Internet Relay Chat (IRC)

What is the IRC?

The Internet Relay Chat is a place in cyberspace where people can textually chat directly to one another, in real time. It's a collection of channels, or rooms, often with a theme (e.g. #newbie and #wasteland are help channels, you can play poker on #poker, there's a #macintosh channel!) where any number of people can come together and chat and discuss anything, just like people being in a room together.

How do I get onto the IRC?

You can access the IRC by using applications such as Ircle, Chat or Homer on the Mac, or MIrc on Wintel machines. There is also a plug-in for Netscape called Ichat, but I find the applications faster to use. After launching these applications you need to connect to an IRC server. There are three different types of IRC that I know of, Undernet, EFnet and DALnet, each having it's own set of servers. These are basically the same, the only difference that I know of is the poker 'bot on EFnet will let you play 7 card stud, the one on the undernet won't. If you are on one you won't be able to chat to people on another of these, but you can switch between servers without any problem. See the Example start into the IRC section below.

Some IRC conventions

Ok, basically you can do what you want, but if you get out of line the channel operator is likely to kick you off the channel and if you persist you'll be banned from the channel until an operator decides to give you another chance. Some of the things which could lead to this are: If you're polite and considerate you should have no problems. This doesn't mean you can't have fun though!!

An op is someone who takes responsibility for the running and policing of the channel. You can pick these out easily as they have a @ beside their nicks when you do a /who or a /names. Any questions you have about the channel can be directed to these people.

The name or nickname you use while on the IRC can be anything you like, your real name, your nickname or anything else you want e.g. mine is "Fiend" or "Nivek" (Kevin backwards, sounds Star Treky!), others are "Genie", "Sunflower", "Demon", and basically anything you can think of! The name you use is referred to as your 'nick'.

If you are talking to someone in particular, it's a good idea to put their name followed by a colon at the start of your message. This helps to keep things from getting confused, especially on a busy channel. The person also knows the message is directed towards him/her.

The names of channels begin with a '#', this is to distinguish between them and nicks.

"Lag" is when you are waiting for your server to catch up with all that's happening and send you new messages. Depending on your server this can get really bad, lag for about 20 seconds and then get all those messages up on screen at once, then another 30 second lag. Picking a good server should allow you to avoid this.

There's several abbreviations for things, like:

* is the wildcard, i.e. all. For example to see who everyone on the channel is use /who *

Wallops are when someone is annoyed with someone else and sends out a comment about this person. It's not used much, but you can receive them using "/mode [nick] +w" (leaving out the quotes, [nick] is your nick)

A List of IRC commands

Note: for the list of commands, substitute the appropriate name/etc. for the items between [ and ], and leave out the [ ]. An example start into the IRC is given below.
/join #[channel]  join channel #[channel] 
/who [nickname]  who is [nickname], or /who * for who are everyone on your channel 
/who #[channel]  who is on channel #[channel] 
/whowas [nick]  who was [nick] - if someone has just left, you can check who he/she was 
/part #[channel]  leave channel #[channel] 
/msg [nick] [message]  send the message [message] to person with nickname [nick] allowing no one else to see it 
/nick [newnick]  change your nick to [newnick] 
/ping [nick]  how long does it take for [nick] or everyone (use *) to see your messages - this is a good way to see are people ignoring you or lagged 
/dcc send [nick] [filename]  send [filename] to person with nick [nick] 
/dcc get [nick] [filename]  accept a file [nick] is trying to send you 
/dcc chat [nick]  open a direct line between you and [nick]. It's faster but can only be used between 2 people at a time, and both people must do this. Take advantage of this by using /msg =[nick] [message] 
/dcc close chat [nick]  close the direct line opened with /dcc chat [nick] 
/query =[nick]  talk only to [nick]. You must have /dcc chat open 
/server [server_name]  connect to server [server_name] 
/names  list all channels and the people on them - this will take a while!! 
/names #[channel]  list the nicks of people on channel #[channel]. This is like /who #[channel] but only gives the nicks 
/list [-max "n"][-min "n"] [#string]  an alternative to #names, lists currently available channels. You can show only channels with a minimum and a maximum number of people on. You can also show only channels with #string in their title. NOTE: a few servers will kick you off for using this command as there can be thousands of channels. 
/me [action]  gives a message beginning with * [your nick] e.g. "/me smacks Beavis" would give "* Fiend smacks Beavis" 
/exit  Leave the IRC, disconnecting from the server 
CTRL-V  in a message changes the color of the characters to blue e.g. "hello ^vthis is blue^v this is normal" 
CTRL-_  in a message reverses characters i.e. black-on-white to white-on-black 

Example start into the IRC

For this example I'll use Ircle, but it's similar for other IRC applications. See the sites on the 'net below for where to get an IRC app.

Launch Ircle, and you will be faced with a number of fields to fill in. Use the following values:

Connect via:
Nickname: whatever you like
Real Name: fill this in if you like, it's not necessary

and click on ok. Ircle should then open a connection to that server, displaying 2 windows: a big one showing messages and a small one where you type your messages into. This might take a few seconds, and when you start you will be on no channels.

Next, join a channel and you can get talking straight away. The two main channels for chatting are #chat and #chatzone. These are usually fairly busy so it can be difficult to follow all of the conversations. #macintosh usually isn't too busy, but the people on it take a while to reply, if they do at all. For this example join #chat:

type: /join #chat and press enter

After a few seconds a new window will open and a lot of messages and stuff will start to appear. Usually when someone arrives onto a channel they say "hi everyone", which is a good way of getting into conversations with people, they answer and it's onwards from there.

type: hey everybody!

This should bring a few replies, and you can chat away then. When you're tired of it and want to try out another channel, first leave this channel.

type: /part #chat

and then go onto whatever channel you want to go on, e.g. #newbies

type: /join #newbies

When you want to quit out of the IRC

type: /exit

More Advanced IRC features

You can do a lot more than just joining and leaving channels of course. If you want to see whether a person is on the IRC or not, you can check using the /who command. Type /who [person's nick or email name] This will return a list of people on with that name in their email address or their nick. Note that only one person can have a particular nick at any time.

You can also see what people from Ireland are on, type: /who *.ie The same can be used for other countries, substituting the ie - uk is for the United Kingdom, jp is for Japan, ca is for California, au for Australia, fr for France, se for Sweden, etc.

There are games channels e.g. #poker, #chaos, #conquest, etc. where the game is run through use of a 'bot'. A bot is a script or program running on the channel which runs the games. They are usually called something with 'bot' in the nick - the #poker bot is pbot, chaosbot runs #chaos, and so on. You can find this out easily by asking any of the ops or anyone else on the channel.

Cool Channels

There are a few help channels for any questions people may have: #newbie #wasteland

There's are some poker channels: #poker and #poker2

There is a Jeopardy type quiz channel: #riskybus

A game where you join one of two teams and try to get the top ten keywords in a category: #chaos

And some rpg type channels where you are a soldier or farmer trying to get ahead: #conquest, #doomsday

Some IRC servers

All of these were in operation the last time I checked......


To connect to the nearest Undernet server try:
or pick any particular one - here's some European sites:
and here's some American sites:


IRC on the WWW

There is an IRC page on the net dedicated to the #poker channel, click here.

Where to get IRC s/w on the 'Net

The most popular app.s on the Mac are Ircle and Homer. These can be found at the following locations: Another IRC client I've come across is Snak, which supports MIRC colours.  It's available at, latest version 2.02.

The only IRC app. that I can think of for Wintel machines is MIRC, they had their own channel last time I checked (#mirc). I don't know where you can pick this up, but if anyone knows please let me know!

Made With Mac
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This page was last modified on Sunday, 4th April 1999.