Friday, July 15, 2005

Harh? ICQ?

I was chatting with Sonia yesterday night when we somehow talked about the now obscure topic of ICQ. Sometime within the past 3 years, MSN Messenger overtook ICQ in popularity, and the situation remains till today.

I remember that when MSN started groping the IM market, more and more of my contacts logged onto both MSN and ICQ. Later, people started to neglect ICQ, and my contact list became redder and redder. (The default contact list font setting is red for offline users and blue for online) After a while, there was no real purpose to open the program itself, and ICQ was abandoned. When the computer was formatted, ICQ was not reinstalled.

While chatting with Sonia, I decided to check out ICQ’s website. On impulse, I also downloaded and installed the latest program, ICQ 5.04. I searched for my own details on ICQ’s online user database, and obtained my number. I logged in with the classical foghorn blare. And yes, I still remember my password, many years on.

ICQ’s foghorn blare during login was a familiar sound that I had with me since 1998. When the dial up connection was not performing well, it would take ages before the sound came. On the other hand, the foghorn would sound almost immediately if the connection was sprinting at 49kb/s.

To my pleasant surprise, my contact list was exactly as I had left it a year ago. Everyone remained in their appropriate visible/invisible list. Even the renamed names were there! (I renamed everyone’s display names from their frivolous nicknames to their real names. Makes life easier.)

Unsurprisingly, there was only one other person online- Sonia. She uses Trillian, which integrates MSN, ICQ and AOL into one package for simplicity.

This afternoon, I chatted a little with Sonia using ICQ. The messages came through with a perky ‘ah-aww’ sound. Ahh…those familiar noises in my early days of chatting. (I don’t really remember IRC much.) ICQ easily allows multi-lined chat messages, and hitting enter starts a new line, not send. The shortcut to send is alt+S.

And thus while I chatted with Sonia, I typed my messages, alt+s, alt-tab to other MSN windows, typed my other message, enter, alt+tab... This alt+S alt+tab manoeuvre used to be a very common combination in the past, and today, it feels like I’m rediscovering some latent motor skills.

Rediscovering ICQ was an interesting experience. The familiar foghorn blast, the kinky ‘ah-aww’, the alt+S alt+tab finger roll, the blue & red contact list… It felt nostalgic, like returning home after a long absence.

Join me on ICQ: 22-967-871. You can leave offline messages!

At the height of ICQ’s popularity, some people even committed their UIN to memory, much like their phone numbers and residential addresses.

Download ICQ pro 2003b
Download ICQ lite 5.04