Information about Relay and how to use it

You are a user at an institution whose mainframe computer(s) is connected to BITNET, EARN (Bitnet in Europe), or a cooperating network. As such, you have the ability to send an interactive message to any other user on those networks. But if you do, that person is the only person to see that message. Think about what it would be like if many people, all over the world, could see your message, and you could see theirs. That's Relay.

Relay is a distributed messaging network, overlaying BITNET/EARN, composed of many linked Relay host sites. Its purpose is to serve as an Academic Conferencing System. The users on Relay may be in many different physical locations, even different countries, but they all appear to be talking as if they were sitting next to each other. When on Relay, you'll be sending interactive messages to RELAY@VTBIT. Other users you meet on Relay will be sending their interactive messages to other Relay servers, but you can all talk to each other because RELAY@VTBIT is "linked" to these other servers.

The Virginia Tech Computing Center provides Relay as a service to the network community. As Virginia Tech is providing the funding, all users at other universities should be aware that use of this Relay is a privilege, not a right. The Master Relay Operater (MasterOp) is an employee of Virginia Tech and enlists other users, either at Virginia Tech or elsewhere, to serve as Relay Operators (RelayOps) who assist in the administration and smooth operation of the Relay.

The MasterOp and his RelayOps reserve the right to make the final decision on appropriate behavior. Many users would claim that the right of free speech allows them to carry on any activities they wish on this relay. Free speech is not the primary principle that runs this relay; low cost is. Any activity that is deemed to be wasting resources of this university may be terminated. Any users that disagree with the policies of the Virginia Tech Relay (known as Va_Tech) are welcome to apply to the Relay Master Coordinator for their own copy of Relay, and to set up a node that they can fund on their own university's machine. Please note that decisions made by the Va_Tech operators are subjective, and may or may not represent official university policies.

Relay works on the idea of channels. You may talk directly to the users on your channel, or use Relay commands to talk to others and to perform specific tasks. The "/" is the command prefix for Relay. Any message beginning with it is interpreted as a command. All other messages are relayed to every other user on your channel.


Here's how you'd send a message from you to everyone on the channel:

From VM/CMS Systems: TELL RELAY AT VTBIT Hi there!
From VAX/VMS Systems: SEND RELAY@VTBIT Hi there!
return ,
and type messages at the prompt.

Here's how you'd send a command to Relay. As an example, here's the HELP command. This command will provide a listing of all Relay commands:

From VM/CMS Systems: TELL RELAY AT VTBIT /help
From VAX/VMS systems: SEND RELAY@VTBIT /help
return , and type /help at the prompt.

Please note that you cannot send messages to Relay by E-Mail, Telnet, FTP, or IRC. Relay is a service that is only accessible to BITNET/EARN interactive users, and at the present time has no Internet access.

To use Relay, you must first 'sign on', which adds you to the list of users currently using Relay (see below for more information on how to sign on). Ordinarily, when you sign on, you are placed on channel number 1. You can, at any time, change to another channel (see example below). Channels are always a number, and the following channel divisions are supported as of Relay version 2.06b:

Channel 1 is the default, public channel.

Channels 0 through 99 are public channels.

Channels between 100 and 999 are private channels; the channel number does not appear on the user list (it is shown as '??'), but anyone has the capability of joining an occupied channel in that range with the /channel command.

Channels between 1000 and 999999999 are private channels as well; the channel number does not appear on the user list (it is shown as '??'), and no user is permitted to join an occupied channel in that range without being invited by someone on that channel with the /invite command.

Channels less than zero (negative channels) are 'super-private'; users on a negative channel do not appear on the user list at all.

Channels -1 to -999 can be joined by any user with the /channel command.

Channels between -1000 to -999999999 are 'super-private' as well; no user is permitted to join an occupied channel in that range without being invited by someone on that channel with the /invite command.

/Signon [nickname] [channel],[options]

In order to start using Relay, you must use the /signon command. The parameter is used to give yourself a name which will be used to prefix all of your messages. If you omit the nickname, Relay will use your user ID. However, once you've chosen a nickname and used it in the /signon command, Relay will remember the nickname and auto- matically assign it to you even if you do not specify a nickname the next time you issue you the /signon command to join Relay. Then when you're signed on, Relay will put your nickname in front of everything you say so people know who's talking.

Example: If the nickname you've chosen is Superman, and you do:

TELL RELAY AT VTBIT Hello, everyone.

Then everyone on your channel sees: Hello, everyone.

If you wish to signon to a specific channel, you can give the channel number following the nickname; if you omit it, you will be placed on channel 1.

For the benefit of users on special terminals, such as Japanese Katakana terminals with no lowercase characters, you can signon with SHIFT as an option field (/signon myname,shift). Relay will then translate messages to uppercase before sending to you.

For users on terminals with uppercase only but who want their messages to appear to everyone else in lowercase, you can use the 'UNSHIFT' option. This will translate your messages to lowercase.

Examples: /signon LoisLane 10
/signon Superman 10,unshift

/Signoff (also /Bye)

This command is used to leave Relay.


The /who command will list all users on all channels, showing their channel number (if not private), nickname, real user ID and node name, and the name of the Relay they are using. To list only users on a single channel, use '/who ' (e.g. /who 25). To list only users on your channel use the command '/who *' (you must be signed on to use this form).


The same as the /who command, but /names returns slightly different information, including the users' /register (real) names.

/Whois or /Whois

The /whois command will show you the real user ID and node of the user with the given nickname. It will also show you the user's /register name. Often in conversation users will exchange mail or files with each other, and the /whois command lets you quickly find out their user ID and node.

Example: /whois LoisLane

If you already know the user's user ID and node, you can use the /whois command to find out which nickname they are currently using by using the /whois command.

Example: /whois stu123@statevm


The /list command displays the currently active positive channels and how many users are on each channel. To list only those channels with defined /topics, the command is: /TList.


The /links command displays all currently active relays and the configuration in which they are linked to each other.


The /help command will display an abbreviated list of commands for quick reference, one line per command showing the syntax and meaning of each.


The /info command sends you this file. If your host relay does not send the file (it may not be on its disk) you can request /info from another relay.


The /channel command is used to change to another channel.

Example: /channel 25


The /msg command sends a private message to only the user you specify by nickname. You can send private messages to anyone signed on regardless of which channel they're on. Private messages appear with asterisks around the sending user's nickname.

Example: Superman does: /msg LoisLane Do you know who I am? LoisLane sees: <*Superman*> Do you know who I am?


The /ignore command allows you to screen out private messages from someone who may be bothering or harassing you. If you use it, the user you /ignore will no longer be able to send to you via Relay.

Example: /ignore LexLuthor


The /Nick command is used to change your nickname, useful for correcting typing errors or schizophrenic personalities. Note: If you fail to specify a nickname the next time you /signon, Relay will automatically assign you the nickname you used on your last /signon, regardless of whether you later changed it with /nick.

/Summon [userid]@[node]

The /Summon command causes an invitation to be sent to the user you've specified, who is not currently on Relay, asking them to join Relay on your channel. Note for VM users: the '@' is sometimes a character delete symbol; in regular CMS you may have to type 'userid"@node' to really get the '@' character.

Example: /summon stu123@statevm


The /invite command causes a private message to be sent to the specified nickname inviting them to join you on your channel. This is a quick way to summon a user who is already signed on, but on a different channel. If you are on a channel below -999 or above 999, the only way another user will be permitted to join your channel is if you use the /invite command to allow them entrance.


The /stats command displays basic statistics concerning your session on Relay. Specifically, it shows you the Relay you're using and its version number, your nickname, /register name, channel you're currently on, and the /topic set on the channel.

Note: The above list of commands is not all-inclusive. The /help command will return a list of all available commands.