Michael Lawrie's brief history of the #gb channel.
originally wrote this as a general history of the #gb channel
but realised that it was getting a bit too biased towards my
involvement as I went on. I present this as my personally biased
history of the channel, and of early British IRC. I shall try
and collect a few more viewpoints to present in other parts
of this site.
many ways, the history of the #gb channel is pretty much the
history of IRC in the United Kingdom. In 1991 when there was
only one real IRC network, there were very few British users,
the ones that did get on came in from the University network,
JANET. The UK academic users all got together on a channel called
+UK. In those early days +UK was occupied mainly by the server
operators, myself, Andie, Dunc, Steevie and ScottM; we had a
couple of other regulars who were involved with running the
channel as well, Gummi from Iceland, and Klets from Holland.
In late 1992, there was a rather large disagreement over a user
on the channel with some rather bad habits and we refused to
tolerate him any longer. A lot of the regulars, led by Gedge,
moved to another channel that they called +GB. Eventually, we
got a bit bored and moved to +GB with the rest of the rabble,
mainly to gloat over us being right all along over the user
that caused the split in the first place. +GB was now the main
British channel, leaving just the two bots, Spod and Plod in
+UK. After a while, the way channels were defined changed and
+GB became #gb.
1992, there were still only 60 or so British users on IRC but,
as time passed, various new people arrived and a new channel
formed called #England. This channel was unlike #gb in that
it was made up mainly of young students who generally didn't
much like the attitude of the 'old timer' #gb people who, because
of the way the Internet was introduced into the UK were mainly
University systems administrators. To this day, #gb remains
mainly as a resting place for people who work on the Internet
and don't really want to listen to too much idle banter.
1993, Demon opened up the Internet in the UK to anyone with
a home computer, a modem and a tenna a month spare. The Demon
punters soon discovered IRC and eventually, Demon got its own
IRC server, and a client site to allow customers to use it without
the complicated job of installing the 'ircII' program. Over
the next year or so, hundreds of new UK users appeared on IRC,
some becoming #gb regulars and some prefering the noise of #England.
As more and more people arrived, more specialist channels were
created like #London, #Lancaster and #York to cope with the
sheer weight of users. #gb remained, a reasonably close knit,
and friendly channel.
around this time, most of the original +UK users had started
to avoid IRC. I quit as an IRC operator, and vanished for a
year or so to do none network things, Andie left to work with
big policemen, Dunc went to do some real work, ScottM carried
on vegitating somewhere and Steevie went to get a real job somewhere.
The two 'honourary brits' (Gummi and Klets) also vanished somewhere,
though they are still seen occasionally. #gb stayed around at
this time with a reasonably fluid population but since this
history is written from my point of view, there's not a lot
I can say about it really, except that Fis turned up at around
this time to keep the natives well and truly wound up and we
aquired a few more resident foreigners.
a great deal of interest happened to the channel from 1994 to
1996, there were various fallings out, usually caused by the
same few people and often connected with arguments occuring
on the Demon newsgroup 'demon.local' - I went off to work in
Portugal for a few months and my occasional returns were not
greeted with much enthusiasm. There were quite a few attempts
by people who had just started using IRC and had quickly formed
a channel 'clique' to keep me off (they presumably knew me by
reputation). There was so much infighting on the channel that
none of these were sucessful, but it did drive more and more
people away for no sensible reasons. The channel was still being
used by Internet staff during the daytime but when the cheaprate
crowd came on after 6pm, #gb was at its worse. There was huge
amounts of bigotry, people weren't allowed to hold any views
that contradicted with the clique who thought they owned the
channel and since it would be rather difficult to hold views
that did agree with theirs a general screen full of channel
activity would have one line of message text to a screen of
status messages (joins, ops, deops, kicks and bans). One thing
that did thrive over these two years was the 'off IRC' socialising,
once a month or so until most people came to the conclusion
that they couldn't actually bear one another and they soon vanished
into meets of just 3 or 4 lost souls.
1996, the actual infrastructure of the EFnet (the largest of
the IRC networks) was so chaotic that a few of the #gb regulars
had moved to other networks. For a while, there was a plan to
try and move people to Dalnet, but no-one really wanted to,
and that soon failed. The IRC network problems in the UK weren't
being addressed and I decided to return to IRC from an administration
point of view and eventually built up a new mesh of servers
and a more close knit and stable management structure. At this
time, my servers were still connected to the EFnet, but when
I returned from a two week holiday, I came back to absolute
chaos as all my servers had been cut off for "being badly managed"
and "having open I-Lines" (ie: allowing anyone who wanted to
use the servers to do so). Since I was of the opinion that my
servers were amongst the better managed ones, and certainly
the best policed in terms of abuse, I decided to join up with
another server in the US, irc.stealth.net that had also been
thrown off EFnet. The next few weeks were rather quiet, and
most of the people who got dragged along to the new network
thought I had gone mad, EFnet offered to let my servers back,
if I would limit the I-Lines to the UK only, but I refused.
The Demon server (the only other one of any note at this time)
was bouncing between the two networks at random meaning that
at any time in the day, the #gb channel could be on the EFnet
or the new network we had created which was to become the IRCnet.
Eventually, a few more servers joined the new network, first
the Asia/Pacific followed a few weeks later by all of the European
servers. Demon's server was still bouncing randomly between
networks causing sheer chaos, especially on #gb, but eventually,
the EFnet cut Demon's links, and they stuck to IRCnet, later
opening up an EFnet server as well. The new IRCnet network was
a far more stable and efficiently run network and #gb restarted
on a new network.
a shiny new network, it seemed a good opportunity to make #gb
a little more like was meant to be - One of the big problems
at the time was that the cheaprate crowd were trying to dictate
policy (banlists etc) for a channel they only used for 3 or
4 hours a day. This seemed ok to them, with their rather limited
view of the world, but #gb's main usage was in the daytime.
A few of the old cheaprate clique had already taken themselves
to a channel based on the newsgroup 'Demon.Local' called #DL-Bar.
Eventually, after a bit of experimentation, I put the bot Tilda
onto #gb and decided to enforce a tolerance policy. The basic
premise was that in complete contrast to the old #gb, there
would be complete freedom on the channel for anyone to say what
they wanted - If it annoyed anyone, it was up to them to use
/IGNORE and not up to them to use /KICK or /BAN; what may be
annoying to one person may be perfectly reasonable to someone
else. This scheme was implemented in about August of 1996, and
it still working well today, in October of 1997. There are some
channel operators on #gb but generally, they don't use their
status. Over the course of a year, there have been a few changes,
people who persistantly come to cause trouble are still banned,
and as a rule, we try to keep the channel takeover people off
- It helps having a channel full of IRC operators. Over the
course of the last year, most of the cheaprate clique have moved
to #DL-Bar and then
on from there when they eventually started banning one another.
They couldn't cope with other people being allowed the freedom
to talk, nor could they cope with not being able to show off
their operator powers every few seconds. One interesting thing
that did happen to the channel with this new order was that
a lot of the people who, in the past were obsessed with trying
to take the channel over actually became regular channel members.
To be continued, soon...