The History of ICB

Original by John Rudd (kzin)
This version by Jon Luini (sl'lee)
Updated: 8/8/03

In the Spring of 1989 Sean Casey (sean) released the first fn (forumnet) client for general use. For a while, it was widely used by users at the University of Kentucky ( (where the server was located:, MIT, UC Santa Cruz, the University of New Mexico, and Georgia Tech. Many other sites ran the client as well, but these were the big ones. During the following summer a T-shirt of the US, mapping sites that had been using fn, was done by Stephen Chappell (tmdando, urso). The first large gathering of Forumnet users was also that summer, at the house shared by Stephen and Glenn Stone (, taliesin) (the house was nicknamed "Farside"). Fn users from Atlanta, as well as Jennifer Moody (jenalen) and Carolee Harrison (thrush, didthat, carolee) from UC Santa Cruz, were at the party. It was also during this summer that Mark Reed (Dr.Strange) and Eric Lechner (lechner, eriq) started working on their own versions of the client (labeled the .mr and .el clients).

The following fall, when the earthquake of 89 hit the San Francisco bay area, fn users from around the country pooled information and distributed it across fn. Some users organized care packages for Bay area fn users. Since some UCSC students still had net access, but no phones, some fn users even fowarded phone messages to family members.

Shortly after the earthquake was the second gathering of fn users. The Atlanta fn users had a Halloween party at Farside. David Nye (evil, DavE) and Sean brought a contigent of UK users with them.

In November of 90 there was another gathering of fn users. This time it was on the West coast. It was hosted at the house of mofo, icecube, and wade (their icb nicks). People from UC Davis, Oregon State, University of Oregon, Berkeley, UCSC, and Stanford attended (a total of about 50-75 people). There were lots of bands there, beer, BBQ, and a Loony Toon movie marathon. This was probably the largest fn/icb gathering to date.

In March of 1991, for various reasons, Forumnet was taken down. During the interum 2 to 3 months, former fn users used IRC and Netchat to keep in touch. Then, John Atwood Devries (at, zozzles, @, others) used the fn client to reverse engineer a server. He named the new setup "International CB" or ICB for short. The ICB server at worked with fn clients that were modified for the new host address. Later, icb clients were writen which allowed command-line specification of server names. For a while, the client was offically maintained by Mark Giaquinto (winterwolf). Then Mark Reed did most of the work on the unix client, and there were also emacs and VMS based clients.

Because of laws related to use of government property, the alderon server had to be shutdown. The server was moved to by Jessica Koeppel Dembski (jessica). Another server was put up at a site in Germany, as well as the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee (by Tom J. Kreuger ( VetPsychWars)). David Galbrath (thunderstorm) also brought up a server at

The server at bootes ("The Dragon Server" or "bootes") had a lot of work done on it. At one point, David was even trying to get his server to talk directly to the other servers. Later, this server was moved to Eventually, all of the other servers went away, as bootes was the most reliable and featureful of the lot. Since then, some other servers have appeared at various sites for local use, or use when the Dragon Server is down. On of these was a server that UCSC games/public manager Jon Luini (sl'lee) set up for UC Santa Cruz users as a backup since UCSC students had become regular fn/icb users. Around the same time, he also worked on further modifications to Eric Lecher (the .el) client.

In the summer of 1993, the icb-social mailing list arranged the first ICB Bash party. The bash had ICB users from all over the east coast. The following May, a "bashlet" was held in the Washington DC area. The ICB Bash-II was held on the 4th of July weekend 1994 in Milwaukee.

In the Summer of 1994, John Rudd (kzin) decided to learn html. He also thought that ICB needed a homepage. The reaction to this announcement was mixed. Some of the ICB community wanted ICB to remain a small, lesser known part of the net, so that all of the obnoxious newbies headed to IRC. Some of the rest of the ICB community wanted to see ICB on the web. John went ahead and created the first draft of this document on July 15, 1994.

In the fall of 1994, Ed Boykin (Ham_Salad) added his name to the list of people working on ICB clients. Ed started work on the OS/2 version of the client (called ICB/2).

Starting around 1995 Jon Luini began doing more active bug fixes and enhancements to the DarkSide server code base (which also had previously been worked on by Rich Dellaripa). After the main servers went offline, John Rudd stated up a new default server at SJSU and when it went offline, Jon Luini's Evolve server became the new default.

In the mid to late 90's, ICB still had a large following at UCSC and Georgia Tech. Users still logged in from around the world (although, few from outside the US). New sites continued to find their way to ICB all the time. Mills College was another large user, as was the University of Idaho (in Moscow, Idaho).

In 1997, Jon registered ICB.NET and migrated to using that as a main repository of information, available clients, servers and an archive of John Rudd's original site. Over the next few years, more and more of ICB's users graduated and moved into the tech industry, Internet access became heavily widespread from non-tech workplaces and a new batch of friends were introduced to ICB. In addition to a social community, ICB also became an excellent technical resource with many engineers from some of the most cutting edge Internet companies.

In 2000 Michel Hoche-Mong (hoche) joined in some organizational cleanup of the server as well as adding new features such as autoconf. By this time, the server code was effectively a rewrite of the version from 1995. Michel also worked on some fixes to the Eric Lechner/Jon Luini client and it was renamed the Grok client (after Michel and Jon's geek household). Michel also became involved with the CICB client which had gone through a number of maintainers and had become the most commonly used client (especially still under active development).

Currently, ICB is a community of a few hundred regular users that use the main server. Clients are available for a variety of platforms and languages and separate servers have been used by the OpenBSD and NetBSD developers, thought most other backup and private servers have disappeared. Discussion of a next-generation server architecture had been stop-and-go from 1998-2003 and finally stopped as demand wasn't very strong as a result of bug fixes in early 2000s improving server stability dramatically. In 2004, Jon Luini created an initial proof of concept with a new V2 XML-based protocol which was implemented with a Flash client and can be seen here and is also still in use at

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