

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*? ...ba` 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, type

/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:


For more information on using IRC, see the IRC command box. You can find discussions about IRC in the alt.irc newsgroup.

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