History of IRC by Jarkko Oikarinen
I don't know if this helps much. I hope I remember things correctly and
apologise people whom I have left out and they had deserved to be in here.
I was working in the Department of Information Processing Science in
University of Oulu during summer'88. I guess they didn't have much for me
to do. I was administring the department's sun server, but it didn't
take all time. So I started doing a communications program, which was
meant to make OuluBox (a Public Access BBS running on host tolsun.oulu.fi,
administered by me) a little more usable. The purpose was to allow
USENET News-kind of discussion and groups there in addition to real time
discussions and other BBS related stuff.
Jyrki Kuoppala (email@example.com) had implemented rmsg program for sending
messages to people on other machines. It didn't have the channel concept
implemented (though it supported it), so it was mainly used for
Another already existing simple multiuser chat program on OuluBox was
MUT (MultiUser Talk), it was written by Jukka Pihl (firstname.lastname@example.org).
That program has a bad habit of not working properly, so in order to
fix this, the first implemented thing of this BBS plan was IRC.
The birthday of IRC was in August 1988. The exact date is unknown,
at the end of the month anyways.
Bitnet Relay Chat was a good inspiration for IRC. When IRC started
occasionally having more than 10 users, I asked some friends of mine to
start running irc servers in south Finland, mainly in Tampere University
of Technology and Helsinki University of Technology. Some other
universities soon followed. Markku Jarvinen (email@example.com) improved
the irc client (there was only one at that time) to support some emacs
editing commands. At that time it was obvious that adding BBS like
functions to the program was not a good idea, it's better to have
one program for one purpose. So the BBS extension idea was given up
and just IRC stayed.
IRC was well spread in Finland. I contacted some friends of mine through
BITNET Relay and asked if they would try this program. Internet connections
did not yet work from Finland to other countries, so they could not
connect to the Finnish network (which I suppose was the reason for them not
being very enthusiastic about irc).
Internet connections to states started working (I don't anymore remember when).
I answered to some news articles where people asked for multiuser chat
programs. I didn't get replies.
At mit, there was the legendary ai.ai.mit.edu machine running ITS.
I got an account there and learned to use it a little bit. Enough to
know how to chat with people. From there I got the first IRC user outside
Scandinavia, Mike Jacobs used IRC through OuluBox (he did not have accounts
on any Unix machines).
Through ai.ai.mit.edu I got to know Vijay Subramaniam (I hope I spelled
that correctly :-). I had given IRC to him and not heard of him for some
time. Then I got mail messages from Jeff Trim (used to be
firstname.lastname@example.org, University of Denver, current address unknown)
David Bleckmann (email@example.com) and Todd Ferguson
(firstname.lastname@example.org, Oregon State University).
Vijay had given IRC to them and they had started
ircd on their machines (orion.cair.du.edu and jacobcs.cs.orst.edu,
if I remember correctly) and wanted to connect to Finnish irc network.
After that some other people started running IRC, and the number
of servers grew quickly.
The first IRC server (and still running) was tolsun.oulu.fi
I have no idea of the latest one...
Founder of IRC