"I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that." With those icy words 2001's HAL set the gold standard for computer error messages: menacing, but not particularly informative. Sadly, in real life error messages tend to achieve these goals without even HAL's panache. Sure, you get the occasional stab at a first-person plea for forgiveness (like the simple but effective message from an ATM shown above), but usually they're either full of arcane jargon, or contain meaningless words of reassurance that cover over the arcane jargon that you actually need to diagnose the problem.
It's bad enough when the error messages pop up on your PC's monitor in the privacy of your own home. But with so many public displays -- many of them quite prominent -- driven by consumer-grade hardware, sometimes these dialog boxes can show their faces in the most awkward of situations.
Picture courtesy of sssteve.o
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