IT Employment

Looking for memorable error messages

Ever gotten an error message that puzzled you or maybe even ticked you off?

No one likes an error message, but sometimes the error messages are in their very tone kind of insulting. For example, I came across this one:

The server understood the request, but is refusing to fulfill it.

OK, Hal. This message implies that there is a problem with a rogue server with an attitude problem.

In a cms I used to use I once tried to post-date a piece for publication and was given the error message, "The future has not happened yet." Wow, really? Thanks for that condescending news flash. I could have gotten that message in a fortune cookie.

So, just for a little end-of-the-week chuckle, post some of the most memorable error messages you've seen over the years. Maybe you've programmed a snarky error message of your own you'd like to share. If we get a good enough response, we can get Art to make a us a nice download.<><><>< -->

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

89 comments
McGowan_M
McGowan_M

When Microsoft first released Windows for Workgroups 3.1 back in the early 1990s, it came with a whole host of silly error messages. The most annoying was just "Oh dear..." which would appear sometimes when you rebooted after a crash. I never found out exactly what caused it. There was also the great "Something has happened for which there is no error message - this really should not have happened."

kmkrreeves1
kmkrreeves1

after uninstalling a program i got a message that had no words anywhere but two buttons one said yes and one said no...

eiwacat
eiwacat

An internal error occurred while showing an internal error. You are recommended to exit the workbench. From Zend ide.

Rainier_d
Rainier_d

Several years ago I had made some changes to the default settings of an HP LaserJet 5P but when clicking OK I got this message: Printers - The following error occurred while trying to save your changes. The operation completed successfully. [OK]

Slayer_
Slayer_

[quote]Error in procedure 'error' error code '0'. Description: Error 0 is not possible [/quote] Turns out the error variable used for the error code, was getting reused by another function, problem is, first function returned non 0 if failed, second function returned 0 if failed. So the error handler thought 0 was an error but the look up for the error code didn't have 0 as a possible error. 0 was in the else statement as "Code that should never be run".

ornelyz
ornelyz

Error in process XXX : "No Error" (0)

david.hardy
david.hardy

You're not worthy! You clicked all this way. Now we aren't going to let you in. We've got a lot of nerve. Actually, we would let you in but it seems you haven't been set up to be able to access this page. You may want to ask your supervisor if you are allowed to be here. If you really, really need to get in, submit an incident at the Service Center requesting access. If you truly are worthy, we will give you access lickety split.

Julie9009
Julie9009

When I tried to log into the MyThree website some years ago, the following rather unhelpful (and syntactically incomplete) message was displayed; "The Error in the subsystem" The username and password were correct, and it worked again a few hours later, so I think there really was an error in the subsystem :-)

floating neville
floating neville

When connected to the internet via 3G using Globetrotter Connect software, every 20 minutes or so the whole screen goes white and a popup opens over it with the message, "A required resource was", and an OK button. That's it! I have no idea what's causing it, and the message is rather unhelpful

corban.lester
corban.lester

"MacTCP was the standard TCP/IP implementation for the Macintosh operating system through version 7.5.1." Back in the day, networking computers (for most part) meant dial up networking to a modem bank at a local ISP. I was a tech support guy, slaving over a hot keyboard and trying to help the ID10t population overcome the seriously buggy world of home internet connectivity. My favorite error was from MacTCP: "The pissy MacTCP is acting up again." Most people repeated this error over the phone to me with some sense of amusement.

LX.under.T
LX.under.T

phpMyAdmin - Error Cannot start session without errors, please check errors given in your PHP and/or webserver log file and configure your PHP installation properly.

DT2
DT2

I was running a diagnostics application on an Intel 310 Xenix server way back in the late '80s. After about twenty minutes the following message popped up on the screen, "The system produced an error that is not allowed." Huh?!

Buzz937
Buzz937

Can't install the modem on IRQ 3. IRQ 3 is reserved for the Modem.

trog7
trog7

I remember a friend with a TRS80 in fits of laughter when playing some command line [Text] adventure. He got a bit frustrated being unable to proceed and typed in a couple of 4 letter words, to which the text parser replied that " if he continued using bad language it would promptly shut down the computer! "

trog7
trog7

one of the most classic M$ Dos errors "Found unknown device. Insert Driver for unknown device into the unknown device."

floating neville
floating neville

It was a bit of Friday afternoon silliness, but I decided to change the login error message on a web application from "Invalid username or password" to "Please remove your glasses so I can punch you." It went down so well that we have kept it that way for over a year now.

jgwinner
jgwinner

I was attending an early Banyan Vines Network administrator class. The instructor had this neat way of wiping a box totally back to "install" state. It was really useful for classroom instruction; you could let people mess around with group lists, change security, then wipe it back to ground zero with just a command and a reboot. When you told the O/S to wipe itself, it would ask: "Are you sure you want to reset this computer"? You had to type "yes" (lower case yes) It then asked "Are you really sure?" You had to type "Yes" (Capital Y, lower case es). If you didn't, it said "I didn't think you were" and returned to the previous menu.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

[i]Error 503 Service Unavailable Service Unavailable Guru Meditation: XID: 2067024468 Varnish cache server[/i] The XID changes at each page reload, so that's probably not very useful.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

Back in my days as a mainframe vendor rep, I got a call about a console message which said "Communications line 6 is NFG" Thje console operator, being ex-military like me fully understood the term but needed some help figuring out why. Rebooting the modem took care of the problem, but I dropped a note to the guy who was responsible for the communications code teling him that we got a laugh out of the error message. His reply - "I always figured that some user would yank the wires out of the wall and rub them together to make sparks, so I test for all the possbile errors I can think of. If it's not one of them, I default to that error message. And if you're ever forced to explain it, it means Not Feeling Good".

aiellenon
aiellenon

Until I had a hard drive crash that lost all my data, I had a screen shot from windows XP showing the properties of a CD-RW disk that I had just formatted. it showed the available drive space on my CD-RW disk as "4.5TB" several of my friends and I got a lot of laughs from that one.

zozzl
zozzl

Way back in the 70s on a Xerox mainframe there was a Fortran compiler. In Fortran, you could use GO TO nnn statements where nnn was a number. This was not very meaningful so a change was made whereby you could assign a name to the number and then use GO TO name. If you then used the statement GO TO JAIL, you would receive a diagnostic stating, "Go directly. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200."

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

I was working on a system in COBOL that ran on a Honeywell 6080 (no it's not a thermostat for you young'uns!). One program simply took the user's input command and called up the appropriate program to actually handle the task. While we were developing it, we put had the program return "PTUI!!! Invalid Command, DUMMY!!" if the input command wasn't recognized. As the input command was normally entered via a menu system, not free hand, by the time we wend into production, this was long since forgotten. Once day, we got a call from a very irate general office's aide. It seems the general had been using a terminal, decided to free-lance a command and was incensed at being told he was a DUMMY!! by the computer and we were to correct this immediately. The corrective action was to replace DUMMY!! with SORRY!!.

bethernet
bethernet

In the late 80s, I worked for a very small company. I had never worked on a computer before, and they used a bookkeeping program that was written by the owner of the company. (that's a whole different story!) One day when I was just learning my way around this very odd program, it requested a password. I didn't have one, so I just hit (enter) and this immediately showed on the screen: YOU STUPID FOOL! That might have been the moment when I decided to pursue a career in IT.

grayknight
grayknight

"Oops. Something went wrong." Really, are you sure?

michael.collins
michael.collins

While working for a mortgage processing company in the mid-80s, I put together a bulletin board application combining WordPerfect macros, PK-PAK compression utilities (I might have the name wrong; it was the precursor to pkzip, which morphed into winzip, etc.), modem commands, and a couple other things, all distributed on 5-1/4" floppies that we mailed to the customer. They were supposed to put the disk in floppy drive A: and type a command, and all sorts of daisy-chained automated magic would happen: Their PC (probably an 80286) would dial up our bulletin board, log them in, download the day's mortgage rates in zipped format (to save 1200- or 2400-bps bandwidth), log out, then unzip the file and present the rates in both a VisiCalc spreadsheet and a WordPerfect document (unless it was WordStar? It's been a while). We had one client who was lightyears ahead of the rest of us: They were running an actual "network" using a primitive LAN -- whatever that was -- and so their drive A: was read-only (for the LAN disk, or something), and they had to put our floppy in drive B: instead. Everything worked until PK-PAK (then still little more than a college-student program that was just barely monetized - we spent a huge $100 on a corporate license) tried to unpack the files to the write-protected Drive A:. The error message was, well...it was personal, not politically correct, and downright misogynistic. Almost got me fired. Another client with a v-e-r-y slow system complained about the compression data table that PK-PAK threw up: Each column was labeled not with "bits" or "bytes" or "percentage" but "t*ts", "tw*ts" and something I won't even type with asterisks. Again, I was halfway out the door before I managed to convince my boss that it wasn't something I'd written. It was bad enough that it came from the software I'd convinced him to license when he kept insisting that we should use the free version because "who's ever going to know"? Fortunately for me, he was able to redirect his anger at the pkpak company, who fell all over themselves apologizing.

beck.joycem
beck.joycem

From Access 2003: "There was a problem sending the command to the program". Yes, well I guessed you had a problem, because you stopped. You haven't actually told me anything more, have you?

smatheson46
smatheson46

"The cryptographic subsystem failed a mandatory algorithm self-test during bootstrap." You whaaaat??? I've come across this BSOD a few times in the past. It's baffling and the web doesn't have much information about it. Since the system won't allow you to Safe Mode, or Repair Install or even Reinstall the OS I've always had to resort to manual backups and replace or format of the old drive. This last system was still under warranty with Dell. So I went through the warranty chat, gave the tech all the information, stop code, and error. They then requested I type the ENTIRE blue screen message. (Including the standard Windows message template with a blue screen) I still have no idea what the BSOD means.

rclark
rclark

First from the early 80's. It's 2:30 a.m. at AFDSDC, only Global Support is working, a phone call: SystemOperator: "This is Kadena. We have an undocumented message on SPO." (Great big NO.NO.) Support: "Please read the message". SystemOperator: "Program is D10, message reads: My boss said this would never happen. I disagree. Please call him at home at xxxx, and tell him he was wrong!" Support: 'Uh, Kadena, I'll get back to you." I was called in to review the tapes and find the error in the 27K line cobol program. Little did the two people know that 13 years after having coded the message the disagreement would finally be settled. 2nd Message: While working on an AS400 with single level memory store. All of disk (permanant addresses) and all of memory (temporary addresses) would be available for a program to use. When the temporary addess space filled up, it could cause main storage to be overwritten. To combat this, a threshold was set to send a message when this threshhold was approaching. After uploading a PTF service pack, the chilling message "Threshold of 93% reached, loss of customer database imminent." Halting the runaway jobs occupied two of the senior programmers typing frantically. Final percentage was 99.9998% used.

harleycat75
harleycat75

Uh gee, that's helpful. Or my other favorite that would stop you in your tracks (same program by the way): "No error has occurred". ??!!

GSG
GSG

In one system, where most messages would say, "Press any key to continue", some programmer with a sense of humor (and who I suspect had been smoking some funny smelling stuff), put "Tap a key, Dude"

clavius
clavius

The dynamic publishing system I work with (Arbortext) has an error handler, but sometimes an error will cause the error handler to fail as well. In that case, the system just reports the error message: "Editor: Crash within crash" and exit.

public
public

This was back in the late '80s when I was using the Microsoft C compiler. I had a faulty RAM chip and got this error: Error #0: Unknown Error. Please contact Microsoft Support.

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

The first time I tried installing Mandrake Linux (it was a really early release - kinda rough around the edges), I had to fix something from the command prompt, so I chose that option at the installer boot menu, the shell came up, I fixed what I needed, then I issued the command "shutdown -r now" to reboot the computer as gently as possible. The error: "You don't exist. Go away." Tried to "exit" the shell - same error. Had to remove power to reboot the computer. After that, the computer booted & worked fine; but that error still ranks right up there as one of the top head-scratchers I'd ever seen.

SamKirk
SamKirk

"-r0" "-1" "ENU" Access is denied.

david
david

I recal seeing in a computer magazine a screenshot of an error message from a beta of Windows 98. It read "What did you do?" [OK]. Thanks, Bill - I'm sure that was helpful...

Garden Gnome
Garden Gnome

Long ago, British Rail, as it then was, was installing free-standing terminals on which passengers could plan their journeys. A friend: Tim, wrote the software. If you tried for an impossible routing: e.g. London Kings Cross to Brighton, you were told: "You can't get there from here" He dropped that just before the customer demonstration, unfortunately.

razasyedcse
razasyedcse

This is my favorite error message as its a message showing that error message can not be obtained .. amazing ..

JuliaX111
JuliaX111

My favourite has to be my antique Artec scanner driver (it's so old it's for NT4).. which almost daily will at some point pop up "scanner error ???? something happen"

ProfQuill
ProfQuill

Once got this message from a system when attempting a network connection: "Unable or unwilling to begin dialog".

mperata
mperata

This is not so much an "Error Message" as an error in the message. A neighbor of mine in the early '80s headed up customer service for desktop manufacturer. In the installation manual for installing some program, after the 1st 5.25" floppy finished, the following instruction message: "Insert the second floppy disk, and click enter.". Invariably, his staff would get at least one call a day asking how to remove the two floppy disks from the computer.

Telair
Telair

If you fail the authentication on a Motorola Canopy wireless radio you get the following error. Unauthorized (401) Through a series of highly sophisticated and complex algorithms, this system has determined that you are not presently authorized to use this system function. It could be that you simply mistyped a password, or, it could be that you are some sort of interplanetary alien-being that has no hands and, thus, cannot type. If I were a gambler, I would bet that a cat (an orange tabby named Sierra or Harley) somehow jumped onto your keyboard and forgot some of the more important pointers from those typing lessons you paid for. Based on the actual error encountered, I would guess that the feline in question simply forgot to place one or both paws on the appropriate home keys before starting. Then again, I suppose it could have been a keyboard error caused by some form of cosmic radiation; this would fit nicely with my interplanetary alien-being theory. If you think this might be the cause, perhaps you could create some sort of underground bunker to help shield yourself from it. I don't know that it will work, but, you will probably feel better if you try something.

Burabari
Burabari

The webmail extension on Mozilla Thunderbird mail client frequently displays this message when it cannot retrieve mails from a Yahoo mail account: "... negative vibes from Server" ... kind of spooky.

brf531
brf531

I once wrote a short fortran program and tried to compile it on some obscure IBM mainframe. I used the variable name "abs". Turns out "abs" was a reserved word, an for that slight oversight I got 27 pages of error messages. Using the original "make" program on UNIX, if you typed "make love" it would respond "Don't know how to make love. Stop." Ahh, the good old days... :-)

GSG
GSG

I have a system that will occasionally throw out one word... PANIC. Oookay... I have many places that could be in a panic state, can you throw me a clue as to the location, at the very least?

LX.under.T
LX.under.T

Sometimes after sending a print job to the printer it fails to print and Windows describes the status of the print job as "Error - Printing."

Slayer_
Slayer_

This error always annoys me, because obviously it can't say "A known error has occurred" And of course "Error, the operation completed successfully"

paradisewebdesigntx
paradisewebdesigntx

I loved my Trash80. Learned BASIC and used my cassette recorder as storage. Hooked it up to my TV with those old antenna connections (little fork things and screws). So insane the # of lines to write the most simple "programs", I had a book they sold at Radio Shack that did little stuff. I think I was 7 or 8 when my brother got it.

rclark
rclark

Don't ya just love M$.

pgit
pgit

I know what you mean about Mandriva (nee Mandrake) and error messages. The translations to English often lead you in the wrong direction, eg a client misconfiguration might lead to an error message leading you to believe the server is in error. Just plain bad English. Some messages will be absent subjects, verbs, or refer to a process as "she," all manner of confusion. Some of it is funny, some irritating. In the same vein

seanferd
seanferd

The guy using it was tearing his hair out trying to figure out what the problem was. He'd get an error message, but nothing seemed to be wrong. I gently pointed out that all (?) returns from code are in terms of errorlevel, and some programmer hadn't bothered to make the message more "friendly", so by default it gave this bit of information as an "error".

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