24 November 2008

#30plus: The Early Days in IRC

#Israel was the very first IRC channel that both Dabas (Daniel ben Sefer) and Heloise (Helen Webberley) had been involved in. They met many fine people there, people who have remained close friends to this day - in particular Muet, Mer, Academy, Winky, Andygee and Peteyc. The first few months in early 1993 were novel, challenging and a great deal of fun. But eventually the fun palled. The problems were twofold:

RACISM was by far the nastiest problem Dabas and Heloise had ever dealt with. The channel became open slather for every lunatic fringe element who had a gripe against Israel, Jews or friends of Jews:

1. Neo Nazis and Nazi sympathisers raided the channel daily, suggesting that they would take up where Hitler left off, rebuilding the gas chambers and reopening the concentration camps.
2. Christian fundamentalists raided the channel less often, mainly concerned with allocating blame for the death of Christ.
3. Islamic militants intent on destroying the Jewish State of Israel were regular features of channel life.

JUVENILITY Given that the average age of #Israel was 19.2 years, and that 80% of the channel was male, it is not surprising that the topics of concern were army life, selecting subjects at university and finding a date for Saturday night. It got to the stage that if one more person said "what is your major?" one more time, Heloise was going to leave IRC and never come back again.

As with any site riddled with testosterone, the order of the day was kicking, banning and op wars. Part of this frenetic activity was a survival strategy to do with the constant invasion of Neo Nazis and militant Islamists. But part of it was just macho game playing.

From time to time, suggestions would be made about opening up the topics of discussion to things ADULTS would like to talk about eg literature or music. But this ended in uproar every time. Israeli boys of 19 years were only interested in surviving the army and establishing a social life for themselves. The end of Helen's IRCing days was near.


Sydney Oct 1993.
 
Helen was going to Sydney one weekend in October 1993, and so Dabas (with beard) and his friend Skeve (with cap) arranged to meet her for lunch along the Sydney Harbour foreshore. A photo from that amazing meeting survives, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge hovering overhead.

It was a hot day, and by the end of the second icy beer, Heloise was telling them all the problems about #Israel. Dabas asked why Heloise didn't she start her own channel, but that seemed about as likely as flying to the moon. He very patiently explained that he could do the technical stuff if Heloise could establish and emphasise the ground rules for new members: no racism, no anti Semitism, no sexism and no adolescents. A channel that would maintain the Israeli connections and Australian values.

As they had hoped in #Israel, the discussions would be expanded to topics mature adults were interested in eg travel, music, literature, philosophy, world politics, family relationships and even sport. Op wars and kick bans would become a mere nightmare from the past.

They had never formally talked about starting a new channel before, but they were fairly confident that all the Anglo Saxon, academic, middle aged friends from #Israel would want to join them. Dabas, Winky, Academy, Muet and Heloise were all over 40, all Jewish and were all academics, so the channel might be called #40academic or #40marriedwithchildren or #40Jewish.

When Heloise logged on that night in the Sydney hotel room, Dabas frant­ically messaged her with the following: "Come into #30plus: I HAVE CAPTURED A REAL LIVE CHANNEL MEMBER". This poor person was a man called Runaway whose wife had left home and had taken their three children with her. He just wanted some supportive adult company during his time of crisis. And so #30plus was born, the name being suggested by Skeve as more inclusive and less exclusive than #40academic.

Neither of them knew what they were doing. They thought a] permission was needed to open a new channel - from Finland, the home of IRC probably; and b] they needed to keep complete records of all people using the new channel. They did not even know how to keep the channel open 24 hours a day, so took it in 8 hour shifts to be there, around the clock. It was a very steep learning curve.

During those first days, me3, pdq, joshtree, bigjoe, toots, gazza, sirlunar, dugip, zurbaran, amarin, sna, tinytim, ruach, edu, drKB, kimba, shor, beamer, fuzed, friskykid, capt-peril, oldbear, panache, nurse, redgum, sulu, kate, lone, bish, hotsailor, flaccus, thalia, mfp, melsy, cty, fauna, peppr and others came into the channel, and stayed. Bless their hearts. Joshtree in Finland set up the twin bots, Castor and Pollux, so that Dabas and Heloise could finally get some sleep again.

The channel name started to appear, in computer magazines and books, as an interesting and non violent place to be. Dabas and Heloise were interviewed by journalists in Australia and elsewhere, and people popped in to say "I saw you in Article X and thought I would see what was happening". Lisabee, nutnhoney, daisee, rossma, birdbrain, prism, belladona, annette and others joined by the end of 1993.

There was some debate about when the first organised meetings of #30plus members took place. Since the channel was Australian based, the Australians had hoped the first channel reunion was here. But can be discovered from the early reunion photos, the first was in Boston (Jan 1994) and the second was in Canberra (April 1994).

It was understood from the beginning that the channel was really only available to Anglophones or people who could type and read English in a very busy channel. As it turns out, two thirds of the channel regulars live in the USA, while the others are mainly Australasian, British, South African and Canadian. Channel members are full of admiration for the Israelis and Europeans who use English as their second, or even third language. They add a breadth to the channel that would have been otherwise missing.

So language skills are critical to IRC. One of the early collective tasks of this new, adult-friendly channel was to collect lists of peoples' favourite books. People took hours and hours, going along their library shelves, reminding themselves of books they hadn't read since the 1960s. Not surpris­ingly the lists were diverse, es­ot­eric sometimes, but always fas­cin­ating. The level of convers­ation and of email letters was very high, and although those halcyon days could not, and did not last, they set a standard that the channel has hoped for, ever since.

Life was never going to be quite the same again. Pdq suggested nom­inating Dabas and Helen for the Nobel Peace Prize, given that they had revolutionised IRC and made it a pleasant place for adults to be. Australia had produced yet another really worthwhile contribution.

Helen Webberley,
21/1/1997





22 comments:

Library Lady said...

Oh Hels, to find this article of people and a channel that has meant to much to me. A fun, safe place to "hang out" when I ventured off to a new home with no friends or family near by. I never imagined back in the fall of 1995 that I would meet my future partner in that channel! Let alone so many dear friends. Ves & I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversay this past March, and have been living in Michigan since October 2001. We have two lovely children (one born in each country!) and are still very active on the internet. Bless you Heloise! And all the best to you and yours!

Okie/Cassie

Hels said...

Hey Cassie :)

I think our involvement in irc back in the early 1990s was really important. For most adults over 30, it was our introduction to serious on-line discussions. AND it was the first chance for most of us to "meet" people from all over the globe. The 38 interstate and international marriages give strong proof of that.

Welcome to my blog
Hels

Anonymous said...

Hels, so good to see your name again! A lot of time has passed and you would not recognize me now. I am a slim, trim runner at 60. Cassie told me where to find this blog.

I miss the days of #30Plus before the channel takeovers and the fighting! Those were good times with good people.

Take care. I would love to hear from you. You can find me on Facebook.

Chip Taylor
Tacoma, WA
Boomer/Boomshaka

Hels said...

Boomer !!!!!!!!!!!

Happy new year to you!

If I got nothing out of all those years of ircing, at least I became a close friend of the person who wrote Angel of the Morning. This was my proudest moment :)

I stopped running the channel in Sept 2008. The vulgarity was too much, especially for an oldie like me.

Keep in touch, my friend
Hels
helenw@bigpond.net.au

Anonymous said...

I guess I was one of the immature people on #israel, for sure.

Two-Tone here.

Heh.

Hels said...

Two-Tone hey there :)

A lot of water has flowed under that particular bridge, since 1993, hasn't it? I still leave my nick in the channel, but it is mainly to catch up with oldtimers. Everyone comes back to say hello, every year or so.

Beeline Services said...

Yeah, or like me, old timers come back every 17 years or so...

Wow. Has it really been that long? I recall picking you up in a blue dodge dakota somewhere between Phoenix and Tucson :)

I've kept the nickname you provided all these years - sorta stuck to me like glue. And like the old aussie commercial used to say, "When yer onna good thing, stick to it."

I'm also on Facebook these days - sent you a note explaining why I haven't made contact earlier. Travelled back to Oz last year - absolutely cathartic seeing my old mates and reconnecting. 30 years, Hels. 30 Years since I'd been down under.

Well, time to put the nose back to the grindstone.

Mike Carter / aka Redgum

Hels said...

Mike,
good grief... almost 20 years already? My sons were still students back in 1993.. now I am a proud grandma five times over :) And your family will now be well and truly grown up. Me3, who had brought his small daughters to a reunion in 1994, is now absolutely proud of his daughter's doctorate!

I am still in regular contact with the co-founder of the channel, Dabas, and went to his last big family event in Sydney. Some things are too valuable to lose :)

Hels said...

Boomer,
hey there.
Here is a great story which I assume you have read.
http://www.poparchives.com.au/share/ted_daryll_t&c_brothers.pdf

Let the good times rock!

Cola said...

Sweet Hels! Well, it's been 20 years ... unreal eh? Who'd have thought after all this time, we'd still be saying 'Hi' like it was just yesterday on #30plus?

I really enjoyed catching up last night - the memories will always be there and the magic that made the channel so great is easily and comfortable to re-live.

So many fun times, with a cast of characters longer and more enduring (in our hearts for sure) than any Hollywood blockbuster .... my only wish was for some more of the originals to be with us to help celebrate what really was a golden age of global communicating.

I wouldn't swap the terrific experiences we've had in IRC's #30plus channel for all the Facebooks / Twitters in the world and I only wish that the evolutionary expediency of aforesaid forums would disappear and we could all revert to mIRC again in the channel.

Being one of the earlier members there, I will always remember the classics like Dabas, OldBear, AliceM, Secretive, Sylvie .. FP, guineapig, waggill, bird, the mighty Achernar, maggie & codon (remember the presentation we went to in Sydney involving maggie?) ... ah Hels, just lovely memories, funny times and a huge thank you to you for daring to dream the genesis of a new form of communicating, interacting and activating a REAL sense of community - certainly well before its time, in IRC's #30plus channel.

It was, for many many people, our own little private Nirvana & escape, and I for one am very thankful to have been an early and for a while there, ongoing part of one of the most beloved virtual communities I've ever known or seen.

You will not find me on Facebook, Twitter or in any other social media 'club'. There's only been one that meant anything, and that was & will always be fondest in my memory - #30plus

I would give most anything to have one last big reunion of as many as possible - the 20th Anniversary was a great idea but I guess most have moved n and forgotten the magic of what the place represented.

Much love & respect - and will speak soon ... Cola xoxoxo

Hels said...

Cola

you are so right! I love blogging and have reached far more readers than we ever reached in irc. But blogging interaction is largely anonymous ...not real friendships. No blogger has invited me to their wedding in Britain or to address their undergrads in Canada as they did in irc.

It was, as you say, a new form of communicating, interacting and activating a REAL sense of community! I really miss that.

Joe said...

I am coming to Australia at the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015 and look forward to meeting some of the old gang. Hard to fathom it has been over twenty years since we met in person after the #30Plus IRC channel began.

Hels said...

Joe

Welcome to Melbourne. Email me as soon as you fix your travel dates.

I have kept up the old connections, even after all this time. Steve was here last week, so we all got together on Saturday night :)

Oyster said...

Am the long lost Oyster from the early days .... :) which drop off and on .... (started when i was in medical school days ... and when on to graduation and working hard as a General Practitioner since ...) .. am trying to find back to group ......... however am park in Malaysia ......... any one can help out on how to get back on?

Hels said...

Oyster

you are right... MIRC's special time to shine has probably gone, but I still keep the channel open. That way old-timers can wander back and catch up, whenever they have time :)

Some old channel friends have kept in contact via the blog, which is great. But it isn't in real time.

Melanie said...

Good morning Helen;

I ran across your blog just now regarding 30plus. I was a "member" of the channel for a few years, around 1995 and 1996 and even made a trip to Sydney to meet up with a few of the Aussies on the channel. I went by the nickname of Darkeyes.

Your blog was enjoyable to read.

Just wanted to say hey :)

Hels said...

Melanie

welcome to the blog. I loved MIRC dearly but I suspect its days may be over in the next year or so. So it is just as well I wrote a history of the channel before social media took over! Copies were distributed to Australian and British libraries.

Are you interested in history or art history?

Anonymous said...

Hels, my dear Hels,

Yes, I was one of the 'Earlys' also on channel.
Sadly, due to work all over the clock,
lately when I log on to channel, I don't see a soul that I recognize.
Then, tonight, here in St. Louis, Missouri,
I had a few moments on the web, and found this blog.

BTW: The blog doesn't mention two #30Pluw gatherings in USA.
Back in 1998, Albuquerque New Mexico, Five of us met for the first time.

Again in 2001 We had a large US Gathering for many people!
*IF* I can ever find all the photos, I'll have to send you a set.

HAD TO send my love to the 'Founding Lady' of #30Plus.

Don Martin aka Zot

Hels said...

Zot

you are alive and well !!!!! And keeping your brain busy in St Louis - perfect! If you send me a good photo of a #30plus gathering, I will certainly add it to the blog post.

Are you a blogger yourself? What topics do you like writing/reading about?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AliceM said...

Saturday, April 9 - 2016 - a few old timers are popping back to the channel.

AliceM

Hels said...

Alice

what a great idea... many thanks.
Do you know what time it will be in Greenwich Mean Time?