Another type of chat involves downloading and using a chat client software program. These programs used Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, to conduct their chats. There are many such programs, but one of the best is Microsoft Chat ”it's free, and it's a little bit unusual in that it makes the chat look like a comic strip.
If you don't have Microsoft Chat, you can download it free from the Tucows software directory at www. tucows .com or directly from Microsoft at www.microsoft.com.
Like any chat program, Microsoft Chat ”henceforth to be known simply as Chat with a capital C ”lets you communicate with chat servers. You can view the list of chat rooms, join a chat room, read what everyone says in the chat room, and make your own contributions to the discussion. What's different about Chat is the way it displays the conversation.
Most chat clients show the text of the conversation a line at a time and label each line with the speaker's nickname.
Chat, however, can display the conversation as text or as a comic strip, using little cartoon characters to represent members and showing their words in cartoon word balloons (see Figure 6.7). The folks at Microsoft think this approach makes chatting feel more human, more fun. In its first versions, Chat was actually named Microsoft Comic Chat.
Figure 6.7. Microsoft Chat can make a chat session look like a comic strip, with a different cartoon character for each participant.
It's important to understand that most folks you'll end up chatting with probably won't use Microsoft Chat. Many will use ordinary text chat clients; they'll see your statements labeled with your nickname but won't see your comic character.
On your display, Chat converts all statements in a chat ”even those made by users of text-only clients ”into comics. Other Chat users in the same room appear as their chosen cartoon characters. For users of other chat clients, Chat automatically assigns and shows unused characters.