A History of Modern Computer Crashing

Steven Sinofsky wrote a good (and long) essay about why and how computers crash less often than they used to. Sinofsky says in part:

… In the early days of PCs before Windows, crashes froze the computer—nothing worked, not even banging on the keyboard. The only recourse was to turn the computer off and start over, losing unsaved work and causing a potentially extreme emotional moment. In the earliest days of automobiles, drivers had to be mechanics for fear of getting stranded by flaky engines—PCs were sort of like that….

The situation improved dramatically, Sinofosky explains, after software developers became able to — and set up ways to — gather crash info rapidly, and somewhat reliably, using the internet.

We began to see that while there were many different crashes, the majority of them could be attributed to a small number of buckets. In other words, if we fixed a few bugs we eliminated a huge number of crashes, dramatically improving the reliability of the product for everyone….

People used to ask if clicking on that “Send Error Report” button did any good. It absolutely did.