Friday, January 11, 2008

Real-Time IM: Instant Messaging, One Letter at a Time

Checking the feed from my old work blog, I see that Joe Manna posted about the Real-Time IM feature in the new AIM 6.8 Beta (for PC, natch). It uses a direct PC-to-PC connection so that each chatter can see what the other person is typing, as they type it, letter by letter, backspacing and all. (You know -- the way computer chat used to work in movies until directors finally figured out how IMs worked.)

One of the commenters calls it out as feature ICQ has had for 10 years, but for me, it goes even farther back -- to 1993, using talk on an NYU shell account to message my friend Dave down in North Carolina.

It was very exciting and very futuristic. We were easily impressed, back then.

Of course, since there were no online presence indicators (for us regular lusers, that is), if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to keep fingering them until you found them online.

I always found the resulting conversations to be very stream of consciousness, since going back to change a word or phrase you'd started would only slow you down. It also gave you a very real and very powerful incentive to improve your typing.

As to why include it in the next AIM client? I'm not sure -- it seems gimmicky at this point, and I think there are better reasons to initiate a direct client-to-client connection.

Unless you're a typing tutor, of course.


Anonymous said...

As if there isn't already a serious lack of buffering in internet conversations. I mean, you don't even want to hear what was in the first three drafts of this comment. The first thing I'll do with an IM client that sends letter by letter is I'm turning buffering back on.

Joelogon said...

I'm with you -- I prefer the ability to edit. The "other person is typing" indicator is plenty enough for me.

Since the real-time IM capability in AIM requires both parties to use the new beta and opt in to the direct connect session to make it happen, I wouldn't imagine that it would see a lot of use.

Who knows, maybe the kids will like it. Retro-cool. Hard to say.

brando said...

Oh man. This sounds terrible to me. I really enjoy choosing my words carefully and I consider that last chance [send] button my friend.

Pidgn has a feature that says something like "You feel a disturbance in the force" when someone starts typing to you. It's sort of neat.

Anonymous said...

This is pretty funny 2 me because it's more like an old feature coming back. You might be able to say that IM's older brother is UNIX talk. This is a UNIX command that allows you to 'talk' (basically text based chat - ie IM) to another person on either the same or a different UNIX system. In talk you can actually see what is being typed as it is being typed. In fact, I believe in many early IM clients that feature existed as well. In some clients you even had the option of turning the feature on or off. Admittedly it does add a new dimension to IM when you can watch a person's thought process as they type and backspace and re-type again.
In the UNIX talk scenario you have a split screen with one conversation on top and one conversation on the bottom and both people can see what the other person is typing while they are typing. (both ppl can type at same time) This sometimes would cause you to backspace and change your answer based upon what you were reading being typed as you were typing. Haven't seen the AIM Beta yet so I don't know how it compares. Great for those of us with ADD.. hee hee :) :)
And yes, I've used UNIX talk and yeh.. I'm geek. :)

Joelogon said...

Anon -- I gather you completely missed the second paragraph, where I talk about using talk in the 90s, (including a helpful link to its wikipedia entry)