Whether Microsoft likes it or not, Windows’ Blue Screen of Death error is iconic — it’s the universal sign that something really bad has happened to your software. But who wrote the original message that would grace the screens of sick PCs worldwide? None other than Steve Ballmer, according to company veteran Raymond Chen. The executive reportedly didn’t like the warning text that engineers first wrote, and took up a challenge to write better material himself. As it turns out, Ballmer did a good enough job that his version made it into the shipping product “pretty much word for word.”
The Blue Screen of Death. Nearly every Windows user knows what it is, but few know who was responsible for it. According to a blog post on MSDN, it was Steve Ballmer who wrote the screen’s message, doing so after he saw the original version and decided he didn’t like it. The introduction of Ctrl+Alt+Delete gave Windows users the ability to see what application was fubaring the system, and to take some action based upon it, such as shutting down the application or restarting the entire computer. When this feature was in the works, Steve Ballmer was leading the Systems Divisions, and, according to the MSDN post author, he gave the Windows team a visit one day to see what was being worked on. The feature was shown to him, and Ballmer reportedly said he didn’t like the text. “It doesn’t sound right to me,” he’d said. Some unnamed individual challenged Ballmer to come up with a better alternative, which he did, and the result was the text you see in the image above (“pretty much word for word,” says the author).