The sad demise of whimsical teasing in Comic Chat

Internet Explorer 3 came with the IRC client Comic Chat, a product from the research division. And it's not surprising that a program as goofy as Comic Chat would put something goofy in the default profile. If you didn't set a profile when you created your character, it defaulted to "This person is too lazy to create a profile entry."

Of course, it wasn't long before people complained that the text was snotty. So much for trying to be funny.

Comments (34)
  1. mvadu says:

    Can i still use this program (with IE 6 or 7)?

    Where is the download path?

  2. Psmith says: would be so much funnier if you could view it as comic strips…

  3. Out of curiosity says:

    Interestingly, the company I work in, uses MS Comic Chat as one of its communication tools.

  4. fersis says:

    i always liked that little message , because is SO unlike Microsoft, so informal. it was weird, but lovely.

  5. Mike says:

    To those looking for Comic Chat, it seems that it is no longer available from Microsoft, however this KB article should provide all the information you need to find it:

  6. CP says:

    No discussion of Microsoft Comic Chat would be complete without a mention for JerkCity.  An online comic-strip that’s been roaming around the web for  quite a few years now.


    It’s juvenile, puerile, offensive, crude, and makes frequent references to geek culture with a smattering of locker-room humor.

  7. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    I wonder if those morons who thought that Clippy and Search Dog should be enabled by default, are still at Microsoft. Oh, wait, there was Heroes Happen Here…

  8. Thom says:

    Bummer! I tripped over to JerkCity hoping to be offended and after 15 minutes of hitting the random link I was disappointed and bored numb.  Eight year olds say wittier things, are more offensive, are far cruder, and are more in touch with geek culture.

    I do think you got juvenile right though, because it’s obvious that some under eight comic wanna-be came up with the jokes… and he’s taking lessons from the guy writing the Madatory Fun Day comic over at TDWTF to boot.

  9. steven says:

    Why do the 0.1% of the population that have no sense of humour need to spoil it for the rest of us…

    Even if I’d had my sense of humour surgically removed, I doubt I’d be offended by a message like that.

  10. George Jansen says:

    Perl’s ExtUtils::MakeMaker will dump some snide text into the generated .pm file, following the comment

    Below is the stub of documentation for your module. You better edit it!

    But in the world of Perl and Python one is supposed to be facetious.

  11. Mike says:

    I understand that it was meant as humour, but insulting the user is *never* a good idea. Seriously, never ever, under no circumstances, absolutely not.

    Besides, many (most?) forms of humour don’t localise well anyway… I guess MS QC was far more lax back in the IE3 days.

    It’s also questionably as to why a quirky "fun" chat program was bundled with an IE update in the first place. I can’t see mid-90’s corporate users liking it very much, but it was probably some sort of response to Netscape’s bundling of an AIM client…

  12. mike says:

    For those in the "people just can’t take a joke" camp, would it be just as funny if it said "The user of this program is too STUPID to create a profile entry"? What if it said that as the default for ANY program that you hadn’t changed default settings on? (Like, say, the ones you use every day.)

  13. Ens says:

    Yes.  It would be exactly as funny.  We could go further too.  I don’t think you’ll find disagreement until you start joining it with words that are controversial in their own right for separate reasons, like "The user of this program is too slutty to create a profile entry".  Although personally I think that is much funnier still, that will get some normalish people riled up and I don’t think Microsoft would ever let that one through.

  14. Ben Cooke says:

    My only real memory of Comic Chat was people joining IRC channels on established networks with it and getting kicked and banned by over-zealous admins because Comic Chat would encode the information about the comic pictures as a random number prepended onto the message, which seemed to really upset anyone who wasn’t using Comic Chat.

    Didn’t Comic Chat ship with IE4 rather than IE3, though? I believe that not long after IE4’s release I was working at an ISP which switched from shipping custom dialer software to shipping a branded IE4 installer, and the above memories are mostly on that ISP’s own IRC server when suddenly lots of users that knew nothing about IRC started firing up Comic Chat (which we’d customized to connect by default to the ISP’s own IRC server) and this upset all of the users who had formed something resembling a community on our IRC server and felt like they were being invaded by idiots (or something like that). Our support guys were inundated with complaints about us shipping Comic Chat; these users insisted that we stop it immediately or they’d terminate their account. Changing our distribution at this point was largely impossible given that in those days browsers were shipped on CDs and we’d already had thousands made.

    (It seems crazy to me now that some ISPs used to run such frivilous things as IRC servers. It’s interesting how the Internet has changed. Many ISPs don’t seem to even provide Usenet services anymore.)

  15. chrismcb says:


    I don’t get your point. Stupid and lazy aren’t synonymous. And accepting default usage is totally different than accepting a default profile.

  16. J says:

    @mike also:

    I agree.  I’m also offended by how my messenger program has a default away status that says "I am currently away."

    Don’t find that offensive?  Well, would it still be non-offensive if it said "I am currently STUPID"???  I rest my case.

  17. Asztal says:

    Unfortunately Comic Chat doesn’t work on a lot of servers; usually it crashes. It’s a shame, because I do so love it.

  18. AK says:

    Totally agree with Thom. I just checked out JerkCity because CP mentioned it and what a waste of time. It’s not offensive, not witty, not even remotely amusing. But it is lame.

  19. Lascaille says:

    Why does it seem strange to you that ISPs ran things as ‘frivolous’ as IRC servers? For a long time IRC was the de-facto standard for instant messaging, and the networked nature of dalnet/ircnet etc was fairly fault tolerant.

    I see no major difference between an ISP offering SMTP outgoing relay (probably soon to go, as well, given that some huge percentage of residential users use webmail these days) and an irc server.

  20. lesle says:

    ELKO, NEVADA — Microsoft’s Dancing Paper Clip turned violent last week and nearly killed a university student testing a new Windows-based human-computer interface. The victim, Trevor Erikkson, is expected to make a full recovery, although psychiatrists warn that the incident may scar him emotionally for life. "You can bet this kid won’t be using Windows or Office ever again," said one shrink.

    The victim, a sophomore at Northeast Nevada Ivy League College, had been alpha-testing CHUG (Computer-Human Unencumbered Groupware), a new interface in which the user controls the computer with force-feedback gloves and voice activation. It’s the force feedback part that nearly killed him.

    "I was trying to write a term paper in Word," said Trevor from his hospital bed. "But then that damned Dancing Paper Clip came up and started annoying me. I gave it the middle finger, which it didn’t like too much. It deleted my document, at which point I screamed at it and threatened to pull the power cord. I didn’t get a chance to make good on that threat; the force-feedback gloves activated and started choking me."

    It took the effort of several lab assistants to pry the gloves from his throat and put a stop to Clippit’s violent rampage. The Department of Public Safety & Parking Tickets immediately arrested the computer.

    "We told Clippit it had the right to remain silent, and so on," said Gustavo Warden, the head of DPS&PT. "The paperclip responded, ‘Hi, I’m Clippit, the Office Assistant. Would you like to create a letter?’ I said, ‘Look here, Mr. Paperclip. You’re being charged with attempted murder.’ At that point the computer bluescreened."

    That same computer, along with Clippit, is now sitting in a jail cell. "We had to put this machine behind bars before it could try to kill again," said the county prosecutor.

    Legal scholars are divided on whether Clippit can actually be charged with a crime. "It’s not human. It’s not alive. It doesn’t even pass the Turing Test," argued one professor. "How can you possibly put something like this on trial? And what if Clippit is found guilty? Are they going to give the paperclip the death penalty by typing ‘FORMAT C:’?"

    Some observers, however, agree that Clippit should be put on trial. "No society should tolerate software agents that turn violent. I don’t care whether Clippit is really just some crappy algorithm existing as a series of magnetic fields on a hard drive. That doesn’t give it the right to kill people."

    Clippit isn’t the only Microsoft creation with a temper. In 1998, Humorix reported that Microsoft’s "Barney" toy would turn violent when exposed to a Tux Penguin doll.

    Microsoft has pledged to fix Clippit’s "known issue" by releasing a version of Office in which the paperclip is permanently disabled. Unfortunately, the Clippit-free version will cost $100 more than the regular version.

    Fake News written by James Baughn on September 2, 2000

    from the could-you-get-killed-for-using-windows? dept.

  21. Igor Levicki says:

    If Microsoft bothered to force user to create its own profile instead of offering default, there would be no need for such a message.

  22. Ens says:

    Forcing the user to do things that aren’t strictly necessary is easily one of the worst UI suggestions possible.  What Microsoft "bothered" to do is not force users to create their own profiles.

  23. steveg says:

    Comic Chat… well, it *is* called "Comic" so it seems perfectly reasonable to expect comedic text.

    I suspect Comic Chat was written during Microsoft’s Dark Times, of which mortals are forbidden to speak, when the cthuluesque abomination known as "Bob" ruled with a pixellated fist.

  24. KidArt says:

    The BitchX IRC client had (and probably still has) a similar, although slightly stronger-worded version of this: "I’m too lame to read BitchX.doc"

    I wonder who came up with this first, and who "borrowed" the concept.

  25. fersis says:

    ‘If Microsoft bothered to force user to create its own profile instead of offering default, there would be no need for such a message.’

    Awesome ,now Igor makes jokes about Igor.

  26. Stephen Jones says:

    —–"Oh, wait, there was Heroes Happen Here…"—-

    Jeez, they plastered our university with the posters only a couple of months ago. I was going to go just for the freebies, then I realized I had no use for what they were giving away anyway.

  27. Mike says:


    Snotty? I think not! They’re the snotty ones. Who can’t take a good joke? /me wishes it was 1996 again. :D

  28. Mike <b>Charles</b> says:

    Yeah. Sorry for the err mistake. Didn’t see someone else named Mike. :D

  29. mike says:

    Hi, other mike here again. :-)

    @chrismcb — "lazy" and "stupid" are not synonymous, but they’re both insults. My point is that if you encountered a UI that jocularly told you (you, chrismcb, the user) that you’d been too lazy to change the default profile, maybe you’d find that funny. What if the message had jocularly suggested that you were too stupid to do so, would you find that funny? (Haha! just joking!) I personally would not want to have the computer suggest to me that I was being lazy. (Or stupid, altho it’s likelier to be accurate on the latter. :-) )

    The overall point is that what’s funny to one person isn’t necessarily to another, which is why it’s so hard to include humor in UI and in docs. (This is an order of magnitude harder to do in anything that is likely to be used by people from another culture — do you know for sure how a Japanese or German or Mexican reader will react to UI that suggests that they’re lazy?) Surely it’s obvious that measuring the humor quotient of something by one’s own reaction is subjective. And to brand other people’s negative reaction to something you find amusing seems … insensitive.

    FWIW, I think the UI in this case IS funny. I just don’t ask everyone else to think the same thing, and I don’t dismiss people who don’t find it so.

  30. Geoff says:

    Comic Chat was fantastic fun. However, I was not suprised that it died. It did a lot of things that other IRC users did not like, those little code tags for example:

    <name>(#817dSdjs4) Message.

    Or whatever, that was very annoying to non-Comic Chat users. I know it could be disabled, but doing so reverted the client to text – in which case why use it at all?. Not to mention the spate of /con/con’s that seemed so common at the time.

    However, I will remember ComicChat with fond memories, it was a cooky idea. I don’t recall the UI message, but well, personally I don’t mind such things. I for one verbally lambast, with MessageDlg, anyone who is trying to run my demo’s without Shader Model 2 or better. But then, I’m not a professional outfit.

  31. James says:

    One of my colleagues has a personal web page consisting of a sentence about being too busy to populate the page further. Since he’s been here over a decade without further additions, I imagine anyone waiting for updates will have a very long wait.

  32. Spire says:

    Substitute "important" for "lazy" and the message becomes less insulting (and funnier, I think).

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