A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth: The continuing saga of the Windows 3.1 blue screen of death (which, by the way, was never called that)

Raymond Chen


HN has been the only major site to report the history of the Windows 3.1 Ctrl+Alt+Del dialog correctly. But it may have lost that title due to this comment thread.

I read here that Steve Ballmer wrote part of [the blue screen of death] too.

The comment linked to one of may articles that erroneously reported that Steve wrote the blue screen of death. Somebody replied,


linking back to my article where I set the record straight. Undeterred, the original commenter wrote,

LOL! so far only MSDN has been refuting the claim.

and linked to two technology sites which reported the story incorrectly. Just goes to show that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. Oh, and by the way, the phrase “blue screen of death” did not really apply to the blue screen messages in Windows 3.1 or Windows 95. As we saw earlier, the Windows 3.1 fatal error message was a black screen of death, and in Windows 95, the blue screen message was more a screen of profound injury rather than death. (Windows 95 was sort of like the Black Knight, trying very hard to continue the fight despite having lost all of its limbs.) The phrase “blue screen of death” was generally attributed to the blue screen fatal error message of Windows NT. In Windows 95, we just called them “blue screen messages”, without the “of death”.

I didn’t expect this to become “blue screen week”, though that’s sort of what it turned into.


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