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MMD > Archives > July 1997 > 1997.07.17 > 16Prev  Next

Using Telnet for Teleconferencing
By Jody Kravitz


There are two concepts in this thread, so I want to address both of them.
One of them is "chat channels" and the other is "telnet".


I'm going to talk about "telnet" first.  Telnet is one of the oldest
Internet protocols.  It was designed for the remote (over the net)
connection of a teletype or "glass teletype" (i.e. dumb terminal) to
a remote computer over the Internet.  No requirement is made as to what
"program" is running on the remote computer.  What you get is a way to
send keyboard presses to a remote machine, and a way to get characters
back.  The user's teletype or "glass teletype" is referred to as the
"client", and the remote computer is referred to as the "server".

In the old days you'd connect your dumb terminal to a computer where
the telnet client software ran, and you'd connect to the remote server.
Now that computers are cheap and generally integrated with a display,
modern implementations of telnet "client" software almost always run
right on your computer and "simulate" the dumb terminal's functions.
On DOS, this usually involves using the whole screen.  On computers
with Windows, a "teletype simulation window" is display on part of the


The first use for the telnet protocol was to allow users to be
connected to and use [large] remote computers in research facilities
far away.  Since the telnet protocol does not restrict what the server
computer receives or transmits to the remote dumb terminal, it was
certain that other "applications" would be developed.

Teleconferencing was one of the earliest promises of the Internet.
Many teleconferencing systems were developed, based on the idea that
a program could talk to more than one remote "dumb terminals" at a time.
As dumb terminals got smarter, it became possible to do "split screen"
displays where your text appeared on one part of the screen, and other
people's text appeared on another part of the screen.

Teleconferencing systems continue to evolve.  The ones that are based
on telnet are still evolving.  One of the things which John didn't
bring up is:

    What is the teleconferencing software running on the server ?

Recently there have been a number of new teleconferencing technologies
appearing on the Internet.

Some are based on proprietary technologies and require that you download
or purchase a special teleconferencing "client" for your PC, and then
you still have to rendezvous with other users at a specified "server" machine.
Some of the fancier products support black-board style interactive graphics,
audio, and even video.

Other teleconferencing technologies make clever use of features already
present in the more modern browsers.  Again, you must rendezvous at a
specified teleconferencing server, but you do it through your browser.
This provides a very simple user interface since no special software
needs to be installed.


John is clearly interested in carrying on interactive discussions
with other subscribers.  Are others interested ?  If so, I'll do
some research on the technology.  I'm inclined to look at browser-
based technologies because they are the simplest for most people, but
I'm open to suggestions.

I want to be sure, though, that we don't move so much of the interesting
discussion from the Digest that we exclude our subscribers who only have
e-mail from the fun.  If we did a Chat service, would people be agreeable
to allowing edited transcripts of the chat sessions to be used in the
Digest, or made available after the fact via the Web site ?

Looking forward to your thoughts.


Key Words in Subject:  Teleconferencing, Telnet, Using

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