68K Instant Messaging

(Last updated August 4, 2009)


Instant Messaging is really tough on a 68K Mac. It's even tougher on an emulated 68K Mac. ICQ and AIM have ancient unsupported clients that might work on a real Macintosh, but I have had no success using them in my emulated machine running System 7.5.5 (Update: Forum user SSS has described how to use the 68K version of AOL Instant Messenger inside of Basilisk II). All of the web-based IM clients that I've tried do not run in any 68K compatible browser. There is one option, however: Bitlbee. Bitlbee is a project that lets you access a wide variety of IM networks (including MSN messenger, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ and Jabber/Google Talk) through an IRC client. If you are at all familiar with IRC, you can probably set it up yourself using the official documentation, and some third party tips specific to accessing a Google Talk account.

This guide might be helpful to those not very familiar with IRC, or to those not familiar with the ancient IRC clients that run on 68K Macintosh computers. In the guide I am using an install of System 7.5.5 within Basilisk II JIT. To learn how to get 7.5.5 online within the emulator, check out this guide.

There is nothing specific to the emulated Machine within this guide. 68K Mac enthusiasts who are looking for an IM solution for a real Macintosh computer might also find the guide helpful.

Getting Started

You need an IRC client. This guide will use MacIRC version 0.9.6. It's an old client (last updated in 1997), but it is lightweight and works really well. Download it here (an alternative is ShadowIRC, although running it in System 7 requires that Appearance Manager be installed).

To begin, boot up your emulated Macintosh and install MacIRC. Run the program. You should see something similar to figure one, below.

Figure one: MacIRC, newly installed in System 7.5.5

Setting up Bitlbee

You need to connect to a Bitlbee public server. We'll connect to the server at the top of the list (top of the list at the time this guide was written, anyways). Select “File” and “Connect To…” from the menubar. Give yourself a nickname and a user name. These must be the same! Don't give yourself a password right now. Don't worry about giving yourself a real name. In the “server” box type “im.bitlbee.org:6667” (without the quotation marks - see figure two).

Figure two: Getting ready to connect to a Bitlbee public server

Click “Save Default” and then “Connect.” MacIRC will make some beeping sounds and a window called “&bitlbee” will open up with some text welcoming you to the server. Before you can set up access to your instant messaging service you must register your nickname with the server. With the “&bitlbee” window in the foreground type the following in the topmost MacIRC window (it's the one that includes the text “… via im.bitlbee.org):

register password

And then hit enter. Except, you know, type an actual password instead of the word “password.” Now log off of the server by clicking the colored arrow beside your user name in the “connections” window. We're going to save your password before continuing. Click on “File” in the menu bar and “Connect to…” to return to the “Edit Connection” screen. Type your password in the password field and click “Save Default.” Click “connect” to reconnect.

To connect to Google Talk, type the following in the same window:

account add jabber username@gmail.com password talk.google.com:5223:ssl

But type your Google username and password where appropriate. And hit enter. See figure three. For the syntax of adding an account of a different service (MSN, AOL, ICQ, etc) see the official documentation.

Figure three: Setting up Google Talk in Bitlbee

You should get a message in the “server” window that says “Account successfully added.” Now you can turn on the account you just created by typing “account 0 on” (without the quotes). This will log you in, and the “server” window will display a message that looks something like this:

JABBER - Logging in: Connecting
JABBER - Logging in: Connected
JABBER - Logging in: Requesting Authentication Method
JABBER - Logging in: Authenticating
JABBER - Logged in

The names of your contacts are displayed in the “Names” window. In MacIRC, the names of my contacts who are idle are in black text, while the names of my contacts who are online are in green text. See figure four.

Figure four: Successfully logged in to a Google Talk account using Bitlbee and MacIRC


Congratulations, you are logged into Google Talk using Bitlbee and IRC! To start a conversation with one of your contacts type the following:

/query username

But type the actual username. With Google Talk users, this is the same as the first part of their e-mail address, with periods stripped out. This will open up a new window where you can chat with your contact (see figure five).

Figure five: Chatting with a Google Talk contact

And that's all. As long as you log in using your user name and password, your IM contacts will automatically be available as soon as you sign in to the Bitlbee server until you log out of the IM itself (to log out of your IM type “account 0 off”). You can access additional IM networks at the same time. Create them the same as above. They will be numbered “account 1,” “account 2,” and so on.

And that's all. Enjoy.


We're all done! For more help you should check out my Macintosh Emulation Forum. Big thanks to Stephen Coates for telling me about Bitlbee.

68k_instant_messaging.txt · Last modified: 2020/09/07 21:03