What is IRC?
IRC is Internet Relay Chat. It is a group of networked server computers that let clients (or users) connect and passes their message among the networked servers in almost real time. In other words, it is a big chat server, you join a group (channel) and you talk in an open forum type environment or one on one.
What IRC Networks are out there?
There are about fifty really mainstream IRC networks (groups of servers) you can connect to. The most common I have found is typically, 'EF-NET', 'Under-Net', and 'DAL-Net'.
What is a Channel?
A channel is the name for the 'group' you are joining, or the 'forum' in which you want to talk. On IRC channels are denoted as #ChannelName. For instance, say you are interested in MP3 music, then you may want to go to #MP3.
What is a nickname?
Your nickname is how others will see you online. On most IRC works your name can be 9 characters long. However on some networks it can be much longer. The syntax for changing names is listed under the basic commands below.
What are the @ + things I see in all the channels?
This is the structure of the channel. Someone that starts a channel will have a '@' sign. That denotes that he is the channel operator. In essence they 'own' the channel. The channel operator can make other people operators also, as he sees fit. The '+' sign in front of somenames is to denote 'voiced' mode. The channel operator has the option of setting the entire channel up as a 'moderated' channel, which means he can select the people 'allowed' to speak. He does this by 'voicing' them with a '+' sign.
How do I get on IRC?
To get on IRC you will need to get a client program. I personally suggest using 'mIRC', if you are in the windows environment. I have used the program for many years faithfully. It is a shareware program that doesn't disable after a given time period, however it does have a nag screen when you first load it, if you don't register it.
What are the basic commands once I am on?
/join #channel - this will make you enter a channel
/part #channel - this will make you exit a channel you are in
/nick newname - this will change your current screen name
A note to parents, about IRC.
IRC is a wonderful forum for idea exchange, and a fun place to chat and learn. However you must keep in mind that you don't know who is on the other end. Just because someone says they are 16, doesn't mean they aren't 45. Keep an eye on your children and make sure they know not to give out any personal information on IRC.
Safe IRC'ing everyone!