Feeds

The 'blem wit' error messages

Things get terse

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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.®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users
Sinofsky's hybrid strategy looks dafter than ever
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Fiendishly complex password app extension ships for iOS 8
Just slip it in, won't hurt a bit, 1Password makers urge devs
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
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.
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.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?