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The infamous Windows 98 "Blue Screen of Death" event happened 25 years ago today

Windows 98 blue screen of death

Let's face facts: Microsoft has had its share of blunders over the decades, from the launch of Windows 8, to the Xbox 360's Red Ring of Death, to Clippy. However, one of the most memorable gaffs in the company's history happened 25 years ago today, on April 20, 1998.

At the time, Microsoft was still developing Windows 98, the successor to the highly successful launch of its Windows 95 OS. During a keynote address at the annual COMDEX trade show in Chicago, Microsoft co-founder and, at that time, CEO, Bill Gates was promoting the development of Windows 98, which was at that time just a few weeks from going gold in May, and officially launching in June 1998.

During the presentation, Gates was joined by his assistant Chris Capossela. He wanted to demonstrate the Plug and Play support that was included in Windows 98 to quickly connect external input devices and have them "just work" with the PC.

Capossela showed this off by connecting a scanner to a Windows 98 PC. He was talking about how the PC recognized the scanner and it started to load its drivers.

And then . . . Well, the Windows 98 PC quickly flashed the infamous Blue Screen of Death.

The attendees at the keynote address quickly erupted into applause. We would like to think most of them were sympathetic to Capossela's situation. We have all been there when a major presentation in front of our boss didn't go according to plan. It may just not have happened with thousands of other people watching.

To his credit, Capossela kept his composure on stage when the BSOD appeared, and quickly said. "Moving right along . . ." Gates also seemed to give Capossela some slack. Gates was smiling as he stated, "That must be why we are not shipping Windows 98 yet."

While the Blue Screen of Death was not created with Windows 98, that COMDEX keynote certainly popularized this "feature" of Microsoft's Windows operating systems. The BSOD continues to appear on PCs, including the recent Windows 11, so it's clear Microsoft doesn't want to redesign its color for that kind of near-feature PC issues.

By the way, Chris Capossela recovered very nicely from that Windows 98 blunder. He's currently the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft. However, we do wonder if he has flashbacks to that COMDEX event 25 years ago.

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