The Blue Screen of Death

Fourth in the series.  This poem is a “slam poem.”  For those not familiar with the genre, it’s intended to be read at a fast pace, with vigor and animation.

I wrote this poem for an assignment in a college creative writing class (at CSU, Chico), ruled over (not so much taught) by a self-styled “book snob” who was vocally proud of her exclusive interest in “literature,” and little else.  (For now, I’ll refrain from detailing just how asinine the category of “literature” is, by way of the “genre’s” pridefully obfuscative leanings and frequent lack of genuine substance behind said obfuscation.)  Needless to say, she didn’t get the joke, and went on to criticize the gender-specificity used for the speaker, by way of it being politically incorrect.  That’s enough ranting about her.

The error messages and historical background are genuine, and I actually experienced both in “preparation” for writing this poem.  I hope my “geekier” friends will get a kick out of it.  🙂

The Blue Screen of Death

The archaic din of white text superimposed upon a black screen is no more.

The blinking curser and the cryptic jibe,

Syntax error,”

have receded from the much-coveted position of

“operating system”

into the subcutaneous untreaden cave of

MS-DOS Mode.”

Upon the release of Microsoft’s 1995 crowning innovation,

the new         “Windows”         operating system,

fully equipped with tranquil desktop themes

and a myriad of cheery, sound-coordinated pop-up menus,

people around the world rejoiced.

No more will the unconscionable

Config.sys errors

of yesteryear interfere with the high-profile,


file management systems of modern times.

The gratingly irritating beeps

and infinite lists of “Bad commands” or “Filenames;”

the stubbornly unbootable hard-drive has given way;

techies around the world groaned

for they knew that the days of horribly stubborn operating systems had ended,

and their jobs as the unapproachable gurus of the Great OS

would soon cease to exist.

But there was hope.

For the dreaded Blue Screen of Death has been replaced

by the Gray Window of Frustration.

Woe be

to the unsuspecting user who

dares check

the internal workings of his system—

who dares click on

Control Panel > System > Performance

the windows popping up—


presenting him with that

forty-two billion dollar grin of approval,

and the user,

slack-faced in his slouching computer chair,

piles of driver disks and small papers on the desk in front of him,


with half-closed eyes

at the messages,

Compatibility-mode paging reduces overall system performance. Drive C is using MS-DOS compatibility mode file system.


say his unflinching, half-closed eyes.


he reminisces about the real operating systems of old.

He thinks,

why did they have to make this thing so dang user friendly?

The Default

green desktop stares back at him,

unaware of its error.

He stares for a moment longer

at those two

insolent messages,

and at the five-cent euphemisms–

the kind that make this operating system

the most widely used operating system in the world–

and explain why his computer is running so DANG SLOW!

The stuttering CPU fan blows hot air

out of its overworked medium tower.

Glaring light from the ceiling fan reflects

in the dark window behind the computer.

He stares, dazed, tired

at the clock on the Taskbar.

I should have hired a techie,

he murmurs as he futily replaces the yellow driver disk

with yet another version of the software.

He restarts the hardware installation program.

Windows will now search for any new Plug and Play devices on your system. Your screen may go blank during this process. This is normal.

One pulsating vein highlights his greasy forehead

as he clicks the Next button.

Please wait while Windows searches for new Plug and Play devices.

For a few fleeting moments the hard drive activity indicator flickers its compliance.

Mother board resources, mother board resources,” he chants,

in vain hopes of coercing the stupid machine into subjecting itself to his will.

For the next five minutes there is no activity.

His limp fingers grope around on the keyboard for those three familiar buttons:


The End Task window doesn’t appear.

He sighs as he presses them again.

Then chuckles, reminiscing,

as he longingly smiles at the familiar blue screen in front of him.

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