Have you ever been working with a computer when something goes ‘pear-shaped’ and you receive an error message that might be written in Martian for all the good it does you?
It’s bad enough when you are reading a user manual that was originally created in Japanese, converted into English using an Indian-based translation service, and then passed through Germany for a final “polish,” but it's even worse when it happens to you in real-time.
As an aside, I always find user manuals that are written in Israel to have a very Shakespearian “feel” to them. You can almost imagine two characters on the stage, where the first exclaims “’But where are the variables?’ you ask,” and the second responds in a deep bass voice “Why, the variables are over here!”
But we digress... I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve been presented with an error message that has left me totally perplexed. Something like “Your application has stalled because the notchet tattles are out of phase.” The problem is that if you don’t know what a “notchet tattle” is you are SOL (Sadly Out of Luck :-)
Actually, now I come to think about it, I recall a group of us working on a big old dual screen circuit board layout system in the mid-1980s. This was where you used the system to essentially draw the tracks and pads and vias by hand. One day an error message came up on the screen saying something like Error 496. So we went to the rack of manuals and worked our way through to the one containing the error messages and looked up error number 496 and read “System is overheating.”
It was right. When we turned back to look at the system it was on fire (well, smoke was pouring out of the back). I kid you not.
I tell you, I could waffle on for hours about this sort of stuff. But the reason I was spurred to pen this blog was that Gary Smith (www.GarySmithEDA.com) just sent me an email titled “Finally, error messages I can understand” containing the following images:
I'm sure that - like me - you've seen some (or all) of these before, but they still make me smile. And, after all, what's more important than that? (grin)
The first line was from a place where I worked a year ago, can't remember the version of Windoze. My home PC with older Windoze has never given this message under identical conditions.
The work PC always displayed the message after a file transfer to an external USB thumbnail drive. No indication was given that one had to close the file first before the system would approve removing the USB drive. Would have been so easy to include this tip in the error message itself rather than making the user guess at the problem.
Back in the early 1980s I wanted to format a Floppy Drive (one of the big old ones) .. the system said something like "Are you sure you want to format drive xxx?" (actually I think it was more cryptic like "Format XXX? [Y/N]") and I hit the "Y" key .. and it chuntered away for a bit ... and I thought "Hang on, XXX is the system drive!"
Bugger, bugger, bugger ... it took days to recover...
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