Chat programs in style

I must be way out of the loop.

It seems as if everyone I know is using a chat program. What's worse, it seems as if they are all using different programs.

So I've downloaded 56,105,945 different chat programs (number converted to metric = 4) to make sure I wasn't leaving anyone out. Those four, in the order I downloaded them, were AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ and MSN Messenger. Back in the good ole days (mid- '90s), I don't recall there being that many chat programs. For instance, at Purdue, I could talk with other people directly through our UNIX-based e-mail. But if anyone outside of school wanted to talk to me, it didn't work. Actually, on a couple of occasions, I managed to supply a friend with my login and password, and we were able to chat briefly. But something always blew up, probably because it appeared as if I was talking to myself on the screen, which happens often enough in real life.

http://web.icq.com/ ICQ bills itself as the largest online chat service. You can chat with people you know or people you don't know, send messages, files, chainsaws, whatever you deem applicable. You can also find friends and see if they are on ICQ as well. ICQ saves all your messages sent and ones being sent to you, so you can always go back and look to see what someone else said, considering you probably already forgot it.

http://www.aol.com/aim/ AOL Instant Messenger also seems extremely popular, so popular, in fact, that it was homecoming king. I originally thought this was the biggest chat program, with supposedly over 100 million people using it, just not at the same time. Most of my friends use this one . . . it doesn't seem easier than the others, I think it's just because it was homecoming king. Again, you can send files over this as well, and one time I sent a toaster, although it was broken.

At least these four chat programs also utilize shortcuts for emoticons . . . like a smiley face or heart or broccoli bunch. Well, they should have broccoli, but they don't. Anyway, these images are supposed to make your message mean something. For instance, I can say something mean to someone and put a smiley face at the end, so people think I'm kidding. It's great!

Another one I downloaded was Yahoo Messenger http://messenger.yahoo.com/ . It, too, offers many of the same features that appear to be standard with chat programs. If you have a microphone, you can also talk via the Internet, which is great unless you enjoy paying telephone companies billions of dollars to call long distance. If you do, then I must be farther out of the loop than I had ever imagined.

Considering I use Hotmail for personal mail, MSN Messenger http://messenger.msn.com/ was an obvious choice to download. The coolest feature is on the bottom of the window, it tells you when the person is typing a message. That's better than being told the person is yawning or ignoring you in favor of watching the Game Show Network. It also has various emoticons, but still, no broccoli bunch.

There are plenty of other chat programs, but way too many to go into here. With these four programs, you can talk to billions of people anyway. Most of them are crazy and even more passed the survey (results coming soon!). But at least with my new chat capabilities, I'm back in style.