Chicago, United States, April 20, 1998. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Chris Capossela take the stage at the COMDEX conference to unveil one of the biggest innovations ever in Windows: plug-and-play support.
Technically, as many of you already know by now, plug-and-play support guarantees that you plug a peripheral into a Windows computer and it just works with absolutely no further configuration. Because Windows is supposed to take care of everything, that is.
To demonstrate how smoothly plug-and-play works in Windows 98, Capossela plugs a scanner into a computer running the yet-to-be-launched operating system. Bill Gates is on stage smiling, realizing just how big this is for the future of Windows. He has no idea what’s about to happen.
Capossela explains the process. “Let’s plug it in. It’s gonna say ‘Hey, I see you plugged in a new device’ and it’s gonna load the appropriate drivers. You’ll notice that this scanner build…” And he suddenly stops. Bill Gates keeps smiling. There’s a Blue Screen of Death on the screen and Capossela goes “WHOA!”
It is without a doubt the most famous yet unexpected whoa in the history of computing. Gates doesn’t stop smiling. He realizes how embarrassing it is, and he’s probably thinking he’s going to fire even the janitor who cleans the floors of the office where the Windows team built plug-and-play support. He knows he has to fix this somehow, especially because everyone laughs and cheers in the audience. Capossela doesn’t say a single word for several seconds.
“That must be why we’re not shipping Windows 98 yet,” he says, noticing the moment of silence and just how shocked Capossela was. “Absolutely,” Chris says trying to “move along,” as he adds.
Eventually, everything turned out just fine for Microsoft and Windows 98, and this was one of the best-selling Windows versions ever, with some 25 million units shipped in the first year on the market alone.
And as The Reg notes, Chris Capossela survived Gates’ wrath. He’s still at Microsoft working as the Chief Marketing Officer.
For what it’s worth, BSODs keep happening these days. And to make things even worse, a BSOD is the reason Microsoft delayed the launch of Windows 10 Redstone 4.