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Microsoft Comic Chat (wikipedia.org)
192 points by vector_spaces on Nov 13, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 64 comments

I reimplemented the comic-drawing algorithm in Ruby almost 15 years ago because I wanted to make my own daily comic based on our IRC chats. It turned out that I wasn’t as funny as I thought.

Source and artwork is available here: https://github.com/statico/spittoon

I really like the aesthetics, nicely done!

Also the example comic IS funny ;)

I laughed at the example comic, deadpan is always great

There are so many wild and wonderful things that came out of 90s Microsoft.

One favourite of mine is Microsoft Music Producer, I think it was called. You could select genres, styles, tempo and a band then it would 'compose' mid files. I used them to generate royalty-free music for silly animations.

Sadly even any mention of this is very hard to find online now. I recall there being an old website where one could download it along with extra music styles; that can be found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20070222062521/http://www.musicm...

Edit: Changed the name to 'Microsoft Music Producer', as has been kindly identified below.

And Microsoft 3D Movie Maker! I spent so much time making "movies" with that thing!

Oh so did I. I was always stuck with the trial version, but it was loads of fun.

That's the one.

I searched the web archive and found the website I had in mind above. It has plenty of info on MMP, as well as downloads of extra music styles.


I downloaded it but had to do the patching on my 32 bit Windows 10 computer. Once I had patched, I was able to copy the program to my 64 bit machine and run it.

I've bought so many old MSDN CD sets off Ebay looking for this program. Thanks!

Thankyou! I have been thinging of that one for many years but didn't know the name to search for. Instructions and downloads on that page works just fine with windows 10 so far. I set it to compatible to Windows 7 but not sure that is even needed.

Do you mean SongSmith? That wasn't 1990s, more like 2009, but made quite a splash at the time with their famous video commercial.



This is what I initially thought of but that doesn't sound like what the OP is describing.

Also see Microsoft Songsmith

If you'd like to play around with it you can still find downloads by Goolging "mschat25.exe"

Here is a proxy script that will allow you to connect to a modern IRC server: https://gist.github.com/richardg867/bb19ca2b03545f71ae15

Edit: another fun read was the methods for getting third party IRC clients to connect to MSN's IRC servers directly: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSN_Chat

Here you are, straight from Microsoft's website, as I downloaded it back in 96 or whatever:


default channel is usually #Microsoft_Chat. this script works on freenode, unfortunately hardly anyone uses it.

We were still using this for classified chat in the Navy like 5 years ago. We didn't use the comic feature, just the normal IRC client. Eventually we followed other services and went to mIRC before the .gov paid some software company a ridiculous amount of money to make a very simple Java-based IRC client called Mako. It was like a software project you would do in an intermediate Java class, no bells and whistles. Ridiculous the amount of money available to SWEs who can navigate the contracting process.

Not all ships moved to Mako! I learned the very hard way what “slap” in mIRC means in a large strike group chat!

Appropriate in a Navy setting of course. Who doesn't keep a large trout around for slapping?

I remember seeing a generic photo of a military comms deployment on a laptop, when I zoomed in I could clearly see mIRC on the laptop's screen.

Hmm. And now I'm wondering if the simplicity you describe was just skin deep... or if Mako performed TLS cert validation et al :D

At some point Microsoft chat allowed sending executable files. This was also around the same time backorifice was very popular. This was also around the same time most people were connecting via dialup that was bought in packs of 30 hours. Some people had unlimited time, and aparently more than one person could be using the same account at the same time.

Somehow all this events combined made all the internet kids in my neighbourhood get the same court letter with a huge internet bill one year later.

Looking back, the early days of our internet use were so weird.

We had a dial-up connection and a computer well before anyone else in our county/tri-county area in the mid-west. We also had a home line that was a party line.

All the old ladies in our small (<50) town were pissed that anytime they picked the phone up, they heard that robotic screeching noise. We were pissed that we kept getting booted every fifteen seconds.

Weird times. Why did the company even offer internet connections to a party line? What an odd thing to do.

mention of ms comic chat seems somehow incomplete without reference to JerkCity aka BoneQuest, a decades-long webcomic composed using it https://www.bonequest.com/search/?q=%23linux

Out of the loop, anyone know when/why Jerkcity became BoneQuest?

It happened in the first half of 2018 (between March and May).

Kind of baffling.

Without having talked to them, my assumption is that a Florida area Jamaican restaurant reached out to them and said "hi, we're called Jerk City, can we have your web address? we'll give you $100" and they thought this was hilarious and said yes.

heh, probably



Interestingly the old comics redirect to bonequest correctly:


not to mention some of the jerkcity founders are now high level directors in major SV corps. gaze upon their works and agluhalguhalggalughalguhaluhgalguh

What am I missing... these all seem like non-sequiters.

Chat room snippets would tend to lean that way. It's definitely a unique format for humour. Personally, I love it, and I can't begin to explain why.

You need to be versed in the deep lore to understand it, basically.

It looks like it's just a bunch of dick jokes, but if you look deeper, you realize that it's seriously so many dick jokes.

Jim Woodring was such an odd, but wonderful, choice of artist for this project. I thought his surreal style worked so well as a visualization of what at the time was newly called “cyberspace”. This could have been a totally flavorless corporate thing instead.

You put it perfectly! I strongly agree and came here to say what you and ncmncm said first. He's one of my favorite and most surrealistic comic artists!

His web site is currently broken but it usually works, and has lots of awesome stuff on it. I've let him know, so I hope it will be back soon.

http://jimwoodring.com/ (EDIT: http://www.jimwoodring.com/ )

But in the meantime:


...Oh wait, on second try: SOME variations of the url work and some don't:

http://jimwoodring.com/ and https://jimwoodring.com/ : broken with wordpress error messages

http://www.jimwoodring.com/ - works perfectly but just shows "jimwoodring.com" in the URL, but copying and pasting it gets http://www.jimwoodring.com/ -- is this a Chrome thing??!

https://www.jimwoodring.com/ - works halfway, you get the text without the pictures, which is no fun.

Chrome has hidden "www" in the address bar for a long time, I believe.

The longest running web comic on the Internet called "Jerk City / Bonequest" uses Microsoft Comic Chat to render

It is 20 years old this year, and has never missed a day.


(May not be SFW, depending on where you work)

I wish I had forgotten about this. Hopefully this webcomic's persistence is actually due to it being a PERL script riffing on dadjokes.txt and whatever reddit lol monkee cheese stuff from 2012.

Here's a list of 20+ discontinued Microsoft products in the realm of communications. Comic chat is on the list.


Interesting list, just learned about OE Classic (Outlook Express remake). Too bad it seems that it is the only alternative to the discontinued software in that list.

Fascinating. Thanks.

For anyone interested in the CarTalk collab, I found a video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GywCgivT_no

I remember Comic Chat well. It was almost universally hated because many users would connect to normal IRC servers and Comic Chat sent it's own code (to describe the character expressions etc) which would flood the channel.

Comic Chat was even less popular online than mIRC users who posted coloured messages.

Even at the time I felt it was a great idea if only it played nicer with regular IRC networks+. Ironically it's one of the few occasions when Microsoft supported an open protocol by default when actually a propitiatory network might have made more sense.

+ actually that's possibly a lie because at that time I was writing my own IRC clients and bots and was well into the "l33t g33k" culture. So I might have hated Comic Chat just because of MS prejudices

I loved Comic Chat because I was 12 years old. I couldn't figure out what "lol" meant and it was really funny seeing the characters saying it with just a blank facial expression lol

This really takes me back. Microsoft Comic Chat, for better or worse, was essentially my intro into the internet. I must've been maybe 10 when I started talking on it, and after they wound it down I switched to MSN Chat, and then quickly onto IRC itself. It was a certainly innovative, but maybe its ability to get kids involved in the internet (at a time it was sort of the wild west) contributed to it going away.

Reminds me a little of Bob too.

Used to love MS comic chat back in the day. A lot of fun times on there.

MMOs kind of took over from it, Ragnarok Online being the main one.

I loved this - it was a wonderful hybrid of direct chat with simplistic graphical representation of how people would express themselves in chat before the existence of graphical emoticons.

It would be interesting to create something like this for the MUD experience.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but words sometimes can be worth a thousand mental pictures.

I sometimes feel sad because I think of Comic Chat as that dreadful thing that vomited nonsense into IRC channels. But my kids would absolutely love this, and tech should always have space for playfulness.

Jim Woodring deserves way, way more attention from geeks than he gets.

Agreed. The fact that they chose his style to incorporate into the UI is incredible... I wonder what artist would be his analog if this was created today.

Nobody puts Comic Sans in a corner!

It looks so beautiful in rounded speech bubbles. ;)



Someone should make a /comic command for Slack which turns the last N messages into a comic.

There are some rather clever Discord bots with this capability and I relish in it.

There's an interesting video here with David (DJ) Kurlander, the creator of Microsoft comic chat https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19078993

Even if you don't connect to the IRC network, even under Windows 10 MCC can still serve with minimal issues as a comic strip generator. That means that yes, you too can have your "own" Jerkcity if you want to.

That article desperately needs better screenshots!

maybe the inspiration for https://www.vidarholen.net/contents/rage/ =P

Comic Chat, Dogz, the 3.1 games .... Those were the days.

# Appears as XENO.

This is how I found out about IRC.

And now we have been blessed with VR chat more than 20 years later.

I remember those late 90s VR chat apps. None of them figured out the controls, usually opting for some sort of awkward three knob style navigation widgets. Interface was via browser widget so it barely worked on every platform. Everybody wanted to make Neuromancer's Other Plane, but the tech wasn't even close to ready.

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