A brief history of IRC
The following chapter comes from the book "The IRC survival guide" by
Oulu, a quiet university town on the Gulf of Bothnia in Finland, was the unlikely
birthplace of what is now a computer network serving most of the world and hundreds
of thousand of users. It was 1988. Jarkko Oikarinen, a second-year student of
electrical engineering and information technology, got a summer job in the universitys
computing center. In a mid-1994 interview for The IRC survival guide he recalled:
It was one of the usual university summer jobs, where you are mostly supposed
to learn new things, and nobody expects you to get anything significant done
I was doing some programming for a BBS system that I had started in the University
(OuluBox, its still there
telnet tolsun.oulu.fi and log on as box),
and the goal was to develop the BBS software into a better one. The chat system
used in the BBS before was MUT (Multi-User Talk), developed by Jukka Pihl, who
gave me lots of idea and support during the long period of IRC development,
as well as Heikki Putkonen, who was (and is) working in the Department of Information
Processing Science. And was at that time giving guidance to my summer work.
I learned to do some socket programming during the summer, mostly from a xerox
copy or a xerox copy of some kind of BSD4.3 IPC networking manual, which Risto
Tynkkyne, [who] had just returned from work in the states, had with him and
I managed to get my hands on. I dont think he knows how useful those copies
Only one part of the new BBS got somewhat usable and that was the "chat"
part, called IRC
The summer job ended in the autumn, but my IRC development
continued for a couple of years, delaying my graduation for a year or so
I considered the time well spent; I learned a multitude of things during those
IRC goes international
IRC spread quickly to Tampere and Helsinki in South Finland, but it was some
years before it went international. Oikarinen got an account on the legendary
ai.ai.mit.edu machine and used it to disseminate his ideas. Pretty much as soon
as it became technically possible to connect servers in Boston and Oulu, the
first hook-up was made next it was Denver, then Oregon, next stop The
In the early days of IRC, channels had no evocative names like #romance or #football.
All the channels were just numbers, and to this day, a die-hard bunch of Finns
still maintain a channel called #42.
Oikarinen admits that he never visualized IRC as a global chat forum when he
was developing it. Naturally, hes pleased it turned out that way
what young engineering graduate wouldnt be gratified to see his summer
project turn into a worldwide meeting place but hes not necessarily
pleased with the "politics" that have grown up around IRC management.
Oikarinen still logs into IRC occasionally yes, to #42 actually
and his philosophical approach is a lesson to all IRC users. He sees through
the clutter of arguments about how to run IRC, and concentrates on the positive:
People get to meet other around the world, by first meeting each other on IRC,
and then later in real life. I also know many people who met first through IRC
and then got married and are living happily. I myself have met lots of nice
people from many countries through IRC, people I definitely would not have had
a chance of meeting otherwise.
I have attended some IRC meetings, and have always found it very interesting
to meet the people typing on the other terminals and I have learned that the
impression you get through the keyboard is often very different from the one
in real life. Which one is the right one is of course a matter of opinion.
Where to find more information
On the Internet, you can find numerous documents relating to IRC. Most of them
assume that you use a client like ircII on UNIX, but most of the information
and commands still apply to Snak.
Here's a number of links to get you started:
These pages are in German: