Blue Screen of Death (BSoD)

Blue Screen of Death (BSoD)

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Blue Screen of Death (also shortened as “BSoD”) refers to the notorious “stop error” message displayed in Microsoft Windows operating systems. Because the BSoD message indicates an unrecoverable system crash or freeze and leaves the user no option but to reboot the computer, the blue screen has been both feared and ridiculed by Windows OS users ever since its introduction through Windows 3.1 in March 1992.


The nickname “Blue Screen of Death” first originated in 1987 during the OS/2 pre-release development activities at Lattice Inc., the makers of an early Windows and OS/2 C compiler. During porting of Lattice’s other tools, developers encountered the error message when NULL pointers were dereferenced either in application code or when unexpectedly passed into system API calls. Upon its discovery, the developers coined the term Blue Screen of Death to describe the terminal nature of its experience.


The error quickly gained notoriety throughout the 1990s as Windows became the standard operating system for most home and office computer. The topic of “stop error” messages has been covered by various tech bloggers and computer programmers since as early as in March 1998 with Computer Writer’s “The Blue Screen of Death,”[8] which was published as a column article in the daily newspaper Toronto Star.

The founder of Microsoft Bill Gates could not escape the Blue Screen of Death either. During the presentation of a Windows 98 beta at COMDEX in April 1998, the demo computer crashed as one of the assistants tried to connect a scanner in demonstrating the Windows support for Plug & Play devices.

With the BSoD message on slideshow display, the audience had a big laughter and applauded, to which Mr. Gates responded: “That must be why we’re not shipping Windows 98 yet.”

In 2001, Microsoft published an article on its website, with a breakdown of each command involved, why it occurs and how to recover from a stop error. The term has been also explained on various reference sites like Wikipedia[20], Wikia[3] and Unciclopedia[4] among others.

There are over 40 definition entries for the term “Blue Screen of Death” and the earliest known Urban Dictionary[19] submission was submitted on December 22nd, 2002:

Blue Screen of Death: An error message on a blue screen and uses the MS-DOS font. This happens when major or “fatal” errors occur. In some cases you can press any key “to continue,” but sometimes pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL may be required, and in rare cases you will have to power off the computer due to the keyboard not responding or getting a “System halted._” message. Windows ME sucks. I get blue screens of death 24/7.

In September 2004, Slate Magazine[7] published an article explaining the phenomenon and technicalities behind the error message. In November 2005, computer programmer’s blog Coding Horror[12] posted a blog article about the many difference faces of Blue Screen of Death.

a bitchin’ tattoo of Blue Screen of Death

The infamous message screen has long been a popular subject of geek humor on the web, mostly ridiculed by the anti-Windows users to criticize the Microsoft OS bugs and failures, sometimes associating it with images of the Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. In 2006, several gallery sites and blog posts featuring Blue Screens of Death emerged, such as “Top 10 Photos of BSoD in Real Life”[1] and “Top 10 Blue Screen of Death in Public Places.”[2]

Notable Examples

In Windows 8

On April 5th 2011, Opera Portal News published an article introducing the closed-beta version of Windows 8, also known internally as “Windows X,” with a screenshot of what appeared to be a black screen of death, rather than in its traditional blue:

Speculations regarding the background color were soon settled on September 14th, 2011, when Chip Hazard posted a picture via his Facebook showing the latest design of BSoD, featuring a softer blue blackground and a sad face emoticon. The image post has received over 422 likes, 391 shares and nearly 60 comments in less than a week. The new BSoD delivers a simple message that is far more accessible than the lines of codes that were previously displayed: “Your PC ran into a problem that it couldn’t handle, and now it needs to restart.”

In Xbox

The Red Ring of Death, also known as the Red Ring of Doom, is a derivative slang term used to describe the light signal which indicates a general hardware failure on the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console.

Error Message Screens

In July 2014, Japanese blogger Ishikawa Hiroki launched the “Streetside Error Messages” project on Daily Portal[21], calling on fellow members of the site to report sightings of various error messages on public display using the Twitter hashtag #エラー画面.[23] Hiroki also created the single topic blog Error Message Screens[22] to curate a selection of user-submitted photographs.

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