Getting Started on IRC - Basics
1.1 - What is IRC?
IRC is an acronym for Internet Relay Chat. It's a system whereby people
connected to irc servers all over the world can communicate with each
other in real time. Developed in the late 1980's/early 1990's it provides
a text-based chat facilitiy completely free of charge to users. Users
can chat in 'rooms' where groups of people discuss various topics or privately,
between two or more people in a private room. Some IRC clients also have
provisions for connecting two clients directly - knowd as DCC this bypasses
the IRC servers and can often give a better response time that a private
1.2 - What do I need to use IRC?
An internet account (you've obviously got one of those!) and an IRC Client.
This is a program which sits on your computer and allows you to connect
to the IRC network. Some common IRC clients are mIRC & Pirch for MS Windows,
IRCII for various brands of Unix and at least one client for most major
operating systems. You can also connect to some IRC networks via the World
Wide Web or by a Telnet gateway. DALnet in particular supports Telnet
access - Telnet to telnet.dal.net with a login name of dalnet to use it.
Most IRC clients are shareware, meaning you can try them before you actually
shell out any money. Simply download the client of your choice from the
web and install it. Most will then prompt you for some basic setup information
(your name, e-mail address and intended IRC nickname in most cases) when
you first run them. If you have problems with your client, the best place
to get help is the cilent's webpage
1.3 - Where can I get an IRC Client?
For windows, try mIRC : - http://www.mirc.co.uk/ or
Pirch : - http://www.bcpl.lib.md.us/~frappa/pirch.html
Users of Unix, Mac or others would be best advised to try a Yahoo or AltaVista search.
1.4 - Choosing an IRC Network
Which network you choose is mostly a matter of personal preference. At
the last count there were more than 15 IRC networks to choose from. Some
of the best known are DALnet, EFnet, Undernet and IRCnet.
Networks come in all shapes and sizes from the very small to the very
large. Smaller networks tend to suffer less from lag and netsplits but
may offer less in the way of variety. Also some networks offer additional
functions such as 'Services' - these vary from net to net both in the
functions provided and in their reliability. Bear in mind that you are
NOT restricted to any one network... you can come and go as you please.
In practice though, most people find a network they like and stick to
1.5 - Is IRC safe for kids?
This is the big question... The answer has to be a qualified yes. IRC
is not liable to harm children by the simple action of using it. HOWEVER,
IRC is an UN-MODERATED medium. Freedom of speech exists throughout IRC...
many people say what they think regardless of what others may think. This
does mean that un-savoury topics are present, including those of a sexual
and/or racial nature. Most users of IRC dislike those who openly behave
in an offensive manner and many channel operators will take steps to remove
such persons from their channels, but this system is not foolproof. Please
bear in mind that one person's definition of offensive may not be the
same as anothers. If you are worried about what your children may see
on IRC, the best advice I can give you is to prohibit them access unless
you are able to supervise them. As a general rule, I would rate IRC access
as an age 15+ activity. Children below this age will probably require
considerable supervision to keep them out of harms way. There are some
programmes which attempt to act as a 'censor' for children although the
effectiveness of these is debatable. Above all, parents must impress on
children that they should NEVER give out personal information of any kind
(including E-mail addresses & phone numbers) on IRC.