Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a multi-user chat system, where people log into "channels" (usually centered around a specific topic) to talk publicly -- in groups -- or privately. The Apple II IRC chat system of choice is on A2-Central, specifically at irc.a2central.com/#a2c.chat. An easy way to get there via the web is at http://ircatwork.com. When you connect to the site, enter your name in the Nickname box, irc.a2central.com in the Server box, and #a2c.chat for the channel.
IRC is like a huge, international yak-fest going on 24 hours a day. In each part of the room (channels), smaller groups of people are talking about a different topics. There are literally thousands of channels for you to choose from, but finding what you want isn't always the easiest of tasks. For starters, take a look at Yahoo's listings of IRC channels, which can be found at http://dir.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/Chats_and_Forums/Internet_Relay_Chat__IRC_/Channels/. Of course, you are can wander from group to group, listening to the various discussions, and if you wish, you can join in.
Typically, when you choose IRC from a menu you are automatically connected to a public computer like irc.virginia.edu. By giving the /list command you will be able to see a VERY LONG list of all the individual channels by name. You then choose which channel you want to join and start chatting to the other people on that channel simply by typing your comments and pressing [Enter]. More information about IRC and the available commands can be found at the official IRC hompage, from the organization that originated IRC, at http://www.funet.fi/~irc.
For the Apple II aficionado, the channel of interest is #appleiigs. But, forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. #appleiigs is not for the faint of heart, and can, at times, be rather brutal. Many of those who hang out in the #appleiigs channel are very fluent and conversant in IRC lingo specifically, and computer technology in general, which may or may not include Apple II technology. You may even find yourself "talking" with someone who treats #appleiigs as their private party channel, and who may resent your taking up their bandwidth. As such, if you wander in and start asking questions of a basic nature like, "Why can't I see jpeg pictures on my Apple IIc?" then you may very well find yourself being dumped on with a torrent of textual abuse, or worse. My best advice to anyone wanting to try their hand in #appleiigs is to simply go in with low expectations. That way you won't end up being disappointed, and if you are pleasantly surprised, then all the better...
How Do I Get On IRC?
Getting to the IRC by the command line:
If you understand what "Telnet" is, or if you have shell access from your ISP, you are nearly there already! Using Telnet, or with simple dialup to an ISP that supports shell account access, connect and get to the UNIX or shell prompt. Where you go from there depends upon your particular ISP - many have a menu option that you may use, or have a list of UNIX commands you can input at the command line to connect to IRC. For example:
From the prompt in the UNIX SHELL, enter:
...or, for a faster connection, if you know the server you want to connect to, you can type:
If you normally use a name other than your "real" one, you can set a nickname by typing:
irc nickname servername
Getting to the IRC by client application:
The user runs a "client" program (usually with 'IRC' somewhere in its name) which connects to the IRC network via another program called a server. Servers exist to pass messages from user to user over the IRC network.
Here are the basic commands needed to conduct an IRC chat session:
/list This will list ALL the chat groups by title. There is no way to stop the the list scrolling off the screen. One way to shorten it is to ask for a list of only those channels with a minimum or maximum number of participants. To do this, add -min or -max and a number to the list command. For example, /list -min 10 will display only those chat channels with a minimum of 10 people.
/join The channel names are all preceded by the # symbol, which must be included in the name when you elect to join a channel. For example, /join #fishing will allow you to join a channel by that name and, presumably, talk about fishing.
/who * You can use this command at any time to see who is on this channel with you.
/nick This displays your current nickname. To create a nickname you can type, /nick nickname. Use whatever name you want to be known as in place of "nickname"
/msg nickname message This is a way to send a private message to another person in your channel. The words "nickname" and "message" should be replaced by the nickname of the person you want to send the message to and your private message respectively.