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Parallels in MUD and IRC History.

First draft: Proof read only.

I thought it may interest some people for me to make some notes on the parallel development of IRC and of the "new style" MUDs at the time. Reading and quoting Jarkko's document on the history of IRC, it is interesting to compare this with what was happening elsewhere at the time.

I was working in the Department of Information Processing Science in University of Oulu during summer'88. I guess they didn't have much for me to do. I was administring the department's sun server, but it didn't take all time. So I started doing a communications program, which was meant to make OuluBox (a Public Access BBS running on host, administered by me) a little more usable. The purpose was to allow USENET News-kind of discussion and groups there in addition to real time discussions and other BBS related stuff. Jyrki Kuoppala ( had implemented rmsg program for sending messages to people on other machines. It didn't have the channel concept implemented (though it supported it), so it was mainly used for person-to-person communications.

In the Summer of '88 there was still really only one MUD that was generally available to people on the Network, that was Essex MIST running on the DEC-10 system at Essex University in England. The original MUD has been shut down a year earlier when one of the two Father's of MUDs, Richard Bartle, had withdrawn our rights to use the databases when he took his systems commercial. Not many people had DEC-10's and we quite carefully protected our MUD monopoly at the time so in these days there effectively was just one easily (and worldwide) available original MUD system game in the world. We had a couple of American players whos name you will see later called Wisner and Vijay.

Because the UK wasn't really on the Internet, and had very few links to the BITNET, we developed a lot of things ourselves and the MUD was the chat system of its day. There were talkers on some of the Bulletin Boards (SBBS, Lampeter, Tardis and Bullet) but as soon as the MUDs opened (traditionally at 2am to 8am), they would suddenly clear and everone would sit at one of the safe rooms chatting away. I did try IRC in its very early stages and really didn't like it at all, it seemed a huge step back from the virtual world I was used to chatting away in.

At about this time, some students at Aberyswyth University (Alan Cox and Richard Acott are the ones I remember, though the credits list more) had written a game called AberMUD. This was fairly heavily encoded into some ancient hardware and operating systems and so Alan started on the fairly mammoth task of porting it to a standardish Unix system. He did this on Southampton University's Maths machines thanks to a chap called Pete Bentley who ran a bulletin board called SBBS there, and in late 1988, there was a fairly playable game called AberMUD2 up and running.

At around that time, Alan Cox left Academia for a year to go and work in the real world. AberMUD2 was left as it was, and taken over my myself, Ian Smith and Terry Hawkes to do the coding. At the time I was running both this and MIST so the monopoly on available MUDS was still fairly strict. Interestingly. a DEC-10 in Sweden did have a very old copy of the original MUD - I popped there a few times, but I never saw a single person play it.

Through I got to know Vijay Subramaniam (I hope I spelled that correctly :-). I had given IRC to him and not heard of him for some time. Then I got mail messages from Jeff Trim (used to be, University of Denver, current address unknown) David Bleckmann ( and Todd Ferguson (, Oregon State University). Vijay had given IRC to them and they had started ircd on their machines ( and, if I remember correctly) and wanted to connect to Finnish irc network. After that some other people started running IRC, and the number of servers grew quickly. The first IRC server (and still running) was ..
Remember I mentioned Vijay earlier? Well for someone who appears to have vanished from the Internet, I think he has a lot to answer for.

History is unsure when, but myself, Wisner (later to create the infamous eris) and Vijay decided that it may be worth running a MUD outside England. At this time in early 1989, there were now three distinct AberMUD2's in the UK, the Southampton one, one at Leeds University and a third at the IBM PC User Group in London run by Ian Smith. I sent the Southampton AberMUD2 to Wisner and Vijay, and from the day MUD left England, it has quickly spread around the world. When Alan Cox came back to the Academic World, he started work on a new version of AberMUD that was later distributed separately, but the original distribution after it left my hands was through Wisner and Vijay; so blame them.

Even more so than IRC history, the history of MUDs is very shadowed by egos and suffers from a lack of "public documentation". The people involved tended to be tied up with their own worlds and didn't take much note of others and because all the bulletin boards that documented the histories have long gone, you have to rely on some very biased memories. I don't consider myself biased, on the basis that I ran all of the MUDs mentioned in here anyway, but there will still be people who will disagree and write themselves in, and other people out of history.

If you are interested in MUDS (remembering that this is really an IRC document), have a peek at

Michael Lawrie, July 2002.