Computer Performed Illegal Operation - Report to the cops!

Jeremy Utley jeremy at
Tue Sep 30 09:22:27 PDT 2003

On 2003-09-30, Gerard Beekmans <gerard at> wrote:
> Hiya,
> Someobody I know is a police officer and he got a most interesting
> report today:
> Somebody bought a new computer and it is running some Windows flavour.
> As expected, the computer shut down at some point with one of those
> "windows performed an illegal operation" errors. This person thought the
> computer actually did something illegal and went to the local police
> station to report this. It took half an hour to explain to this person
> the illegal operation wasn't in fact a real illegal operation.
> Makes you wonder. Maybe Microsoft should change their error messages.

This reminds me of a story I used to tell from my early days of doing Tech
support for Sprynet (which was a US-based ISP).  Sprynet's early software
used the Mosaic browser, which, as we all know, was good in it's time, but
as time wore on, became more dated, and when run on Windows 95 instead of
3.1, was notoriously unstable.  Well, this customer calls up, gets me on
the phone, and it comes out that his browser segfaulted with the ever
popular "This program has performed an illegal operation".  Customer tells me:

"I just don't understand what I was doing that was illegal.  I was just
looking at the value of my stock portfolio on my broker's web site".

No kidding, it's 100% true!


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