When did Car Talk start on NPR

Microsoft Comic Chat - Microsoft Comic Chat

Microsoft Comic Chat (later Microsoft Chat but not to be confused with Windows Chat or WinChat) is a graphical IRC client created by Microsoft and first published in 1996 with Internet Explorer 3.0. Comic Chat was developed by Microsoft researcher David Kurlander with Microsoft Research's Virtual Worlds Group and later a group he led in Microsoft's Internet division.


The main feature of Comic Chat that sets it apart from other IRC clients is that comic avatars can represent a user. That character could express a certain emotion and potentially make IRC chatting a more emotional and expressive experience. All comic characters and backgrounds were originally created by comic book artist Jim Woodring. Tools later became available that enabled user-created characters and backgrounds.

Comic Chat started out as a research project, and an article was published on SIGGRAPH '96 describing the technology. It was an experiment in the automatic construction and layout of illustrations. The algorithms used in Comic Chat attempted to mimic some of the basic illustration techniques used by comic book artists (particularly Jim Woodring). The placement of the characters, the selection of gestures and expressions, and the construction and layout of the word balloons were selected automatically. A widget called "Emotion Wheel" allowed users to override the program's choice of expression.

Although Comic Chat can also be used in text-based chat rooms, a code has been added to the beginning of each message to communicate the character's expression to other chat clients. This had a somewhat annoying effect on non-comic chat users (although it could be turned off).

Comic Chat was released with the full downloads of Internet Explorer 3, 4, and 5, and in the Windows 98 and Windows 2000 distributions. It also became MSN's official chat client. It has been localized into 24 different languages. Although the program is still downloadable and works with most IRC servers, it is rarely used today as MSN decided to get out of the chat business and shut down its servers.

In December 1996, the Microsoft network introduced a show-based format in which high-quality multimedia content on various topics was produced. MSN's MotorWeb is based on an automotive theme. MSN partnered with NPR's CarTalk, and each day featured a new online Car Talk caller from the popular NPR radio duo "Click and Clack" (Ray Magliozzi).

The so-called "Chat Show", created and produced by Mike Klozar at MSN, was an innovative combination of on-demand streaming audio, text (as comic bubbles) and comic characters, all of which were dubbed to View an animated comic book created dynamically from text input. An example of the show can be found on David Kurlander's project page under [MSN CarTalk Comic Chat Show].

Each episode featured a caller (as a standard black and white character) and color caricatures of Tom & Ray interacting in a unique closed visual chat. The graphics were generated dynamically by the Comic Chat client (which is already on the PC), with a timed text transcript of the show being created. This allowed an online comic to draw the exact timing with the audio / dialogue streamed over Real Audio (14.4 modems were the norm at the time). The show lasted a year. MSN moved away from the "show" format the following year and CarTalk signed a deal with Cars.com. The online chat show ended at this point.

Microsoft Comic Chat has installed a custom font, Comic Sans MS, that users can use in other applications and documents. In 1996 it was bundled with several other fonts in Microsoft's Core Fonts for the Web project and subsequent versions of Microsoft Windows, which led to its notoriety among the Digerati.

It was in Renamed Microsoft Chat 2.0 and bundled together with the then new Outlook Express with Internet Explorer at the end of the 90s. Version 2.5 that came with Internet Explorer 5 was the last update.

Microsoft Comic Chat was removed with Internet Explorer 6.

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