Written by Jarkko Oikarinen, founder of IRC.|
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 protected]) 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 person-to-person communications.
Another already existing simple multiuser chat program on OuluBox was MUT (MultiUser Talk), it was written by Jukka Pihl ([email protected]). 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 protected]) 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 [email protected], University of Denver, current address unknown) David Bleckmann ([email protected]) and Todd Ferguson ([email protected], 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..