It was love at first flickering light, so to speak. From my desk in suburban Adelaide, I found myself meeting and greeting the world of invisible far-away people on Internet Relay Chat. And thus, instantly hooked, I fell into a crowd - one of the small groups of pioneer netizens, burning the midnight oil, fuelled by Jolt. Making friends, chatting, life-sharing, laughing.
Many of these people remain part of my life today, no longer on IRC but in retained fellowships on Facebook or Yahoo.
In the 90s, few people around me could comprehend what the hell I was doing. I had to explain the IRC and the Internet - which I did with missionary zeal.
Oh the dark and dangerous perils of it all. There were bots and baddies. There were predators. And porn. How swiftly they materialised.
But there were the good and outgoing folk, convivial and lively times. There were people who asserted themselves in ways their normal lives may never have allowed, arriving faceless online under a chosen nick. They assumed Ops, a status as channel operator, would throw their weight around, dominate the evolving communities on their channels. First "virtual communities" they were, drawn together by interests but not location. The borderless world had opened up. Out of Finland, believe it or not. And it was to explode exponentially.
There was Efnet at first and IRCnet - and then DAlnet arrived the Undernet appeared. We explored, regrouped. We hitched in through servers at universities in exotic places.
I navigated my way through the lists and lists of channels to some defined by age. Firstly #30plus, then #40 plus, then #41plus. They changed by breakaway movements. One could open any channel one wanted. With a friend, I created #Ageless and, later, #Greymatter.
Twitter thinks it invented the use of the hashtag.
IRC was your parent, Tweetipies.