Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Tell HN: I miss the chatrooms of the 90s
62 points by jaequery 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments
I recall the days when IRCs and even AOL chatrooms were all the rage. Back then, I was able to join and chat with a group of people for almost any topics, be it, #nba, #movies, #math, #sql, etc ... you name it. There were always people, helpful ones too.

And now, the only thing that comes closest in chatting is Reddit/Twitter. It is more of a QA forum though and not really real-time.

Oh the good ol' days, anyone here miss them too?

In 20 years, today's teenagers will be talking about "the good days when Twitter and Instagram were all the rage". I think that part of what you miss is the feeling of being young, with an open road ahead of you, fewer responsibilities, and hormones in full force, making life seem much more colorful.

This. I still recall this exciting feeling of realizing how I'm chatting in real-time with dozens of people from all over the country. Also how edonkey and then emule were all the rage. Downloading all the music and movies, no worries about copyright, vbulletin boards where you'd discuss how to tweak your emule to reach a few KB/s more. Waiting days until the camrip of the latest movie finally finished - blue screen, file gone, start over, burn rsvcd which is way better than mvcd. No divx because the DVD player can't handle it.

Yeah I think I actually prefer the Netflix experience.

Yes this is so true. I feel like the major difference between me now and the me that I feel nostalgic about is the free time that I no longer have after multiple children.

I'm not sure if it's me as I have plenty of free time as an independent consultant. I think it's more about friends. I have a good time socializing with 18 year olds because they can dump their time into socializing. It's a lot harder chatting with someone in their 30s.

That’s unfortunately probably what all of this is about.

I realized how true that was when i went back living in the same area as when i was a kid. Everything seemed duller , narrower, and noiser than when i was a kid, and yet it was exactly the same place.

Guys! IRC is still there! Usenet is still there! The reason it's not the same is that all you guys left.

> The reason it's not the same is that all you guys left.


Usenet is still there, and a few groups are still being used for academic discussions. But many other groups have almost no "legitimate" users anymore, and have been filled with spam messages.

But the real show stopper today is that, since a community does not exist in these groups anymore, one or two crazy people can completely control and dominate a group. Recently I tried to explore the present day Usenet, and I found a conspiracy theorist can keep yelling at everyone in a historically reputable infosec newsgroup. Or you can have two college professors debating about creationism in a boring way for half a month. My conclusion is, Usenet still has some good uses, but is generally worthless today for most discussions.

> The reason it's not the same is that all you guys left.

I was on IRC since the time EFnet had about 2000 users during the day (1993 or so). I left when it had turned into this:

> one or two crazy people can completely control and dominate a group.

op-wars, annoying admins abusing their own, often academic servers, is what destroyed IRC for me. Reddit is the same for groups where various political/ideological views collide, only same-interest groups are worthwhile.

MMOGs possibly made IRC unattractive for many people too...

Oh the good ol' days, anyone here miss them too?

I definitely feel some nostalgia for certain aspects of the "internet, circa 1997".

But do consider that IRC is still alive, as well as many other kinds of "chat rooms" today. There are still XMPP based chat services, and you have things like Slack, Gitter, Mastodon, Riot, etc., etc. And heck, if you look hard enough you can still find BBS's up and running, many accessible via Telnet. I wouldn't be half surprised to find some Fidonet stuff still going on somewhere.

Yes, IRC is still alive (mainly Freenode), albeit on life support, lol. As for other services, the problem is that it's become (or becoming) scattered (Slack, Riot, etc). AOL as much as ridiculous it was, it was fun, because pretty much everyone was gathered in one place.

Freenode hosts only free software-related channels as far as I know. There are still some small servers out there, but they are getting rarer. One I used to frequent just recently shut down because it was hit by massive amounts of disgusting spam.


Freenode hosts a ridiculous amount of social channels, albeit usually for niche purposes or centred around specific people.

The spam has been stopped recently, at least where I’m hanging out.

I'm glad that the spam has stopped, but the damage to smaller servers has been done. After months of having channels constantly flooded with revolting stuff I doubt people are coming back, even if admins find the energy to put servers back online.

EFnet is still alive.

IRC is on life support as much as radio is. It's just a retired technology that found a nice niche where it could settle. For Radio it was car radios and IRC is still used but several dev communities.

Yes, IRC in the 90s was amazing. I think Reddit captures some of that, Twitter not so much.

Matrix/Riot is cool (the redesign just launched - https://riot.im/app ) and has the same concept as IRC of a universe of chat rooms you can just join (Vs separated workspaces like Slack).

Discord too, though perhaps more tech/gaming audiences than the wider mix of IRC in the 90s, and again the topic specific servers are disconnected from each other

I have just created a Matrix room for us to chat in. Just open https://matrix.to/#/#hackernews:matrix.jensenwaud.com

My feeling is that the whole internet was somehow better back in the day.

On most platform, you just needed your nickname of choice and an email address, and you were good to go. If something didn't go well, you could just come up with another username (and maybe another email address) and start anew.

Also in the good old internet it was a crowd of early adopters discovering and enjoying something new. Nowadays everbody is on and the systems people get on first are intentionally designed to foster toxic behaviour.

Its like that one toxic flat-house whereeverybody is in constant row with everybody, as a replacement for valueable social interaction. Seems lonely people are rather in a fight, then truely confined to social isolation.

> And now, the only thing that comes closest in chatting is Reddit/Twitter. It is more of a QA forum though and not really real-time.

You're looking for Discord. Find an open server on one of the index sites or ask your friends if they can invite you to ones they hang out in.

My 8 year likes to chat in Roblox. Lots of the games are sort of a surrogate open world / chatroom type deal.

It seems close enough to the same thing, but for today's older kids, I'd have to imagine they are all on Facebook or whatever social network is current.

Roblox is pretty amazing actually.

Roblox is really amazing actually, as someone who played it in middle school 6+ years ago - seeing the game still going strong while (seemingly) keeping most of the core "game" intact is amazing.

It is not flashy, but it was the way me and many other kids were introduced to programming through building games involving Lua and their in game GUI.

I need to find a way into that. Thanks for the suggestion.

It's going to sound elitist but it's kinda obvious: the old internet was predominantly youngish STEM academics and tech professionals. I.e. smart people. It also created a lot of tribal alignment which meant that serious moral and ethical conflict was rare.

That said, we also grew up, and now I'm sure a lot of those conversations would seem as inane as the average Discord shitpost. Which, tbh, is terrible... The anime superstimulus girls are grotesque in their exaggerated neoteny, the memes are artless cos the baseline is now what you can glue together on a phone, and the background murmur is gossip pulled in from social media, like a hen party on coke.

I have managed to meet enough interesting people over the years that I can still sustain interest even at age 35, but it's tough. Most people my age are too busy tending their kids, which has permanently distracted them from hanging out, and has turned many into insufferably bland soccer moms.

For the remaining participants it also takes some serious commitment to actually engage in good faith and not let calcified attitudes trump it, for the topics you wanna talk about at middle age. Cos it turns out there's a pretty big difference between saying you're tolerant and open minded among a group of samey youngsters who know jack, and actually being those two things.

That said, at middle age you also just know better what you want. No amount of discussion will convince me sportsball is for me... Most movies are formulaic and predictable because that's what the masses respond to... Math and science is hard and it's taught entirely wrong but the people who can fix it have better things to do than be teachers... SQL is kinda shit and mainly serves as job security for the data priests and constabularies.

(But hey, I'm @geodesic#8759 on discord, hmu if you're interesting)

>It's going to sound elitist

I do not believe prefacing your argument with a hedge in this manner is necessary :) Barrier to entry and positive attractors, including, in the case of the early web, academic mindset, for early technological adopters are real phenomena. cf. Eternal September

> most movies are formulaic

Huh. I guess you just explained why I'm generally disenchanted by cinema. All I can stand watched is bad or quirky movies because only those satisfy my need for novelty these days.

You just need to look for scoped communities. As big as AOL seemed to be, you didn’t potentially have billions of people.

Engaging people on Twitter in any kind of serious discussion is like doing it in meatspce Times Square. You’ll find reasonable people, but it can quickly shift to crazy or even dangerous.

That’s the downside of the public square.

I miss IRC, too, but that's mostly missing the time and inclination to spend my evenings on #linuxger, not as much the tech itself.

For practical purposes, I miss Usenet more. Topic-oriented discussion, my choice of client. Instead I'm forced into proprietary opinion graveyards. (Like, well, here)

Yes, I miss that time. Mid 90s internet was fun!

Good old nostalgia. I miss IRC, simple hand-written HTML websites and forums. Now everything seems to run through Facebook or one of their peers, with little to no room for custom touches and design, everyone just paints within the lines.

I also kind of miss the days of movies on VHS, physically going and renting movies, music on CDs, not having millions of media choices accessible within seconds.

Though I have to say, I tried reliving the CD experience a little while ago. I dug out my CD collection and bought a second hand CD player. It just wasn't the same anymore. The magic wasn't there.

Some things are best left to nostalgic thoughts.

Browsing and discovery within a blockbuster store was far superior to what any of the steaming apps have given us. I absolutely loathe the process of trying to find something to watch these days

>I absolutely loathe the process of trying to find something to watch these days

Wow, I find it infinitely superior to video stores, besides almost every movie or series ever made being instantly available, and many reviews of them all!

Maybe I can help with that. Lists are good, google lists of..whatever you're looking for. e.g. best movies ever/comedies/european series etc. I use IMDb a lot, I read a page or two of user reviews of a movie and almost always know whether I will like the movie or not, and am almost never very surprised by what I think of it. There are a few critics I regularly read in External Reviews on IMDb, e.g. from Ebert, Urban Cinefile, Moria - but have learnt to mostly trust the user reviews instead. IMDb lists are a great way to discover new movies, either googling lists or seeing what lists the movies you love are in. (NB the movie score on IMDb is mostly no guide to anything.) When I find a director or actor or screenwriter I like, I check out their other stuff.

..If all else fails, you could (I hope) do worse than check out the movies & series I've given an 'outstanding' star to on http://www.adamponting.com/movies/ :-) Good luck.

Disagree. While that was good, I enjoy browsing Netflix. I wish it had reviews though.

Clicking next, next, next one/five titles at a time is my complaint. And even paging doesn’t help much when it’s constantly resorted.

I could semi memorize my local blockbuster and do a walking scan for stuff that was new or caught my eye. They also picked a genre for a movie. Netflix you can see same movie in drama/comedy and thriller. Just makes their catalog look bigger and harder to sort through.

I don’t use Netflix through a touch device. Only on TV via Apple TV or amazon fire so there may be some experience I’m missing out on.

Thats the thing, as a teen, I worked at blockbuster and by 6months had watched everything in the store. I would have deep conversations with customers and help them find things based on their tastes, many of whom I got to know. Now you have an algo. Its not better, for exactly the reason you stated.

I wouldn't want a discussion with a single teenager about a movie though

I too miss my IRC days. I met many cool people on there. One introduced me to Blink182 and the other became a good friend whom I have known for almost 20 years. Some of the stuff I know today I do because of my interactions with those I met on IRC. Time has truly flown by. The signs of grey are visible in my hair and what one might not even call a beared. :)

I missed them for a long time, but I found that there are lots of groups on Telegram (I know there are lots on Discord as well but I don't like the bloated UI too much) Telegram is at least semi-open and there are IRC gateways as well. I would prefer if it was easier to just drop in and out of channels like in IRC, but at least there are many of places to discuss special interests and meet people again!

Given some people commenting how they liked the screen names and anonymity of irc, it's hard to see telegram being a replacement with its requirement for a phone number identifier

The phone number stays private

Don't you add people by phone number? i.e. username -> phone number lookup is not possible but phone number -> username is?

No, you can give yourself an @ so people can find you.

I miss booting the shit out anyone I didn't like with the cunning use of pr0gz. Man what a power trip that was for a middle school boy.

How old were you in the 90s? I’d like to know how much is nostalgia for that particular age.

I was around 14 - 18

I see a lot of youngsters use Discord sort of in the way IRC would be back in the day. I'm guessing though, as quite frankly it was never something I liked. Didn't like IRC and don't like the ones today either.

What I cherish most is the nm never ending trivia game rooms, with real people from all across the world. The very civil manner in which people were participating is a fond memory.

can't say I miss A/S/L every conversation and people trying to get kids (aka me) into private chat rooms.

You could always make a new platform for chatrooms like back in the day but with modern technologies.

There are simply too many people all using the same system for that style of interaction to scale :(.

IRC and freenode isn't dead

I miss the “uh-oh” that that ftp program (and icq) made when an upload failed.

Discord bro

Yes I miss it too.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact