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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 room

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 it.

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.