Kind of a dramatic forum title, but it's true.
It's funny when you look back on certain things you've done and play over in your mind why things happened the way they did. Although there might be a thousand diferent events and decisions and moments that have directly effected where & who you are today, if you're any good at using hindsight you can often boil down all of those events to only a few critical things. In my case, when I look back on the events of my life for the past ten years, mIRC has played a critical role, and really - dramatic as it may sound - actually had a life-changing effect on me. Let me explain-
I've never liked computers. I grew up in the Commodore 64 era when computers were nothing more than a toy for "nerds" and "geeks". And they were boring toys, at that. (Not to mention expensive!) I had friends who were interested in them, but I couldnt be bothered. There were so many other things in the world that were more interesting. Hot rod cars, girls, art, music, sports, history, a whole catalog of things that caught my attention more than a screen full of goofy symbols ever would.
By the time I reached my mid-20's, computers had gotten out of the stone age and a "personal computer" actually began to become more common. I'd occasionally see my friend's computers and I noticed that the technology had certainly advanced since the Commodore 64 days, but there still wasn't anything there to really "interest" me in them. I would say things such as, "Well, maybe if I did my own accounting or ran a home office or something, I'd get one... other than that though, what use do I have for a computer?" Spending $2,000 or so dollars on something I really didn't need didnt seem like the brightest idea in the world, either.
Eventually I stumbled upon a pretty good deal for an IBM Thinkpad, and I didnt pass it up. What started off as an innocuous little item on the corner of my desk eventually wound sucking me into a world of fascination and excitement. I was a complete computer newbie, I didn't know any terminologies, I didn't know any references, I didn't even know what a "Windows" was. But fortunately my friend had an interest in computers ever since we were kids, and he ushered me along with patient explainations of what was what. One of the first things he did was install mIRC on my machine. "What is this?" I asked him, as I tried to read the mass of confusing text. "Oh it's cool man... you can type on your machine, and I can read it on mine." I thought about that for a second. "You mean I could ask you a question here at my house, and you can read it at your house? Like a letter?" My friend laughed, "No man, that's email. What this program does is live. Whatever you type I can instantly see it." "Wow!" I thought. "That kicks ass..."
After he installed it I immedately had about a thousand questions. "What does 'modes' mean?" and "What the hell is Ping? Pong???" I'm pretty quizzical by nature, always one to tinker and investigate and see why things work, and this new mIRC stuff took full advantage of that personality trait of mine, sucking me right in. Being so new to computers I immediately wanted to know, "Wow! How does it know how to do that?"
From there I began to absorb information on computers both through web sites and through one-on-one conversations with people in IRC. I prowled chat rooms when I was quizzical about something computer-related, finding some kind soul who was patient enough to explain the answers to my questions. I began to learn the components of a computer, the terminologies, the history behind them, and in general it interested me alot. It was a challenging hobby, something I did when I didnt have anything else to do. "Tinkering".
Along the way I of course stumbled onto the negative side to the internet too, meeting rude people, virii, exploits, and so on. The worst thing I came across was child pornography, most notably in IRC. I was a fixture on Undernet, and it absolutely horrified me to find child pornography channels rampant there. Sickened me. I filled me with the urge to do something about it, but it frustrated me because, after all, what would a newbie like myself be able to do about that?
Well, during one of our usual conversations, I mentioned my disgust to my friend and he passingly suggested I "dossattack them". I didnt know what that was. "Wuzzat?" I asked. He explained to me, in primitive terms, what a DoS attack was, and I was fascinated. I also knew such things were beyond my capability though. During the conversation, my friend did mention "scripting", and after he explained to me what the basis of scripting was, I began to understand a little more. "So THAT'S how people do that stuff I see in IRC???" It started to make sense to me.
I wound up getting a script and installing it, and after popping the hood on the Remote section, I was immediately fascinated. "Sweet Jesus" I thought to myself, "How the hell can all this chickenscratch mean anything?" I was pretty intimidated, but my natural curiosity got the best of me and I began to dissect the code bit by bit. I eventualy stumbled into #mIRC-Scripts and became a rapt pupil of DonDon and company, sucking up every bit of knowledge they could give me. For a guy who'd never done anything like that before, I felt like I was stumbling upon the secrets of the universe. I spent many frustrating nights learning the most rudimentary things, but I stuck with it and eventually began figuring things out on my own.
Eventually I wound up becoming fairly familiar with mIRC scripting and Windows in general. My disgust for the kiddyporn channels was still there too, so as I began to become proficient in computers I also began to look into the malicious side of them, figuring out ways to prevent those kiddyporn channels from operating. My revulsion to the abuse of such a cool thing as IRC really compelled me to wade through the frustation of learning networking, scripting, exploits, firewalls, hostmasks, peering, on and on a huge list of things that otherwise would have never gotten my attention in any way whatsoever. What started off as futile, laughable attempts at text-flooding kiddyporn channels on a dialup modem eventually graduated into full-blown warfare with elaborate scripting, floodbot networks, clone attacks, netsplit takeovers, a whole catalog of nasty tricks designed to make the use of those channels a miserable experience for anyone. My hobby had turned into a crusade.
Eventually though, the entire situation wore on me and depressed me. What started off as some well-intentioned vigilantism on my part turned into a depressing nightly fight against the dark side of humanity, and after a while, instead of being left with a feeling of "job well done", all I felt was the desire to throw my computer in the river. One day I disconnected my machines from the internet, shut them off, and left them off. I was finished. To hell with computers.
Some time later though, my same old friend told me about a cool video game he'd just picked up called "Tribes", saying I HAD to play it. It was so fun! I told him I wasnt interested and that I didnt even like those kinds of games to begin with. He swore up and down how much I would like it, but I still didnt take the bait. To my surprise though, the next morning at about 7:30 a.m., my friend was knocking on my door. I blearily got out of bed and answered it, and my friend marched into my room, sat down at my desk, and installed the game on my machine. Then he told me to meet him and the other guys in IRC later on and we would all play it. Grumbling, I crawled back into bed with an obligatory "Fine..."
Well he was right. The game was great, and we all began to meet on IRC to coordinate our playing. We played alot, almost every night after work, and in my usual inquisitive way, I began to figure out what made things work. I really got into hardware, learning what made computers faster, what ran the game better, what video cards were better, what in the end made me a better player. I used to laugh. I went from being a hot-rod car hobbyist to hot-rodding computers. All in the name of making Tribes run faster and smoother. As I got more into the game, I wound up competing on online gaming ladders and approaching it all like a "sport", wearing the war-ready moniker of "SuicideTaxi". My team, like many others, would spend hours going over strats, practicing, writing scripts, doing all sorts of things to make us compete better. All in our spare time and in good fun, of course.
Eventually - on a pure whim - I said to myself, "Man, wouldnt it be cool to be able to watch the top games like we do on Monday Night Football? That would be fun." With that simple idea, I wound up putting together an internet radio organization called the Web Sports Broadcast Network, or WSBN. The organization put a "caster" inside the game servers observing a game in progress and announcing it play-by-play style to anyone listening. Also, through the use of IRC, it gave hundreds of people a common meeting ground where they could hang out, read the latest news on WSBN, boast and brag to each other, compare war stories, and generally have fun. With all the members of WSBN being scattered across the internet, we also needed a way to tie us all together and keep us on the same page. I brushed off my old scripting skills and fired up mIRC, and began to put together a "staff script" which interacted with our website, interacted with our central IRC bot, checked our staff emails, listed technical help, managed broadcast information, provided IRC security, stored & retrieved transient information like passwords, and generally became the main tool to run our organization.
WSBN gew into a fairly popular organization that eventually expanded into internet videocasting, live LAN event coverage, developer interviews, and all kinds of fun stuff. I wound up actually quitting my "real" job and working on WSBN full time, and through the 2 years I did it, I wound up travelling the country, meeting thousands of people, meeting a great girl, and moving to a different state. Through all of that was mIRC. It tied everything together and - through its basic communication ability and its advanced scripting capabilites - it kept everything from falling apart. Out of all of the software tools I've used through the years, none have been nearly as helpful as mIRC has. The dexterity of the program is just mind boggling. It's allowed me to do so much I never would have imagined was possible when I first saw it on my IBM ThinkPad all those years ago and asked, "What the hell is Ping? Pong! ?"