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Bug Microsoft Windows

Steve Ballmer Authored the Windows 3.1 Ctrl-Alt-Del Screen 169

Posted by timothy
from the and-he-approved-this-message dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes According to Microsoft developer Raymond Chen, Steve Ballmer didn't like the original text that accompanied the Ctrl-Alt-Del screen in Windows 3.1, so he wrote up a new version. If you used Windows at any point in the past two decades, you can thank him for that infuriatingly passive 'This Windows application has stopped responding to the system' message, accompanied by the offer to hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete again to restart the PC (and lose all your unsaved data). Update: 09/09 15:30 GMT by S : Changed headline and summary to reflect that Ballmer authored the Ctrl-Alt-Del screen, not the BSoD, as originally stated.
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Steve Ballmer Authored the Windows 3.1 Ctrl-Alt-Del Screen

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  • by Nimey (114278) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:11PM (#47828385) Homepage Journal

    This story belongs in idle.

    • by sexconker (1179573) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:12PM (#47828405)

      Seriously. There's nothing to discuss.
      Ballmer wrote the message. So what?

      • by Killer Instinct (851436) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:21PM (#47828495) Journal
        Its a "advert" to drive hits to DICE.COM :/
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Since Ballmer wrote the message, and the message was quite good, Ballmer is a developer.........

        From TFA

        "Okay, Steve. If you think you can do a better job, then go for it." Unlike some other executive, Steve took up the challenge, and a few days later, he emailed what he thought the Ctrl+Alt+Del screen should say.

        The text he came up with was actually quite good, and it went into the product pretty much word for word.

      • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:30PM (#47828603)

        Seriously. There's nothing to discuss.
        Ballmer wrote the message. So what?

        Bet you wouldn't say that if Bennet had posted this story. But the again it would have been a philosophical piece about how while he likes the color blue, its not his favorite color blue, and how he wished that all error display screens should be *his* favorite blue color, and how dare the manufacturers of all the different OS's not consult him and get *his* opinion on what makes for a really nice blue color, even though each of those OS manufactures have their own ideas as to how things should be done and they have most likely done their own research into colors, but anyway that should all be scrapped and re-implemented Bennett's way (at their own expense of course) and while their at it could they also make it so every program works exactly the same on every different combination of computer and OS as it's a major hassle having to learn how to do things differently whenever you site down at an unfamiliar computer, but then again why should computers be unfamiliar in the first place, maybe it would be better if they all had a dedicated "Bennet" login so that he would just be able to sit down at any computer and just use it the way he wanted to, in fact what would be even better if all that research into melding telepathy and machines was finally completed so that he wouldn't even have to sit down at a computer as it would simply recognize him from a distance and would then fire up its 3D holographic welcome display (which BTW is fully detailed 3D model of Bennett himself - on a pedestal) so that he can instantly get down to his .. Oh look! Squirrel!!

        • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:52PM (#47828865)

          Bet you wouldn't say that if Bennet had posted this story. But the again it would have been a philosophical piece about how while he likes the color blue, its not his favorite color blue, and how he wished that all error display screens should be *his* favorite blue color...

          Awesome. Thanks for that. It almost makes having to suffer through Bennet's use of slashdot as his personal blog worth it, just to see it satirized like this. :)

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          LOL ... that's it ... Bennet is essentially Gilderoy Lockhart!!

          You, sir, are brilliant!

        • Excellent sir, although you still haven't beaten Jonathan Coe.

        • Or the Jeff Cogswell analysis about how Windows 3.1 is better than Windows 3.0 for Web Scale Big Data because its BSOD is "more performant" than Windows 3.0's GPF.
      • by the_B0fh (208483) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:31PM (#47828609) Homepage

        Oh, how I wish I have mod points right now. The article itself and this article are both worthless.

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          Even as a long term Linux user who hasn't done much windows related since XP SP2 was news, I do still read and actually enjoy Raymond Chen's blog, and even bought his book.

          The dice article is pretty pointless though as it just mirrors Raymond Chen's post.

          • Agreed on Chen's blog, but the summary is horrible. This message hasn't been part of Windows since Windows 95 (which introduced preemptive multitasking to the Windows world, so a single application could no longer freeze the system trivially), so the odds are that if you used Windows in the last two decades you've never seen this notice...
      • by mobby_6kl (668092)

        It's a minor piece of trivia that was certainly not worth posting on slashdot in lieu of another Raymond post, but it's something I would've enjoyed reading when going through his blog. Check it out, there's tons of interesting technical and historical information there.

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          Agree.

          Even as a long time Linux user, I still enjoy his blog (and even bought a copy of his book). It's interesting, easily digestible, and well presented tidbits from someone who actually works with the stuff.

          Probably doesn't belong on slashdot any more than his other posts though as you said, however I would have been ok with it if they'd linked directly to his post rather than linking to the dice article which is pretty much just a mirror of it.

      • by TWX (665546)

        Ballmer wrote the message. So what?

        So now we know who to send the counseling bills to...

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Considering the way the old BSOD messages were handled in 3.x? The current implementation that he built was useful, exceptionally useful at that. Not only did you get a main dump, but it also partially dumped directly to the screen and let you troubleshoot cleanly from that.

  • Amiga (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pheran (104478) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:12PM (#47828391) Homepage

    Nothing will ever top "Guru Meditation" :)

    • Re:Amiga (Score:5, Insightful)

      by marcello_dl (667940) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:16PM (#47828447) Homepage Journal

      If a system can display an error message, it is not messed up enough.

      • Re:Amiga (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gargleblast (683147) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @07:12PM (#47831189)

        If a system can display an error message, it is not messed up enough.

        Yeah. A really good Amiga crash would randomly poke the graphics and sound chips and the machine would look and sound as if it were about to explode.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Tablizer (95088)

        If a system can display an error message, it is not messed up enough.

        There is an in-between. I once saw the error message:

        ERROR: There is not enough memory to display the error m

    • This error message appears at /. as well. :)

    • by RKThoadan (89437)

      That's good if you want to really weird people out. I prefer the pure panic-inducing power of lp0 on Fire!

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Oh, I don't know ... Slashdot's "varnish cache server" is up there. :-P

    • Guru Meditation (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The term "Guru Meditation Error" originated as an in-house joke in Amiga's early days. The company had a product called the Joyboard, a game controller much like a joystick but operated by one's feet, similar to the modern-day Wii Balance Board. Early in the development of the Amiga computer operating system, the company's developers became so frustrated with the system's frequent crashes that, as a relaxation technique, a game developed where a person would sit cross-legged on the joyboard, resembling an I

  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:18PM (#47828467)
    I prefer the Windows 3.1 BSoD [deviantart.net]
    • by gnupun (752725)
      Ballmer's version is short and clear. I hate dialog boxes with long messages followed by "Yes/No" buttons.
    • I prefer the Windows 3.1 BSoD [deviantart.net]

      Well, that's interesting, because TFA [msdn.com] precisely talks about Ballmer designing the Windows 3.1 BSOD. The BSOD in the article looks different than your screenshot.

      Most likely there are multiple BSODs in Windows 3.1, and Ballmer designed one of them.

  • I miss the BSOD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:20PM (#47828489) Homepage

    I'd rather get some cryptic information about stop codes or an error message than a condescending sad face accompanied by a reboot request. At least I can look up the code and get a ballpark idea what the issue is without firing up windbg.

    • yeah at least it's something.

      something is better than nothing.

      not much better, but ...

    • by Kittenman (971447)

      I'd rather get some cryptic information about stop codes or an error message than a condescending sad face accompanied by a reboot request. At least I can look up the code and get a ballpark idea what the issue is without firing up windbg.

      I like 'An unexpected error occurred..."

      We need more expected errors. These unexpected ones are clouding the issue...

  • Windows 8 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:24PM (#47828533)
    Well, at least it doesn't have a childish sad-face imoticon like the Windows 8 version.
    • by Megol (3135005)

      How the frog do you trigger a BSOD in Windows 8? Seriously, I've had driver failures but those triggered restart of the driver and no BSOD...

      • People are resourceful.

      • by bobbied (2522392) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:49PM (#47828833)
        And here I thought Metro was the BSOD... Silly me..
      • Re:Windows 8 (Score:5, Informative)

        by just_another_sean (919159) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @02:00PM (#47828951) Homepage Journal

        How the frog do you trigger a BSOD in Windows 8?

        Apparently by installing updates [slashdot.org].

      • Had some instability due to a too weak PSU when I rebuilt my Win8 system last winter. I was getting BSoD or worse - total unannounced shutdown - with annoying frequency. (Turns out the GTX 660 really did need that 1000 watt PSU I was too cheap to get at first.) Thankfully, no lasting damage, because the BSoD and system shutdowns worked as intended and protected the rest of the hardware.

        It's very stable now. I think I've had to reboot the system once in the last month.
        • by reikae (80981)

          What's the rest of your hardware like? GTX 660 doesn't need anywhere close to 1 kW, I'm doing fine with a 450 W PSU (also powering an i5-2500 CPU and one hard drive). Seems more likely that your previous PSU was just a very low quality one.

          Greetings from the someone-might-be-wrong-on-the-internet dept. :-)

      • by snookiex (1814614)

        A friend of mine told me recently that he got one by putting his laptop on hibernation while the peripherals were still connected. He disconnected them while in hibernation, and then woke the system up again.

  • You'd think he'd have someone to do that for him!

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:28PM (#47828569) Homepage Journal

    +++OUT OF CHEESE ERROR+++

  • 'RESTART! RESTART! RESTART!' would have been a lot better. Clear instructions are useful. Screenfulls of BS just confuse people. All they can do is restart anyway.

    • Screenfulls of BS just confuse people.

      It's not just BS to everyone though. And even without understanding what it was telling me by googling the stop codes I've been able to fix things based on good search results, especially for very common problems like driver errors. As another poster mentioned it's sometimes possible and a hundred times easier to search for a stop code and get a fix for a problem than it is to fire up WinDBG.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:34PM (#47828639) Journal
    Hung processes and the accompanying error messages are always iffy. Is it any worse than "core dumping" or "kernel mode panic"? What irritated most people was how often applications crashed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:35PM (#47828653)

    Applying critical patch 42 of 13,699,364...

  • I knew it I knew it I knew it!

  • Hexidecimal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tekrat (242117) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:38PM (#47828681) Homepage Journal

    Did he also decide to produce the Hex output that is entirely useless and without merit? I understand that's for debugging purposes, but who decided that was a good idea to leave in for a consumer-level OS? Seriously.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      You know, these are the same people who have put the meaningless error messages like "something bad happened, if this problem persists contact your administrator".

      Gee, thanks, it's my fscking machine, I'm the admin ... how about you tell me something meaningful about the issue so I can try to find it?

      Microsoft seems to be eternally stuck between dumbing something down so far as to make debugging impossible, and spitting out gibberish messages that you need a wizard level guru to decipher.

      And, more on topic

      • Actually, the message in that OS version is fairly acceptable for its purpose and context. It identifies the nature of the problem using understandable words, offers a course of action for recovering from it, and explains the potential outcomes of following it. That's pretty much what the user needs to know.

        If you want to debug it you should use the logs anyway, so the message for the end user is better written in plain English.

    • by Ardyvee (2447206)

      Why is it not a good idea to leave it there?

    • by _xeno_ (155264)

      Did he also decide to produce the Hex output that is entirely useless and without merit?

      If you read the blog entry, this is talking about Windows 3.1's BSOD. A screen I honestly did not know existed, although Windows 3.1 is so old that I'd have been a kid, so maybe it popped up all the time if you used computers daily back then. I have no idea.

      Windows only picked up preemptive multitasking in NT and later 95, so Windows 3.1 was cooperatively multitasked. Apparently if the running program didn't respond to incoming messages quickly enough (presumably a check in an interrupt handler?) a blue scr

    • by nmb3000 (741169)

      Did he also decide to produce the Hex output that is entirely useless and without merit? I understand that's for debugging purposes, but who decided that was a good idea to leave in for a consumer-level OS? Seriously.

      Ah yes. Everyone should have to set up a second machine, connect it to the other via a serial cable (having remembered to enable serial port debugging on the host prior to the crash), and then fire up their kernel debugger just to get the bugcheck code.

      Putting a numeric error code (which usually comes with the symbolic name as well) on a consumer-facing fatal error is absolutely the correct thing to do. Once you've reached the kernel panic failure point there's not much most consumers can do anyway, so pr

    • by dbc (135354)

      ???? Well, I guess you are proud to be an uneducated redneck. Just because it is useless to *you*, doesn't mean it is useless to everybody. To some of us, it is essential that the exception code be easily available. If it doesn't appear on the last screen the machine can put up before coming to a complete halt, where would you suggest it go? To a log file, when the file system might not be working? *sheesh*. Really, I'd like to hear where else you think it could be recorded in a manner that is both 1

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      Did he also decide to produce the Hex output that is entirely useless and without merit? I understand that's for debugging purposes, but who decided that was a good idea to leave in for a consumer-level OS? Seriously.

      How is it a bad idea to present the information in a consumer-level OS? What would be better, not showing information?

    • > the Hex output that is entirely useless

      useless??

      If you don't know how to search for the first error code [google.com] you probably shouldn't be using Windows ...

    • by bloodhawk (813939)

      Did he also decide to produce the Hex output that is entirely useless and without merit? I understand that's for debugging purposes, but who decided that was a good idea to leave in for a consumer-level OS? Seriously.

      WTF? of all the idiotic things they have done, leaving the debug information available in the consumer-level OS was one of the BEST ideas. It gives even the most clueless user a chance to google it, or read the screen to someone that understands it, or in the case of my mother send a photo of it so someone can look up what went wrong.

  • I must be unique then in that I have used Windows for 15 years and I've never seen that particular blue screen before. Had to google it after reading the article, and still can't find any other mention of it. In what version of Windows was it used?

    • I must be unique then in that I have used Windows for 15 years and I've never seen that particular blue screen before. Had to google it after reading the article, and still can't find any other mention of it. In what version of Windows was it used?

      Let me guess, you never used ME (Milennium Edition), huh?

    • by wbo (1172247)
      That particular screen was used in Windows 3.1 which used cooperative multitasking. The message was displayed when an application stopped responding to messages for a period of time (indicating that the application may be hung for some reason and could be preventing other applications from getting any CPU time.

      The screen allows the user to kill the offending application, allowing any other applications to continue to run (that is as long as the hung application hadn't corrupted the contents of RAM in so
      • by Svenne (117693)

        Thank you. The article makes it sound as if it was used in versions after Windows 3.1, and specifically not in 3.1. I was lucky enough to not have a Windows PC in the old 3.1 days, so that would explain it.

      • Windows 3.1 had protected memory, apps attempting to access memory the didn't own accounted for 90% of blue screens. Of those 90% were trying to access 0000:0000.

        Also Windows 3.1 multitasking was more complicated then that. It had preemptive multitasking between DOS shells and Windows. But windows itself used MacOS style (cooperative) multitasking.

        Also note: Windows 3.1 did way too much in kernel mode. So any driver could corrupt memory, but not apps in general.

  • by inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:58PM (#47828929) Homepage

    Personally, I like the message that says "Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer." I wonder who came up with that one.

    • Someone who experienced the registry getting chewed up during an unexpected burp once before.
    • by dfsmith (960400)
      Maybe the engineer was anxiously looking around for flying chairs coming from Balmer's office?
      • by captjc (453680)

        We're sorry, Someone threw a chair and smashed your Windows. Please press CTRL+ALT+DEL to reboot.

  • The BSOD message can't be more infuriating than what Macs say when they reboot after a kernel panic: "You shut down your computer because of a problem." It always makes me want to shout "YOU shut YOURSELF down due to a problem YOU caused!"

  • "Keyboard Not Found"
    "Please press F1 or all your work will be lost."

    • by mjwx (966435)

      "Keyboard Not Found"
      "Please press F1 or all your work will be lost."

      "Keyboard not found"
      "Press F1 to continue"

      Was my favourite error message. I had it constantly on booting my old 286 whether the keyboard was there or not and you would just press F1 to go on.

  • by mendax (114116) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @02:47PM (#47829345)

    I think Windows 8, that perverse boot sector virus, ought to have updated the BSoD to show a video of Steve Ballmer throwing a chair across a room. No doubt he's done that a few times in his office as the BSoD popped up.

  • Ballmer always struck me as a Gump-like character who accumulated wealth and thus influence through no talent of his own. He stumbled into Microsoft with no more to offer the world than a guy off the street who pulls a slot machine arm and wins a billion dollar jackpot. At least Forrest was likable.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Ballmer always struck me as a Gump-like character who accumulated wealth and thus influence through no talent of his own. He stumbled into Microsoft with no more to offer the world than a guy off the street who pulls a slot machine arm and wins a billion dollar jackpot. At least Forrest was likable.

      Yeah, thats exactly what he looks like... and it's more favourable than the truth.

      Balmer is a salesman, its the same impression some used car salesmen like to give. Truth is, if he wasn't a capable salesman he wouldn't have lasted long at Microsoft (which he didn't when things went south).

  • ... Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!
    • by captjc (453680)

      No, this is Steve Ballmer, not a Dalek. It would have been, "FUCKING KILL! FUCKING KILL! FUCKING KILL! "(TM)

      There once was a CEO named Steve,
      Who threw chairs at employees for reprieve,
      He shot lasers from his eyes
      To bury other guys,
      And he'll Fucking Kill you if you don't believe.

  • This would be noteworthy if a chair came flying out of the monitor upon BSOD.

  • UAE's (Unrecoverable Application Errors) were the bane of Windows 3.1. When Windows 3.11 was released, MS proudly announced that UAE's were no more!

    How did they pull off this programming miracle?

    By renaming the error to "General Protection Fault".

    And they vanquished THOSE in Windows 95 by calling it an "Illegal Operation"

    After that, it was just [Program] Has an Error (using various wording, depending on version.

  • Developers.

    It doesn't make sense with the last "Developers" missing.

  • Actually that sentence is in the active voice.
  • offer to hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete to restart the PC (and lose all your unsaved data).

    If you have a BSOD, your unsaved data is already gone. How you move on from there (Ctrl-Alt-Del, or the power switch, pulling the plug, sledgehammer, etc.) is simply a matter of preference.

  • There was a guy who dreamt about being a great poet who could truly touch people's feelings. Unfortunately he lacked talent for coming up with rhyme, analogy, insight and so on.

    But he found employment at Microsoft, where he finally made his dream come true as an error message writer, with classics such as "BSoD", "Press 'OK' to continue. [hongkiat.com]", "Catastrophic Failure.", "Abort, Retry, Fail? [wikipedia.org]" and many others that have touched a nerve on each of us over the years.

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