Archiving chat server source code from the early days of the Internet

What are talkers?

Borrowed and mangled from Wikipedia:

Talkers are a form of online virtual worlds in which multiple users are connected at the same time to chat in real-time. People log in to the talkers remotely (usually via telnet), and have a basic text interface with which to communicate with each other. Most talkers are free and based on open-source software.

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What happened to them?

The first talkers often ran as unauthorized services on university networks, whose unamused administrators often forced the talker owners scrambling to find alternative hosting sites; in that way, keeping a talker online was precarious from the start. Despite this, talkers boomed in the 1990s until they declined in both popularity and in the number of operating sites at the end of that decade. Many blame the introduction of the instant messaging platforms ICQ (1996) and AOL Instant Messenger (1997) for talkers’ demise, along with end-user expectations or preference for modern, graphical systems over “old school” text terminals.

When – the first and largest site dedicated specifically to hosting talker servers – closed in 2009, the continued existence of talkers was threatened more than ever. Hosting a talker takes time, effort, and system administrators willing to grant shell access. While many talker site administrators found homes on other servers, these, too, atrophied and few remain to date. Understandably, as the talker instances go offline so does their customized source code. By 2010, nearly all of the original distribution sources for the most popular Talker code bases (forks) had disappeared, lost to the great bit bucket in the sky.


This site’s goal is to maintain an archive of as many talker and related codebases as we can find, to preserve a piece of the Internet’s first purely social ecosystems, before instant messaging and social media took over. While we can archive the source code, we cannot recover the friendships that were lost as servers went offline, one by one.

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Codebases by Talker Family

Looking for more?

This archive project started too late to save them all. But if you find a tarball of classic Talker or MUD source code on that backup tape, Zip drive, or floppy diskette, we want to archive it here!

New submissions, or comments/requests from code authors already in the archive, can reach us by opening an issue on GitHub.

Otherwise, feel free to take a trip down Memory Lane and read the additional material gathered in the course of building the main archive content.