At the end of this month marks thirty years of the birth of the IRC, one of the first chat systems with which many of us took their first steps on the Internet. It is an extremely simple communication protocol, based only on text, and without many of the options we see today in more advanced applications.
But despite its limitations, it had a special charm that most of today’s applications lack, which is why those of us who live through its golden age keep remembering what it was like. Therefore, here are five reasons why many of us miss the IRC.
But before I start I want to clarify that if we miss the IRC is not because it has disappeared, in fact it is still a protocol quite used in some areas, although it is not as popular as it was a few decades ago. In addition, users at that time had a slightly different mentality, and that is another of the things that are missing from that time.
A faster and easier communication
One of the aspects that I miss most about the IRC was its simplicity and the speed at which it worked. Nowadays, any chat or communication application implements a large number of options and add-ons, so in order to use them you need a decent enough computer.
But the IRC did not need big specifications, and it worked almost without problems in practically any computer. There could be some differences depending on the scripts you used, which served to give different aspects to the base application, but as it happens today with GNU / Linux you had a large number of them at your disposal with different options and minimum requirements.
In spite of that, from time to time you could have problems with the lag due to the connection you had at home. In fact, there were certain attacks that today would be unthinkable such as flood, in which a person with an ADSL connection would write several lines per second to saturate the lines of the rest and make their connections fall. And those were the epic battles that you could sometimes find in some chats.
You did not always need to register
Some IRC networks such as IRC Terra did not ask you to register or give any personal data to be able to use it. You simply wrote the name of the users you wanted to use and entered, which saved you a lot of time when you used it for the first time.
Some other IRC networks did offer you the possibility to register in exchange for reserving a username, although they also allowed you to enter without registering. Of course, if you did, you would expose yourself to the fact that someone who entered before you on a certain day could occupy your name, something that was sometimes done on purpose to supplant the identity of other people.
The emojis were your imagination
As we said at the beginning the IRC was a flat text chat, and in the best case you could find a script or application capable of translating some codes into colors. But otherwise there were neither emojis nor emoticons, so we all had to throw a little imagination when it came to expressing ourselves.
The closest thing there was to the emojis was a series of drawings that you could create based on ASCII code. But for each one you needed several lines of text, so if someone spoke while you were sharing one of those ASCII emoticons, everything would go to waste. There was also a series of gestures and ASCII drawings of a single line, which, although being simpler, also required a dose of imagination.
In any case, it was still fun and instructive to rely solely on text. Everything was much less explicit than now, and you had to work it much more to convey what you wanted to say. There were no video conferences or voice notes either, so if you had to tell someone half a life you would have to do it by writing them big, private conversations.
Feeling pioneer in a new world
At that time, the ability to chat with other people through the Internet was relatively new. That made your parents and family looked at you like a weirdo when you talked about your “friends” of the network, something that is now completely normalized, but that then lent itself to all kinds of myths and fears.
And precisely that fact of doing something that previous generations could not do created a certain atmosphere among those who used that application. We were pioneers, and who knew how to do the virguería of turn, by a simple that could seem now, had the admiration of all.
You took your first steps in programming
One of the fashions of the IRC world was to create scripts or layers of customization on base applications such as the incombustible mIRC. These scripts could add add-ons such as automatic absence systems, automatic replies and possibilities such as when you played a song to the rest you would also skip the same song if the name of the musical file matched.
And precisely thanks to those scripts I know a few people who started in the world of programming precisely to be able to create their own. There were also cases in which a group of people came together to create web pages, causing many to start playing the world of HTML for the first time.
The users were more transparent
Possibly thanks to that feeling of being pioneers in a new world as was the Internet at that time, users tended to tend more to be ourselves and be more transparent. For each channel or group we used to be quite a few, so it was easy to create certain links with other users soon.
These links ended up materializing in the form of hangouts, in which people from different parts of the country stayed in a certain place to see themselves moving for the first time. Keep in mind that at that time as much you had seen the odd photograph of that other person, and always much less than you can see with Instagram today, so knowing each other was a little more special.
That so transparent colleague ended up forming friendships that are maintained over time. Today, for example, I continue to maintain a relationship with some people I met at that time. Now instead you can meet hundreds of thousands of people every day through various social networks, but the links that are established are usually not as strong as those I remember from that time when four cats populated the IRC.
It was the Internet pre-trolls
Another feature that most differentiated the time of the IRC is that it was the Internet before the massive arrival of the trolls. Conversations, for example, were not often seen interrupted by people trying to offend to get attention, and we made jokes in a more respectful way.
But curiously, at that time we used to be the most respectful we were also at least offended by any occasional troll that might appear. Today gives the feeling that we all have the skin too final, so it is impossible to miss the days when the IRC could release some silly nonsense from the bar without offending others. How much could you refute or expel if you were rude or repeated too much jokes and offenses.
You felt important with little
When you were op in a channel you had the power, and you felt important … although it was also possible that it was a channel where all the regular users were given a @. Being an operator, something that was distinguished by the @ symbol before the nick, was to have the control to eject or silence other users. And we felt important with little.
There were also cases in which those caused battles and pitched battles with several expelled and banned. In those days, being the fastest in the west was knowing how to write the expulsion command at a higher speed, or right click to choose the option in your shift script. You could also program an automation so that just typing / k will autocomplete the command to eject someone.
Although there were also bad things …
But we cannot let nostalgia prevent us from remembering some of the negative aspects of the IRC. For starters there was no way to verify that a person was really who they claimed to be, and something as simple as sending a photo could expose your IP address , so it was advisable to distrust anyone who seemed too friendly.
Nor were there as many security controls implemented in Windows as now, and certainly not in IRC clients either. That made it common for some to devote themselves to sending Trojans or some malware disguised as photographs or with the promise that the executable would do this or that. In fact, there were a lot of applications with which to infect other people’s computers and then make it possible to do trivial things like opening your CD player or directly turning off the computer.
And of course, for anyone who is used to today’s applications, the absolute lack of interactions beyond the textual ones would also be negative. And if there were, like the aforementioned system for playing music together, in most cases you had to have the same mIRC script to work.