Feeds

The 'blem wit' error messages

Things get terse

The essential guide to IT transformation

When I was young I built up a collection of system error messages. Ok, look, it's not as sad as collecting stamps! It is? Really? Oh well, never mind. Anyway, my recent piece about Borland putting rude words in Quattro Pro got me thinking it was time to revisit that collection.

Some of them date back to the days of the mainframe, such as:

"Fatal error in crawl out - system halted"

This I collected from a Prime.

Most of them were verified in one way or another; however I once collected the delightful but unverified "Shut her down, Clancy, she's a-pumping mud." Whatever its original provenance, within six months, it had moved into reality - a friend saw it on the list and actually added it to a real hole in the wall system. As far as I know it's still in there. A case of art imitating life, or the other way around...or science, or whatever.

In those days, though, most error message were a little less creative. The reason? Memory was expensive. So some of them were terse. I mean rlly trs - to th pnt of bng compltly uslss. Take, for example, the execrable:

"Cannot find DLL"

Yes, yes, but in order to fix the problem I need to know which DLL you can't find. There are hundreds of the wretched things; at least give me a clue. What letter does it start with? That would narrow it down. And Microsoft wonders why people end up shouting at Windows.

But this was nothing. My personal favorite is still one from the early 90s. And it was about as trs as they get:

"blem wit"

Those simple characters proved that the god of error messages not only has a sense of humor but also an understanding of recursion.

There was a bug in some versions of the Novell redirector shell (NET5.COM) that was a TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) program that ran under DOS. The Novell TSR had, of course, a set of error messages that it could use. One was:

"There is a problem with the Memory Control Block for the shell"

Unfortunately, the very problem that triggered the error message had the unfortunate side effect of screwing up the ability of DOS to write to the screen. So only a part of the error message was actually written to the screen. What was that error message?

"There is a problem with the Memory Control Block for the shell"

So, whenever "blem wit" appeared, you had two reasons to be sure that there was, indeed, a problem with writing to the screen.

"Blem wit" was such an odd string to suddenly appear on a screen, and so widespread at the time, that it was often reported as a virus. But it wasn't, it was just a trs TSR.®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
BBC: We're going to slip CODING into kids' TV
Pureed-carrot-in-ice cream C++ surprise
China: You, Microsoft. Office-Windows 'compatibility'. You have 20 days to explain
Told to cough up more details as antitrust probe goes deeper
Windows 7 settles as Windows XP use finally starts to slip … a bit
And at the back of the field, Windows 8.1 is sprinting away from Windows 8
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?