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IRC History -- Talkers

Talkers programs provide many of the same features as IRC, and were invented at almost the same time. However, IRC is different, an open Internet protocol that runs networks of servers supporting thousands of users at once, while Talkers are usually stand-alone proprietary systems that run on a single server and support up to a few hundred users at most at any one time.

A summary of the most popular Talkers is provided below:

  • Cat Chat. The first of the three original talkers created at Warwick University was named after its creator, Chris "Cat" Thompson, and, interestingly, based on the LPMUD multi-user dungeon program. Thompson deployed his talker on one of the Warwick University computers, and it typically supported up to 20 users.
  • Cheeseplants House. The second talker was developed by Daniel Stephens in February, 1991, and then deployed in a more powerful version on the site orchid.warwick.ac.uk in October, 1991. The server was closed down on February 5, 1992, when the police raided the university after some unknown sort of illegal activity was discussed by one of the users on the talker. At its peak, Cheeseplants House supported more than 100 people at the same time.
  • Elsewhere. The third and most influential talker was developed by Simon "Burble" Marsh in May, 1992, and called Elsewhere. This server was secretly deployed on the site lily.warwick.ac.uk, and continued to function quietly, supporting a couple dozen old hands from Cheeseplants, until it was discovered by system administrators and shut down in November, 1992.
  • Foothills. Elsewhere was then given a new home on the site loligo.cc.fsu.edu by Michael "Footsteps" Wheaton, and renamed Foothills. This new site in Florida provided a much faster response for US users, where most of the Internet connected people were at that time, and so Foothills grew rapidly in popularity until the local system administrators closed it down to conserve their network bandwidth. Wheaton then moved Foothills to backus.mtsu.edu for a while, and then Jeremy "Fox" Doran gave it a home back in the UK at vulture.dcs.king.ac.uk (now kingston.ac.uk) until the administrators shut it down, and finally Rod "Ecthelion" Morgan gave the a home at marble.bu.edu. This last site had a much faster Internet connection, and use of Foothills grew rapidly, soon exceeding 200 users at a time.
  • Surfers. A number of Foothills superusers became unhappy with the way that Foothills was being run, managed to get a copy of the closely guarded source code, and started up a rival talker called Marble Madness on the site shadowfax.surr.ac.uk. They developed the code further, and then released an even more powerful talker called Surfers in November, 1993, originally hosted on the site muscle.rai.kcl.ac.uk provided by Ian "Roosta" Dobbie. Many European users migrated from Foothills to Surfers due to the faster response from that side of the Atlantic.
  • Resort. In 1995, Neil "Athanasius" Soveran-Charley put the source code for the Surfers program on a public FTP site, which sparked development of several new talkers, including Vineyard, Underworld, Forest, and eventually what became one of the most popular - Resort.
  • Other Talkers. Many other talkers have also been developed over the years, including AMNUTS, EW-TOO, IFORMS, NUTS, OOT, JOOT, and Playground Plus.

Resources. The following resources provide more information on Talkers:

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