x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Blue Screen of Death has come for me

The Blue Screen of Death is about to turn black, computer industry insiders are saying, but is that going to bring my laptop back to life?

The Blue Screen of Death came a'knocking at my door this week. The gruesome bright azure of his face, the hissing finality of his breath and the blankness of his unapologetic gaze are his hallmarks, and he used them to stare me straight in the eye. My computer was no more.

I was in the middle of an innocuous task, when suddenly everything froze. I wiggled my mouse, first in annoyance, then frustration, then fear. No. Please. No, I muttered to myself. Not now. Please not now.

My eyes grew wider, and I could feel tears pricking the corners of my eyes. My heart beat faster and my fingers started to twitch. This couldn't be happening to me. I had a top of the range laptop. I hadn't installed any bootleg software. I hadn't been browsing anywhere off the beaten track. I was a good girl as far as my computer life went.

So why was this bad thing happening to me?

The Blue Screen blinked at me. "If this is the first time you are seeing this screen …" it said. Phew. It was the first time. So, I rebooted. I even used "Safe Mode". As a non-techie I congratulated myself on not just knowing that Safe Mode exists, but that I knew how to access it. There on my screen I could see all my files and documents, and even the piece of writing that I had been working on, whose potential loss was causing me to panic.

Just as my palpitations subsided, the computer started whirring, like the shutting down of the last power station on earth. It hummed, then roared like a lion seeing its cubs about to be attacked, and suddenly it vanished into a void. The Blue Screen disappeared. No goodbyes, no warning, no "nice to have met you". And with it, my latest work - literally - was sucked into the ether. Goodbye, computer. Goodbye, Shelina.

The Urban Dictionary, which is like Wikipedia but for street speak, has as its top definition of the Blue Screen of Death as "Microsoft's most successful program". Ha ha. I'm not laughing. There is even the claim that the Blue Screen's name itself was a joke: the "blue" referring not just to the colour of the error screen but also to IBM in whose operating system the screen had first appeared, and which industry followers called "Big Blue." It's still not funny.

In the past two weeks, computer geeks who have had access to beta versions of Microsoft's Windows 8 have been saying that the Blue Screen is no more, and the kiss of computer death has become black.

This is top-notch geek-gossip. Black might be a more appropriate colour to signal the demise of your beloved, but it's less of a visual shock.

The geeks say the use of black by Microsoft is clever, because it will allow them to retain the BSOD abbreviation. Some even say they will miss the Blue Screen of Death. Strange, masochistic fools.

What I miss is having a computer that works. Now I will have to call technical support to perform a resurrection. The operative will have just the slightest whiff of condescension at my lack of technical knowledge. Have you tried switching it off and on again? He will ask.

If he does, this time the response will be my own blue scream of bloody murder. Just make it work. Just make the pesky thing work.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and writes a blog at www.spirit21.co.uk