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Yes, Steve Ballmer wrote the text for the old Blue Screen of Death

Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer (Image credit: Windows Central)

A long time Microsoft employee and developer, Raymond Chen, has named the company's former CEO Steve Ballmer as the man responsible for writing the text that is seen in the tragically familiar "Blue Screen of Death" that was seen in old school versions of Windows.

In a post on his personal blog this week, Chen wrote that over 20 years ago, way back in the days of Windows 3.1, Ballmer was head of Microsoft's Systems Division,and one day he made a visit to the Windows team. Chen wrote:

"When they showed him the Ctrl+Alt+Del feature, he nodded thoughtfully and added, 'This is nice, but I don't like the text of the message. It doesn't sound right to me.' '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.

blue screen of death

Since then the screen has evolved until you get a blue frown image if something bad happens in Windows 8. However, it's always cool to learn that one of the top business executives at Microsoft could come up with something that would be incorporated in such a direct way inside of Windows. What do you think of this tidbit of nostalgia?

Source The New Old Thing (opens in new tab) via The Verge

76 Comments
  • I loved Steve as a CEO. No one is infallible and they all make mistakes but his passion for Microsoft was unmatched. MS was much more than a paycheck to him.
  • Agreed. You don't see that attribute much in corporate America now a days.
  • Basketball team is less than microsoft for him.
  • Yup, sucks to see him gone now that all his preparation for a unified Windows is about to take shape and (hopefully) pay off.
  • Nice words, 100% agree.
  • Kudos to all of these comments. Overall Steve Ballmer was good for Microsoft. Certainly, he made mistakes along the way; we all do.

    However, Mr. Ballmer's dedication and enthusiasm for the company was readily apparent.

    Likewise for focus on customers, partners, and developers across the spectrum - enterprise, academic, home, and especially SMB.
    (Windows Small Business Server and Server Essentials for example were long-term pet projects made affordable to small-medium-business.
  • Not just mistakes, but laughed at things that he made later. Like the iPhone, he laughed at, claiming he has better marketshare, and it's better. Now look, the iPhone changed the game! Same with the MacBook Air. Ballmer dissed it, mocking the lack of optical drive. Like I said for the iPhone, now look! Ultrabooks are pretty much all the new PCs (except desktops of course). He made pretty stupid claims, you have to admit.
  • Steve Jobs also said no one wanted an oversized iPod/iPhone... PC Magazine had an entire article proclaiming the iPhone would fail when it got announced. So i don't blame Steve for that opinion that many shared at the time.
  • Even today I have no idea how the iphone was a success. Same for the ipad and I think that I'll die without comprehend it.
  • Don't you use a smartphone? That's why. And look at all these tablets on the market. Tablets before were crap, ugly and horrible "tablet" PCs. Apple changed the game. You should realize by now that Apple has revolutionized many things, even if it was already invented.
  • Agreed 100%, people around here need to stop being so biased and realize Apple has been revolutionary. Without the iPad or iPhone, that fancy Surface and Windows Phone of yours wouldn't exist as you know them.
  • If there's no competitions, there's no amazing products.
  • If apple hadn't somebody else would have come up with that. You have something, similar things, you get bored, you come up with something new and fresh, you trend and rise to the top and then you fall and someone else rises.... That's the standard procedure.
  • Several companies were working on touchscreen candybar devices before the iPhone came out and in the rest of the world we'd been using touchscreen and tablets for a while. They were also getting better. What Apple did was to redesign an OS so that even a monkey could use it and released it in the USA where previsously the most advanced phone was a Motorola flip phone. I remember watching TV programs and films seeing the 80's style tech that Americans had as their phones while I was using a Sony Walkman W800 (remember Sony Walkman phones? they were great) The iPhone was the first decent phone launched in the USA and they flew out the door. Incidentally, the iPhone came out of designs for the iPad so Steve was just throwing people off the scent at that point - the iPad was actually the product they wanted to make. Apple don't revolutionise anything. Ever. They take existing products, make them shiny and really easy to use so you don't have to think then charge higher than average prices for them so that people think they're aspirational.  It's really very clever and, as a Windows Phone and Surface owner, hilarious to watch.
  • I'm using smartphones since WM6 and it was a long time for me to replace the HTC Touch Pro (if I remember the name correctly). The problem with IOS for me back then was the lack of physical keyboard (I carry one BB and Lumia 920 as today) but I don't feel that it matters today. Also I feel like in Fallout 3 using IOS for the retro feeling I get from the layout/design. My position about tablets is: if they aren't able to run x86/x86-64 software then they are only good for fun, the problem is that I don't play mobile video games and I can't watch videos for more than a few minutes (I'm a PC gamer/Console gamer BTW). if I'm in a situation in which I have time to spare I use the phone to read. I still find hard to understand their success and around here the iphone and the ipad is about the status you get from it; It is like having a luxury car and since I live in México I can tell you that a lot of people with iphones doesn't have a decent data package and only use it when they are in wifi. I think that we are seeing the phenomena from a different point of view.
  • The iPhone thing is way overblown. Ballmer laughed at the price of the iPhone, and indeed it wasn't a hit until apple brought the price down. MS had also designed an all in one smartphone, similar to modern smartphones, back in the 90's, but dropped it due to how expensive it was. Steve Jobs laughed at the idea of a mini tablet, then made one. Apple also said they didn't need things like NFC and larger screens. The point is, Ballmer was a great CEO that brought in record profits, but he made some mistakes, just as any other great CEO did.
  • Someone gets it. Bravo.
  • Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,
  • I don't think that's the blue screen of death though.. It's the "CTRL+ALT+DEL" dialogue...
  • +830
  • Yeah I think you're right
  • Exactly.
  • Correct. Blue Screen started with:
    A problem has occured ... ended with a system dump ... and Computer was really dead.
    Once I had I nice tool to change the color ;-)
  • Purple screen of death!
  • Last color I used was a nice, not to bright green - long ago ...
  • That was the Blue screen in 3.1.
  • So you're saying the Author of the Article on MSDN Blogs is a liar? :P Edit: Correction Your to You're, cheers Zuka_WPC.
  • Not a liar, just mistaken. That is most definitely not the BSoD.
  • Well that is your perception, what most know as a bsod is this: http://hackspc.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/blue-screen-of-death.jpg
  • That's not my "perception", it's fact. The image you posted supports my statement. BSoD (short for "Blue Screen of Death") is the screenshot you just posted. The blue screen described in the article is NOT a BSoD.
  • Well take your complaint up with Tom Warren :P.
  • Winows XP BSOD is what you're thinking of, this was from Windows 3.1 and is a precursor to the BSOD but could correctly be called the BSOD from 3.1. Clear?
  • You're*
  • on the msdn blog... there is nobody calling it "blue screen of death" because this wasn't...
    this, what it's talked about it's about when you pressed ctrl+alt+delete, which is not not the same as bsod caused by some error in the system/hardware which restarts your system and blabla.
    this one was only for programs, and only when you pressed ctrl+alt+del.
    it's like today when you bring task manager to close an application. that's why it says "the windows application has stopped responding to the system". and not an error like the bsod you posted in your next comment.
  • Well having now read the msdn source, your right and I hold my hand up lol. I admit I didn't read the source article (normally I do). just saw the image. Was in the process of reading it but the family cat was being a pest and wanted to sleep in my room. If didn't get her out she would started chewing ac cables lol so I lost track >.<. She is at it again, scratching my room door hence why I'm responding at 5:44 am in the morning... normally she does this when she wants food or attention, right now it is the latter. I guess some one left the door open or she figured out how to open the door via the handle. (she can open doors even if they are slightly ajar with her claws.. which is eerie especially when it is completely dark lol)
  • It's click bait.....the title
    The message is Inspirational
  • Correct: that is from Windows 3 days and it is about a not responding app, an app that is not releasing control to the OS, and clicking Enter will terminate it. The text we were getting with the BSOD was, mostly, the content of the dump file.
  • So I'm not the only that recognized this as wrong.
  • Yup. Steve was awesome! This new CEO [Satya Nutella] is a nutjob! He should be sacked!
  • How can we say he is awesome, when it has come out that he invented the blue screen of death?!? Think of all the heartache that would have been saved if he never had done that? I knew it was his fault...
  • Well either BSOD or crash, take your pick lol
  • your comment would work if this was a blue screen of death... which in this case it's not. it's just blue but it doesn't mean it's what you think it is, since as you see, this was only done for applications, and you have to press ctrl+alt+del (like the article says).
    and he didn't invent this... he just fixed the text because he didn't like it. as you see by the title of the article it says "Who wrote the text for the Ctrl+Alt+Del dialog in Windows 3.1?" is that bsod? no... bsod it's a system error, it wasn't unrecoverable and it would restart your computer, caused by hardware or software or driver error. did you even read it? did you see it says you can close the app, or restart your computer or cancel the dialog to go back to windows? did you see that? I bet you didn't, but this is surely not a bsod, and again, Ballmer (if you read the article you would have understood it) he just fixed the text from the feature that was shown to him as a head of System division.
  • I love both nadella and nutella.
  • Satay Nutella. Definite nutty vibe.
  • Pmsl
  • Sorry but I think Satya Nadella is awesome and is going to help get windows back in shape and bring this awesome cloud future to us! Along with awesome hardware now!
  • All should buy a virtual server from Azure. 15$ to 3500$ per month. Then they will see the power of cloud
  • Steve hahaha....! You such a masterpiece for Bill Gates! :p Bald headed man I hate you anyway! Satya Nadella is awesome! Go nadella! xD
  • Neowin made the same mistake in their reporting... that screenshot is NOT a blue screen of death. It's an application hang dialog, triggered by pressing CAD after you app froze, if I remember correctly. Blue Screen's of Death are widely acknowledged to be related to Windows crashing, not apps.
  • So... Steve created the blue screen of application hanging? That's not too bad...
  • You're right. TeckFreak1 provides a link to the true BSOD below. This is just the blue screen of buggy app.
  • Exactly! You're correct on CAD and BSOD.
  • "Cortana, what is rampancy?"
    "rampancy... Well I've heard there's this big blue screen...and lets just say, a reboot wont fix it."
  • You sir made my day!
  • Legit.
  • Hahaha it really worked
  • All I got was a Bing search results page, as usual ‼ Pff
  • I definitely think that Steve Ballmer was passionate about Microsoft products, and I also think he cared about giving customers the best experience and keeping loyal customers happy. This is something I feel modern CEOs miss out (no offence Satya),. Most seem more interested in increasing dividends for shareholders by abandoning their initial vision and loyal users in an attempt to gain a larger market share. Blackberry did exactly that and look where it got them.
  • I agree. Very well said!
  • Developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers
  • Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers
  • Didn't read this far down, you guys beat me to it. LOL
  • For many of us we don't perceive that as a BSOD screen... lol but as an application crash and when people say BSOD this comes to mind. http://hackspc.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/blue-screen-of-death.jpg
    However some of you guys are arguing against a person that actually worked on and wrote code for windows before it was an actual product :P. as that screen shot is from the MSDN blog.
  • Lol, "tragically familiar"
  • I say this is for one person's eyes only, your god, Steve.
  • Great
  • I am sure I saw his first draft in Vista: "Die, die, die! Death has befallen your PC. Ctl-alt-Delete or watch your memory dump one byte at a time!"
  • This should be framed
  • Bill was sorry there wasn't a one click reboot. But the key combination made intent important. Sometimes there needs to be a safe way to avoid something. Last ditch.
  • This is not a BSOD...
  • Raymond Chen was the only dev that ever wore a suit and tie to work (every day, IIRC). Everyone else wore very casual clothes. The old Windows team had quite a few characters in it and had memorable Ship-It parties, see another RaymondC post: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2010/07/13/10037412.aspx
  • Thanks for the reminder that I've never got a BSOD on my Windows 8/8.1 laptop. I'd knock on wood, but this thing is fantastic and I don't believe in such nonsense.
  • +HP Pavilion a6120in 7 year old PC
  • Who ruined it for XP?
  • Next time, explain BSODs instead of just 0x00000EF or something stupid. You could say: "rubbish.dll has become corrupt and needs to be repaired"
  • bring back the blue screen view!