To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

STEVE BALLMER wrote the dreaded blue screen of death

Steve Ballmer

Former Microsoft boss personally penned the BSoD for Windows 3.1

Windows freezes, you throw your arms up in the air, hurl some abuse at it and slam a three-fingered Ctrl+Alt+Del salute at it. And there it is – the blue screen of death. The man responsible for writing it? None other than Steve Ballmer.

The use of Ctrl+Alt+Del to kick Windows up the arse when it stopped working was the bane of computer users from Windows 3.1 through to Windows NT. Now Microsoft has revealed the words that flashed up on your screen when all seemed lost were penned by Steve Ballmer.

At the time Ballmer was working as head of the Systems Division and according to Microsoft “paid a visit to the Windows team” to see what they were working on. He was shown the Ctrl+Alt+Del feature.

“This is nice, but I don’t like the text of the message. It doesn’t sound right to me,” he apparently said. At which, the engineers challenged Ballmer to do better. A few days later an email arrived with what he thought the Crtl+Alt+Del screen should say.

Blue screen of death

The text he came up with was used pretty much word for word in the final product. Pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del became an all too regular physical tick for most Windows 3.1 users as the operating system had a nasty habit of throwing its toys out the pram.

Ballmer’s words, now almost poetic, explained that an application had “stopped responding to the system”. His advice was to return to Windows, close the application (losing any unsaved work) or restart your computer. The very sight of such a screen is enough to send most people into an immediate rage-filled panic. Thanks Steve.

Read more