IRC is a multi-user, multi-channel chatting network. It allows people all over the internet to talk to one another in real-time. It is a functional replacement and improvement to talk ; talk is an old, primitive, atrocious, minimalist sort of keyboard/screen conversation tool, using a grotesque, machine-dependent protocol (blah!). IRC does everything talk does, but with a better protocol, allowing more than 2 users to talk at once, with access across the aggregate Internet, and providing a whole raft of other useful features.
There are two ways to enter IRC from a Unix system. If you are using the emacs lisp client, you just have to `` M-x irc''. If you are using the C client (easier for beginners) then you usually type `` irc''. Non-Unix boxes have special clients, each of which has to be configured using a special procedure. Check the manual or help screen for more information.
If you wish to be known by a nickname which is not your login name, type `` irc nickname'' instead. Each IRC user (``client'') chooses a nickname. All communication with another user is either by nickname or by the channel that they or you are on (more about channels later on).
The most important thing to remember about IRC is that you have to be willing to explore and learn to use it... Take your time, try to not get flustered, enjoy yourself, and you will soon be making new friends all over the world !
IRC is based on a client-server model. Clients are programs that connect to a server, a server is a program that transports data (messages) from a user client to another. There are clients running on many different systems (Unix, emacs, VMS, MSDOS, VM...) that allow you to connect to an IRC server. The client which will be mainly spoken of here is the most widespread: ircII . Other clients are similar, and often accept ircII commands.