Now it can be told! The origins of the BSOD!

It’s the late ‘90s and something’s wrong. You can’t put your finger on it, but you know, deep down, it’s just not working anymore. Instant Messenger isn’t loading or Napster just crashed. Your computer hangs there, motionless. There might be a guttural ‘thunk’ from your hard drive or, even more terrifying, nothing at all. Then, with no sense of decorum, it arrives: the single horseman of the PC apocalypse, the Blue Screen of Death. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL again to restart your computer. You will lose any unsaved information in all applications. Press any key to continue.

The Blue Screen of Death first appeared in the very early 1990s as a feature of the Windows 3.0 operating system. This error message, which locks users out of the system, is typically summoned by driver glitches or when the software and hardware have trouble communicating. It’s your PC’s way of saying, “Look, I know you can’t see it, but I’m really having a bad time here”—just before a shutdown. If you’ve ever met Blue, you probably hate it. You lost that big paper in college, your music collection went out the window, or maybe something even worse. You sat there, by the dim light of your rebooting system, cursing your luck and the color blue all in one breath. 1

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  1. I don not care how swell the writing in The Atlantic is, I don’t feel sorry for either Microsoft or the Blue Screen of Death. Fuck ’em, fuck ’em bith, that’s what I say.

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