Chapter 8


8.1 What is IRC?

This is one service on the Internet which is live and vibrant. In everything else you do, you are working with computers-- sending messages, accessing information, retrieving files, etc. With IRC, you are talking to people all around the world at some forum, or using IRC terminology in some channel. IRC is like the Usenet newsgroups (currently not offered by VSNL), with the exception that it is alive. Its real-time nature makes IRC exhilarating and attractive.

It may be argued that in some ways, IRC has done more for improving international relations in a few years, than diplomats and United Nations peacemakers would have hoped to accomplish in generations.

IRC was developed in 1988 by Jarkko Oikarinen from Finland. Of course, it has gone through many revisions to attain today's ease of use.

Even before Internet became popular because of the World Wide Web, it became known through IRC. During the Persian Gulf war thousands of people used to connect up to one of the IRC channels, talking about the developments as they happened. The Russian coup of 1991 and the 1989 California earthquake were reported live on IRC by persons living there.

Fortunately, VSNL's shell account gives you access to IRC. You may have hours of fun, entertainment, and exchange of valuable information through this service. Here we discuss how to get you started and give you references to learn more and become an expert on IRC.


To get started with IRC, select option 5 (Chat) from the initial menu after you log on. After you press 'Enter', you get the following four-item menu as shown in Fig.8-1:

Fig.8-1 Selection menu for IRC (Chat)

1. Quick Manual
2. Detailed Manual
3. Enter Chat Mode
4. Go back to the main Menu

Your selection : 3

Type 3 and press 'Enter'. This selection will put you into the IRC chatmode, on a server predetermined by VSNL -- which usually changes from day to day. As a consequence, the appearance of the screen at connection, and the comments and instructions given, vary from session to session. During one such connection to IRC, the Fig.8-2 shows the screen that appeared in one session:

Fig.8-2 Initial screen for an IRC session

*** Connecting to port 6667 of server
*** Welcome to the Global Stage Network, rajm
*** If you have not already done so, please read the new user information with
*** Your host is, running version GS 1.3.1 960131 Stadium
+Copyright (c) 1995, 1996 Quarterdeck Corporation
*** This server running since Mon Jul 1 02: 56:29 1996
*** umodes available 1.3.1, channel modes available 960131
*** There are 43 users and 0 invisible on 1 servers
*** - Message of the Day -
*** -
*** - Welcome to Talk City, an Internet community for those who
*** - believe in people and the power of conversation.
*** -
*** - Problems online? Ask any CCC! (City Conference Crew)
*** -
*** - Check out our calendar and story at
*** - (and our Rules of Conduct at
*** -
*** - To create a room:
*** - type /join #roomname
*** - To post your topic:
[1] 08:44 rajm * type /help for help
/server 6665

The connection was to the server, as predetermined by VSNL, and to port 6667, which is the default port. We could explore this site. However, I have found to be a better site to start IRC exploration. Thus, below the last line of the screen, a command can be typed to change the channel. Note that all commands to IRC are preceded by a forward slash "/".

In this case, the command given to change the channel or the site was:

/server 6665

This will connect to the IRC server, at port 6665. The default port is 6667 which may be blocked by many users and you may not have room to enter the server.

Fig 8-3 shows a part of the screen you will see as you log on to

Fig.8-3 Logon screen at server


Logon Screen at

After you have selected the server, but before you join a channel and the conversation, you may want to give a nickname for yourself. This is done by issuing a command shown below --in this case, to assume the nickname raja:

/nick raja

Now you are ready to join a channel, to be part of the current conversation going on. In this example, we join the channel "india". Please note this does not mean that the topic of conversation will be India. To join a channel, issue a command on the bottom most line, as:

/join #india

You will connect to the channel and will see the conversation scrolling past your screen. It is quite fast and you have to be a quick reader to catch the drift of it and add your own comments. A sample of channel conversation is given in Fig.8-4:

Fig.8-4 Sample of chat at server

<skarface> prasena :)
* pReM says i am PATEL !!
* pReM says i am PATEL !!
*** paagili has left channel #india
<joemon> mayavi: it's cool... a bit hard on the system with the animated
+gifs... but cool.
<HaSaN> Napp: I didn't like anything about the area;s nothing like
<napp> Hasan Arlington? hmm lot of indians there
<SARKIE> skary: pshaw, I am a spendthrift at heart...i don't mind at all. =)
<Amrita> Karishma he says you are very nice and he wants t otake you river
<Amrita> :))
<Lista> g2.. say again?
<HaSaN> Napp: really???
<napp> Hasan thats true, but Dallas itself is nice
<HaSaN> Napp: But what kind?
<Karishma> Amrita..he said that?? really?
* pReM says lo- bouche i am PATEL !!
<Amrita> heheheh karishma yup he did :))
<Mayavi> joemon: yaa you need a good computer with good video card so you
+could see everone.. really nice.
<Amrita> Karishma he says you are very nice and he wants t otake you river
<Amrita> :))
<Lista> g2.. say again?
<HaSaN> Napp: really???
<napp> Hasan thats true, but Dallas itself is nice
<HaSaN> Napp: But what kind?
<Karishma> Amrita..he said that?? really?
* pReM says lo- bouche i am PATEL !!
<Amrita> heheheh karishma yup he did :))
<Mayavi> joemon: yaa you need a good computer with good video card so you
+could see everone.. really nice.
<AKASH> anyone from asia?
<HaSaN> Napp: But what kind? Whitwash...or desi??
*** rudebwoy- has left channel #india
*** PART Not enough parameters
<Mayavi> joemon: I might put their whole pict..
<ds> akash where are you/
<Karishma> tera kya hoga re?? :)
<napp> Hasan desi I think, loads ofr them
* pReM says koi chokri nahi aaje...

In the channel conversation, anything you type will be echoed back on the screen and will be visible to anyone on the channel. About the content, that depends on the people who are participating. You may find some chat sessions interesting and others not so attractive, but chances are you'll find your "wavelength" on some channel.

If you want to leave the channel, issue the command:

/leave #india

and you will see the message in Fig.8-5:

Fig.8-5 Message when leaving an IRC channel

*** raja has left channel #india
[1] 08:50 raja * type /help for help

Issuing the command:


will take you out of the IRC server and back to VSNL's chat option menu.

Now that you know how to enter a channel and get out of it, you should know a few more commands before you venture out to be part of the conversation and enjoy this service.


To reiterate-- all IRC commands have to be preceded by "/", and they are not case sensitive. The commands used in IRC are described in this section. If it is not a command, it is conversation. Anything you type without / will be taken as conversation and echoed to all of the participants of the channel.


This command helps you to choose the server you may want to be on. The command:

/server servername <portnumber> e.g. /server 6665

will connect you to server at port no. 6665. Generally, all servers will show you their valid port numbers. In case the server is busy, it gives you alternate servers to log on.


This command lists the current channels and the number of users, but this would generate massive output. There are a couple of ways to limit the output to a manageable quantity. One is to specify the minimum and maximum number of participants in a channel:

/list <-min number -max number> e.g. /list -min 2 -max 3

This will generate the list of channels having 2 and 3 participants.


The user login name is the default name on the channel. If you wish to have a nickname, you can give the command:

/nick your nickname e.g. /nick raja

If the nickname you have chosen is already in use at the server, you will get a message asking you to choose another nickname.


Use this command to join one of the many channels available on the IRC. The syntax is:

/join #channelname e.g. /join #india


This command will show you information about other users.

/who *

will show you all the users that are currently on the same channel as you are on.


If you want to find out information about a particular user, use this command as follows:

/whois nickname

The details will be shown about the person, their login name, their name as on the their server etc.


This command helps you to send private messages to other users, irrespective of what channel they are on. The syntax is :

/msg nickname msgtxt

For example, if I wish to send a private message to another IRC user with the nickname gamer, I would type:

/msg gamer can I borrow Rs. 500 from you when we meet?

This message can be read only by gamer.


This command will invite a user to the particular channel you are on:

/invite gamer

invites gamer to channel india.

If you receive an INVITE message, you can type "/join -invite" to join the channel to which you were last invited, or simply "/join <channel>".


This command, with the syntax:

/away [<away message>]

leaves a message explaining that you are not currently paying attention to IRC. Whenever someone sends you a msg or does a whois on you, they automatically see whatever message you sent. Using "away" with no parameters marks you as no longer being away. For example:

/away Gone to get a cup of coffee.

You have been marked as being away. Then, if you give the command:


you are no longer marked as being away.

/quit (also bye, signoff, exit)

This command ends your IRC session. You may give a reason for quitting, as part of the command, which is displayed to other people on your channel.

/quit dinner time! or /SIGNOFF dinner time!


This command notifies you when a user you have specified logs on. The syntax of the command is:

/notify nickname e.g. /notify gamer

IRC will notify you when gamer logs on.


Aliasing many commands can save you considerable typing. The command format is:

/alias j join

After this has been issued you can use /j in place of /join for joining the channel.

.ircrc file

In your account at VSNL you can create a .ircrc file using pico, discussed in chapter 13. In this file you can specify all the aliases once and for all. It is read every time you start IRC. You may check out the IRC primer for interesting settings to start the IRC session.

Changing IRC Name

Normally when the 'whois' command is issued by another user to find out who you are, the output will show the name in which your account is issued. For example, my nickname may be bomber, my user name for login is rajm, but my account is issued under the name Dr. Raj Mehta, which will be displayed by the 'whois' command.

Suppose you did not want your identity to be known on the chat channel. This is accomplished by specifying a different name for yourself for IRC use, at the Unix prompt in your VSNL account. The 'whois' command will

then display only your IRC name.

In order to do this, select option 10 (UNIX Prompt) from the initial menu after you log on to your shell account. When you get the UNIX Prompt, type the commands as shown below, for example:

rajm> IRC_NAME="None of your business" export IRC_NAME

Now, if an IRC user asks 'whois bomber', he will get the answer "None of your business", instead of 'Dr. Raj Mehta'.

Unfortunately you cannot build this into the .ircrc file at your VSNL account. You will have to type it out every time you are ready to start an IRC session.

8.4 Annotated Example of IRC Session

All the IRC commands have been described above, to allow you to make a start on IRC. But that in no way prepares you for what you will see on the screen, or ensures your ability to respond in a way you may want. Only experience and familiarity with use will do that. In order to build some familiarity, below is a screen capture of an actual session.

It has been annotated -- to explain the meanings of the different symbols you see in the session.

In response to the command /server 6665, you will see the output shown in Fig.8-6, taken from the motd (message of the day) file of the server -- or alternatively, via the /motd command:

Fig.8-6 Message of the day on an IRC channel

The IRC nickname of the user, from whose viewpoint the example session is viewed, is gamer.

A few words that you might have read here and not understood, are explained below :

BOT is a short form for robot. Bots are programs which can be run on irc servers for the purpose of retaining channel ownership. Most irc servers don't allow you to run bots on their servers unless you get them registered first. For more on IRC bots, please search the World Wide Web for the extensive help on the subject available there.

CLONES are copies of yourself on the irc network. For example, if you were to log on to one server and because you were lagging (networks do get slow sometimes) on that server, you might decide to change servers. Sometimes, you and your ghost ( previous login ) will be on the same channel. Also, your nickname is used by your ghost so be warned, you may get banned from irc servers if you to this often.

FLOODING is repeating yourself a number of times on a channel, for example by saying things like hello to all the users on the channel. The responses from maybe 20 people make almost a screenful of hellos from you. These things are not allowed on most channels and will get you kicked off or even banned from a channel.

Moving on to the IRC session, after issuing the /join #universal command, Fig.8-7 gives what you see :

Fig.8-7 Screen after issuing the join command

*** gamer ( has joined channel #universal
*** Topic for #universal: Friends-The Weeekend Is Closing Out!"
*** #universal BillW_ 836709603

The first line indicates that you have joined the channel #universal The second line indicates the topic for the channel.

To see who else is on the channel with you at present, you could issue the /who command which would give you an output is in Fig.8-8:

Fig.8-8 Result of who comand

#universal gamer H (AJOY BHAVNANI)
#universal Mandy_ H@ (Smile Be Happy)
#universal harryjg H@
+(Harry J. Guynup)
#universal nick G* (Nick Leyendecker)

The first column indicates the channel on which the users are on. The second column indicates the nicknames of other users. The third column tells you about the other users' status and whether they are here or away, indicated by H or G, respectively. A "@" identifies the user to be a channel operator (anyone who gets into the channel first or is given operator status by another channel operator). Here mandy_ and harryjg are the channel operators. The "*" sign indicates the IRC operator in charge of the irc server, in this case nick.

Now let's go onto the chatting part of it. Anything any user wants to say is displayed to everyone on the channel, by just typing the message and pressing <Enter>. Fig.8-9 shows a sample of the chat:

Fig.8-9 Sample of chat

<harryjg> hiya gamer...
<Mandy_> Hi gamer
> hiya harry

The first two lines you see are what harryjg and mandy_ have said to me on the channel, as identified by their nicknames in the <> brackets. The third line is what you, gamer, typed out to harryjg. For your inputs to the channel, only the ending bracket > is shown on your screen, whereas the full nickname in brackets appears on other users' screens. this if for convenience in quickly finding and seeing what you've just said. Fig.8-10 shows continuation of the chat session:

Fig.8-10 Continuation of the chat session

<harryjg> hmmmmm, never idle, I'm either moving 100+, or asleep
> brb
<Mandy_> ok gamer
<harryjg> speaking of which....Mandy, I luv ya, but I gotta sleep darling,
+LONG day tomorrow!
<nick> brb
> hi mandy how r u
<harryjg> nick, good nite.
<harryjg> Mandy.........
> harry cya bye


There are a lot of abbreviations used on the irc, one of which is used above "brb" which stands for "be right back".

Some of the other commonly used abbreviations are :-
hth=hope this helps
cya=see ya

If you wish to show any actions, you could use the /me command to display your nickname and an action as /me waves to harryjg gives the following output :

* gamer waves to harryjg

Using the /me command followed by the action puts a line on the channel with your nickmame prefixed by an asterisk followed by what you specified as your action in this case it was "waves to harrjg". This is shown in Fig.8-11:

Fig.8-11 Output of /me comand

* harryjg dips Mandy and kisses her long and hard so she won't forget him til
+Wednesday nite......
<Mandy_> I know harry...I luv ya too...I'm off to bed also...have a safe to you when you get home..

A private message can be passed on by using the /msg command as in Fig.8-12.

Fig.8-12 Passing private message on an IRC session

/msg mandy where r u from
-> *mandy* where r u from
*** mandy: No such nick/channel

Here I gave the wrong nickname, so this is what you will see if there is no such nickname on IRC. In case there was another user on any other channel by that wrong nickname, the message would have gone to that person. That is why you should be a little careful when you message someone. Fig.8-13 shows message to be passed on to the right person with the response:

Fig.8-13 Sending priavte message and the response

/msg mandy_ where r u from
*Mandy_* Mass ..usa

The reply to a private message is generally a private message indicated by the nickname of the user in asterisks (*) as seen above.

To see how the 'whois' command works, I issued the command /whois mandy_ , which brought the output shown in Fig.8-14:

Fig.8-14 Output of whois command

*** Mandy_ is (Smile Be Happy)
*** on channels: @#universal
*** on irc via server (ND? ND!? We don't need no steenken Nick

The above output shows Mandy_'s email address, her IRC name Smile Be Happy, the channel she is on, in this case #universal, and what server she is using, in this case Fig.8-15 shows final set of exchanges between gamer and Mandy_.


> mandy_ u must be tired wot time is it anyway there???
<Mandy_> almost 3AM gamer
> mandy whoa u not sleepy
<Mandy_> Yes, I am gamer.. I was just getting ready to go to bed
> ok mandy cya sleep tite bye
* gamer leaving too bye all
<Mandy_> bye bye gamer...take care....hugs
<Mandy_> bye nick

To quit the irc you can use /quit or /signoff. With the /signoff command you could give a message as you log off. The message

/signoff bye all have fun

will display the following to the other users when you disappear off the IRC. This is shown in Fig.8-65:

Fig.8-16 Signoff and passing the goodbye message

<gamer> bye all have fun

The line in Fig. 8-17 appears at the bottom of your screen, is the status line :

Fig.8-17 Status line on an IRC channel

[1] 12:22 gamer on #universal (+nt) * type /help for help

It shows what nickname you are using, what channel you are on, and what your privileges on the channel are. In this case, your nickname is gamer, the channel is #universal, and you have the privileges of +n and +t.


The following are some server addresses that have IRC channels :

SERVERS PORTS 6665-6667 6666-6667

The following is a list of channels and topics, that may get you started :

#India AboutIndia and General
#china General
#cauldron Poetry
#countrymusic Country Music
#delhi General
#javascrip Java Scripts
#classical Classical Music
#chitchat Different Topics
#globalcafe International matters
#chatcorner Come and just chat
#universal General
#Worldgroup No Topic
#webdesign About desiging web pages
#cricket About Cricket
#Antivirus About computer viruses
#paranormal Extra sensory perception
#Worldchat General
#cafeirc Genraal
#poker About poker
#dreams Talk about dreams
#irchelp Need help with IRC!
#UnixHelp Ask any question about Unix
#win95-net Windows95 internetworking Help

Of course there are many more IRC channels on the Internet.


As with any topic related to Internet, there are literally thousands of pages of information available. The trick is to know where to find it. Now there are very powerful serach engines on the WEB to help us out. To give you a good start, here are some of the sources:

Anonymous FTP sites:

ircII Manual /irc/clients
IRC Primer /irc/support
IRC FAQ (2 parts) /irc/docs

On World Wide Web: (for mIRC)

Chapter 7. Exploring World Wide Web (WWW) Using Lynx
Chapter 9. File Transfers Using Kermit Protocol
Table of Contents