IRCjr IRC client for DOS logo

IRCjr is a small and fast IRC client designed for early IBM PCs and similar machines. The features and coding style were chosen to make it very usable even on the oldest and smallest of machines. Features include:

Below is a screen shot of it running in DOSBox on a Windows XP machine.

IRCjr

In the screenshot above you can see the following:

And here is a older YouTube video of the original version or IRCjr running on an IBM PCjr. (The YouTube video can be viewed in higher resolution on the YouTube site.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKSDkwowDUQ

IRCjr is not a replacement for a full featured modern IRC client. If you need file transfer capabilities, multiple connections to different servers, etc. then you probably want a modern IRC client on a modern machine. But for simple chatting on a single server with multiple channels it does very well.

Requirements

Basically, if you have any old PC running DOS with something that looks like a network connection you should be able to run IRCjr.

Download

IRCjr is included with the other mTCP applications. They can be downloaded from the main mTCP page here.

Aside from the IRCJR.EXE program and a packet driver to talk to your Ethernet card, no other downloads are needed. Everything that IRCjr needs to connect on the Internet is included in the program.

Quick setup instructions

IRCjr is built using the mTCP library. The setup instructions for mTCP can be found in SETUP.TXT.

IRC networks require you to specify a nickname that other people will know you by, a user name which is the userID that you use on your local machine, and a real name. The nickname is the most important of these, as your nickname will be used the most. The user name and real name can not be verified or trusted and most people probably don't provide accurate information for them anyway.

The nickname, user name, and real name are set by adding lines to the mTCP configuration file. The parameter names are:

IRCJR_NICK      Your nickname for IRC
IRCJR_USER      Your username on this machine (can be made up)
IRCJR_NAME      Your name in real life

Here is an example that shows how to use these:

# IRCjr parameters for nickname, user name, and real name
#
ircjr_nick Zoidberg
ircjr_user JZoidberg
ircjr_name John Zoidberg

The official IRC protocol specification states that nicknames are a maximum of 9 characters long. That is routinely ignored and you will find that your favorite IRC servers support much longer nicknames. IRCjr allows you to use up to 40 characters for a nickname but if your server does not support nicknames that long it may truncate the nickname or give you an error message.

Some IRC servers are picky about the user name and real name and want you to use something plausible or they will reject your connection. For example, if you pick a single word for your real name it is possible that the server will assume that you are a "bot" and reject your connection. If you are having trouble connecting to a server check the error messages carefully and see if it is complaining about these fields.

Starting IRCjr

If your packet driver is loaded, the mTCP environment variable is set, and you have run DHCP to get a network address then you are ready to run IRCjr. (If you need help with any of those, please see SETUP.TXT.)

The command line arguments are:

ircjr [-port <n>] <server_name> [<channel>]

The server name is always required. The channel is optional - you can use the /join command to join a channel once you are connected to the IRC server.

Be sure that the packet driver is loaded first. When the program first starts it is going to initialize the TCP/IP stack and try to find the IP address of your IRC server. It is going to use the DNS system to do this. If you have not setup your TCP/IP environment variables correctly you will not be able to connect to your IRC server. (If you know the numerical IP address of your server you can use it directly to avoid the DNS lookup.)

If all goes well you will get a connection to the IRC server. If you specified a channel on the command line you will be signed onto that channel automatically by the program. At any time during the connection process you can hit the [ESC] key to quit.

The optional -port <n> can be used to connect to IRC servers running on non-standard ports.

Here are some examples:

ircjr irc.slashnet.org #vc

connects to my favorite channel on my favorite IRC network.

ircjr -port 2000 irc.privateserver.net

shows how to use the -port option to connect to a server with a non-standard IRC port.

Using IRCjr

Basic knowledge of IRC is assumed. But just in case ...

IRC stands for "Internet Relay Chat" and it is a system that allows clients to connect to a common server and chat with each other. Servers allow for the creation and management of different "channels" that clients can join. The channels are usually named after a topic of interest. Users may also chat directly with each other out of the view of others.

Servers can be connected to other servers, allowing for IRC networks that span the globe. Each network has its own policies regarding user behavior, and even within a channel there might be "operators" who enforce policies on that channel. Operators have the ability to remove people from channels, so be polite to them. ;-0

Screen layout

The IRCjr screen is split into two areas - the user input area and the dialog area. The dialog area shows the running conversation in a channel or a private chat session. The user input area is where you can compose your comments before sending them to the other users or where you can enter IRC commands.

A status line separates the two areas of the screen. The status line tells you which session you are viewing, which sessions are active, and also has indicators for the various toggle settings.

During normal usage the text that you enter will be sent to the other users as part of the conversation. The text that you enter will be interleaved in the conversation with text from other users in the order that the server receives it.

Sending IRC commands

It is possible to send IRC commands to the IRC server. IRC commands meant for the server start with a '/' character at the start of the line. IRC commands are used for many different reasons; here are some of the common ones:

/join      Join an IRC channel (eg: /join #vc)
/msg      Send a private msg to another user (eg: /msg Leela Hello!)
/query      Same as /msg, but open a new session to do it
/names      See who is in the channel (eg: /names #vc)
/part      Leave a channel (eg: /part #boring)
/nick      Change your nickname (eg: /nick newnickname)
/list      List the channels on a server
/quit      Disconnect from the server and end IRCjr

A hint on the /list command - on a large server or server network the list of open channels can be hundreds or thousands of lines long. You can't see all of the output on the screen or in your backscroll buffer, but you can use the LOG toggle to save the list to a file and read it later.

Some less common but still fun commands are:

/info      Get server information
/motd      Read the message of the day on the server
/whois      Get information about a particular nickname
/away      Mark yourself as away (or back)

IRCjr processes the commands that it understands and passes unfamiliar ones straight to the server. This lets you try to use any IRC command even if IRCjr does not recognize it.

Sending CTCP commands

Besides commands for the server there are "Client To Client Protocol" (CTCP) commands you can use to interact directly with other IRC clients. They are:

/me      Send an "Action" command
/ctcp version      Find out what client a user is running
/ctcp ping      Ping another IRC client to see if they are active
/ctcp time      Find the local time for another IRC user
/ctcp userinfo      Get the user name associated with an IRC nickname

The /me CTCP command is pretty simple to use:

/me ducks and runs!      Sends a message that you are ducking and running

The other CTCP commands require you to provide a target (a nickname or even a channel name). For example:

/ctcp version twinkie      Find what IRC client user "twinkie" has
/ctcp time otherguy      Find out what time otherguy thinks it is

IRCjr Hotkeys

Besides the IRC commands there are special key combinations that make IRCjr perform tricks:

Alt-B      Toggle the new message beeper
Alt-H      Display the help window
Alt-C      Close the current session (virtual window)
Alt-L      Toggle session logging on and off
Alt-S      Show TCP/IP statistics
Alt-T      Toggle timestamps on incoming messages
Alt-X      Exit IRCjr
        
PageUp      Go back in time through the backscroll buffer
PageDown      Go forward in time through the backscroll buffer
        
Alt 0 to 9      Alt 0-9 Switch to sessions 0 thru 9 (if applicable) (Session 0 is always the "Server" session. Channels and private chats use sessions 1-9.)

Session/Window handling

Each open channel and private chat has its own virtual session. The main window only displays one session at a time, so to flip between the virtual sessions you use Alt and a number key.

When you first start you are in a session reserved for server messages. This window is known as the "Server" session. You can get to it at any time by hitting Alt-0. It can not be closed.

When you join a new channel a new virtual session is created and you are automatically switched to that new session. The same thing happens if somebody sends you a private message or if you send somebody a private message.

The name of the current session is shown on the status indicator line. Also on the status indicator line there is a sequence of digits that show you how many sessions are open and what state they are in:

You can flip directly to any session by hitting Alt and the number that represents the session.

You can have up to 10 sessions including the server session. After that trying to create a new session will fail and whatever messages that are sent to that channel will be put on the Server session. If a new session is required and it can't be created because you have run out of memory those messages will go to the Server session too. You should probably close a session to make room for the new session; sending messages will be difficult from the server session.

Sessions can be closed by hitting Alt-C while in the session. If it is a session for a channel an IRC /PART command will be sent automatically.

Logging sessions

Previous versions of IRCjr logged all messages to a single file and you could not control logging on a per session basis. Those flaws have been fixed in this version.

If you turn logging on in a session a new file with the name of the session and the extension "irc" will be created. If the file already exists it will be appended to so that you do not lose your previous log. If the session name is longer than eight characters the filename will only use the first eight characters - this is a limitation of DOS.

By default the current directory is where the log file will be created or opened. You can specify a directory to use for logs by adding a configuration parameter to the mTCP configuration file. (How to do that is described later on.)

When you turn logging off the file is closed. You may resume logging again at any time by using Alt-L. An indicator on the status line tells you if logging is on or off for the session that is currently open.

IRCjr does not try to detect when you connect to channels with the same name on different servers and turn logging on. The same log file name will be used in that case. IRCjr does write the server name and full channel name each time it starts logging so this should not be a large problem.

Using attributes (bold, reverse, etc) and mIRC color codes

IRC is generally a plain text service with not too many extras. You can highlight your messages in a few different ways by using a few special keys:

Bold:

You can select parts of your messages to appear in bold by turning bold on where you want it to start and turning bold off when you are done. To turn bold on press Ctrl-B - a special "block" character will appear to signal that you have inserted a special attribute command. After turning bold on, type what you want to appear in bold and then press Ctrl-B to turn bolding off. (The Ctrl-B behaves like an on/off toggle.)

Your IRCjr text display really is not setup to display a true boldface font. IRCjr simulates bolding by making the text brighter. (True bolding would show a thicker font.)

Reverse video:

You can select parts of your messages to appear in reverse video by turning it on and off in the same way that bold is used. To turn reverse video on press Ctrl-R and to turn it off after you are done using it press Ctrl-R again. (Ctrl-R works like an on/off toggle.)

Italics:

You can select parts of your messages to appear in italics by turning italics on and off in the same way that bold is used. To turn italics on press Ctrl-I and to turn it off after you are done press Ctrl-I again. (Ctrl-I works like an on/off toggle.)

IRCjr can send the italics code, but it can not display italics. When somebody sends italics to IRCjr it inserts the string "<italics on>" where the italics attribute starts and "<italics off>" when it stops.

Underline:

You can select parts of your messages to appear underlined by turning underlining on and off around the parts of the text that you want underlined. To turn underlining on press Ctrl-U and to turn it off when you are done with it press Ctrl-U again. (Ctrl-U works like an on/off toggle.)

IRCjr can send the underline code but unless you are running on an IBM Monochrome Display or a Hercules adapter it can not show underlined text. (This is a hardware limitation - CGA, EGA and VGA cards can not show underlined characters in text mode.) When something sends the underline attribute to IRCjr it inserts the string "<underline on>" where the attribute starts and "<underline off>" when the attribute stops.

mIRC color codes

If you really want to get fancy you can insert color codes into your text.

There are 16 different colors you can use and you can specify both the foreground and background color. To specify a color code start by pressing Ctrl-K. When you do a pop-up color chart with the color code numbers will show up. To specify the foreground color enter the number of the color on the chart. If you want to specify a background color then add a comma and the number of the background color. When you are done, just start typing your message and the pop-up color chart will disappear. The background color is optional and does not have to be used.

To turn color off just enter a Ctrl-K by itself.

For example, the following sequence of keys will give you the word "Hello" written in red on a yellow background:

<Ctrl-K>4,8Hello<Ctrl-K>

While this sequence will just give you the word "Red" with the default background color:

<Ctrl-K>4Red<Ctrl-K>

Some people fine color codes annoying, so don't go overboard.

Reset (turn all off)

To disable any attributes that might have been set use Ctrl-O. The special "box" character will be shown where the Ctrl-O was inserted. After that point the text you send should be normal with no bold, reverse, italics, underlining or color.

Selecting your display mode and size

IRCjr uses whatever the current display mode is on your active screen. So if you want to use a particular number of rows and columns, setup the display mode first using your favorite utility and then start IRCjr.

CGA and MDA users do not have any choices - only 80x25 is available.

EGA users can use 80x25 or 80x43 text mode.

VGA users can use 80x25, 80x43 or 80x50 text mode.

SVGA users may be able to use a 132 column screen if their hardware supports it. (DOSBox with SVGA_S3 emulation has a 132x43 mode which is beautiful; use mode 54 to get it. Other cards will vary.)

If you have a monochrome display and a color display on the same machine choose the display you want to use using the DOS MODE command first. IRCjr will detect the current active display and use it.

Optional Configuration Parameters

You only need the three configuration parameters explained earlier to start using IRCjr. But there are other configuration parameters you can use to alter IRCjr's behavior, customizing it to your needs. Here is the list of optional configuration parameters you can use:

IRCJR_PASS      Specify a connection password
IRCJR_CONNECT_TIMEOUT      IRCJR_CONNECT_TIMEOUT
IRCJR_REGISTER_TIMEOUT      Set the timeout for the registration process
IRCJR_BACKSCROLL      Set # of backscroll lines for each channel
IRCJR_BACKSCROLL_CHAT      Set # of backscroll lines for each chat session
IRCJR_BACKSCROLL_SERVER      Set # of backscroll lines for the server session
IRCJR_COLOR_SCHEME      Override the default color scheme
IRCJR_TIMESTAMPS      Turn timestamps on at program start
IRCJR_LOGGING_DEFAULT      Turn on logging at program start
IRCJR_LOG_DIR      Specify a directory for log files
IRCJR_NICK_UPDATES      Specify where nickname updates go to
IRCJR_QUIT_UPDATES      Specify where quit notifications go to

And now for the details on how to use these ...

IRCJR_PASS allows you to send a "connection password" during the connection and registration process. Connection passwords can be used to authenticate registered nicknames on many servers. Keep in mind that connection passwords are not very secure; they are transmitted in the clear.

IRCJR_CONNECT_TIMEOUT controls how long IRCjr will wait for a TCP/IP socket connection to an IRC server. The default is 30 seconds, which should be long enough for almost anything. But if your connection is poor and you need more time you can set it to something longer.

IRCJR_REGISTER_TIMEOUT controls how long IRCjr will wait for a server to regognize the client after the TCP/IP socket is created. The default is 30 seconds which is usually long enough, but on a busy server you might need to allow for more time.

The IRCJR_BACKSCROLL_* settings are used to tell IRCjr how much memory to reserve for backscroll buffers. The backscroll buffer allows you to see lines that have scrolled off of the current screen. The backscroll buffers are a great feature but they require more memory.

The default backscroll buffer settings are:

Server session: 50 lines
Channels: 150 lines
Private chats: 75 lines

These are reasonable for most users. With these settings:

This is a bit more than in the original IRCjr but still manageable. On an 512KB system you can be on nine different channels with a generous amount of backscroll in every channel.

You can set the backscroll buffers to be larger, but you are limited by how much RAM you have available. When IRCjr runs out of memory you will not be able to open new sessions to chat in new channels or receive messages from private users. It will put private messages in the server window, which is ugly but will work. You will probably be happier if you close some idle sessions to get some memory back, or reduce the number of backscroll lines by using these settings. (If you are really tight on memory you can disable a class of backscroll buffers by setting them to 0.)

IRCJR_COLOR_SCHEME only has one setting at the moment - CGA_MONO. This is useful for machines that have CGA cards but use an LCD or monochrome monitor where the different shades of grey, green or amber might be difficult to distinguish. Setting this will give you a high contrast color scheme.

IRC_TIMESTAMPS is used to turn timestamps on when the program first starts. The default is to start without timestamps turned on. While the program is running you can always turn the timestamps on by using ALT-T (a toggle setting), but if you usually do that then you can use this setting to make that the default.

IRCJR_LOGGING_DEFAULT allows you to specify the default for the logging state. Normally the program does not log the contents of sessions unless you turn logging on using Alt-L. If you see this "on" the logging will be started by default as soon as the program starts.

IRCJR_LOG_DIR allows you to specify a directory path where log files will be written to. By default log files are written to whatever the currect directory is when IRCjr starts. If you want to specify a directory enter it here in standard DOS format with a drive letter and backslashes as the path delimiter. (A full or relative path can be specified. The path must end in a backslash.)

Log files are always appended to and never deleted or overwritten.

IRCJR_NICK_UPDATES allows you to tell IRCjr where to send nickname updates generated by other users. Four options are available:

Previous versions of IRCjr used the equivalent of "all" which could get annoying on busy channels. The current default is "none".

IRCJR_QUIT_UPDATES allows you to tell IRCjr where to send the notifications that are generated when other users disconnect from the server you are using. The same four options as used by IRC_NICK_UDPATES are available.

Previous versions of IRCjr used the equivalent of "all" which could get annoying on busy channels. The current default is "none".

Here is an example of an mTCP configuration file with these parameters set:

DHCPVER DHCP Client version Apr 26 2009
TIMESTAMP Sun Apr 26 17:59:54 2009

# Parameters for my machine; your machine will be different
#
packetint 0x60
mtu 576
hostname DOSBox

# IRCjr parms
ircjr_nick Zoidberg
ircjr_user JZoidberg
ircjr_name John F Zoidberg

# All parameters after this are optional

# IRC connection password
ircjr_pass secretgoeshere

# Use these for really slow servers
ircjr_connect_timeout 45
ircjr_register_timeout 60

# Setup for large backscroll buffers

ircjr_backscroll 375
ircjr_backscroll_chat 150
ircjr_backscroll_server 100

# Use this if you need a high contrast screen
ircjr_color_scheme cga_mono

# Turn timestamps on at the start
ircjr_timestamps on

# Turn on logging by default and log to a specific directory
ircjr_logging_default on
ircjr_log_dir e:\data\irclogs\

# Send nickname updates and quit notifications to the server session
ircjr_nick_updates server
ircjr_quit_updates server


# DHCP generated settings will appear here ...

Obviously, substitute in values that make sense for your machine. "Zoidberg" is a great name but it is probably already taken.

Support

Nothing is perfect but we can try ...

IRCjr is part of the mTCP project which features a TCP/IP library for DOS and several TCP/IP applications that use the library. The applications include a DHCP client, a Telnet client, an FTP client, an FTP server, Ping, Netcat, an SNTP client, and an HTTP file fetcher. All of the software is open source and is licensed under the GPL, version 3. More information about mTCP can be found at the mTCP project page.

Have a comment or need help? Please email me at mbbrutman@gmail.com.

Recent changes


Link: mTCP main project page

Created June 20th, 2008, Last updated December 23rd, 2013
(C)opyright Michael B. Brutman, mbbrutman@gmail.com