What Is a Guru Meditation?

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A guru meditation is a message that is displayed in a similar manner to the “blue screen of death” on computers running Microsoft Windows operating systems when the computer crashes. The original guru meditation message was synonymous with early Commodore Amiga personal computers. The error message can also occur when using the WinAMP application and unofficial applications running on Nintendo’s DS handheld gaming system.

Guru meditation is a message that is displayed in a similar way to the "blue screen of death" on Windows computers during crashes.
Guru meditation is a message that is displayed in a similar way to the “blue screen of death” on Windows computers during crashes.

This unusually named error type originated during development of the Commodore Amiga computers. An inventive control peripheral device was developed along with the Amiga systems, known as the Joyboard. The Joyboard worked with the gamer controlling onscreen actions using feet as opposed to the more traditional joystick or joypad method of control. As a method of relaxing, Amiga developers invented a game whereby one person sat cross-legged on the Joyboard and adopted a stereotypical Indian meditation position. Any movement sensed by the Joyboard would result in an on-screen message reporting that the person’s turn had ended as a “guru meditation error” had occurred.

Guru meditation warnings are displayed similarly to the "blue screen of death" on Windows machines.
Guru meditation warnings are displayed similarly to the “blue screen of death” on Windows machines.

This unwelcome message is displayed on a black background with red text enclosed within a red rectangular box. If the error is easily recoverable, the text and rectangle can appear in a light green color. The warning system was developed in such a way that the message could be displayed even if the system’s critical resources had been fatally corrupted. Guru meditation errors display reference codes in two parts separated by a period. These reference codes identify the error types, structure locations, memory block addresses, or in the case of unknown crash sources, the code 48454C50; this code spells the word “HELP” in American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) hexadecimal code.

Later Amiga operating system versions expanded on the guru meditation system by converting the error codes into text. This meant that users without the required technical knowledge to interpret the error codes previously could now see what had caused the system crash. From Amiga operating system version 4.0 onward, the user was able to select an option to terminate an active task that was causing the exception to occur. These types of errors are also known to occur when selecting certain custom skins in the Microsoft Windows-based media player, WinAMP, and also in the Nintendo DS organizer program, DSOrganize. When the error occurs in DSOrganize, the guru meditation is usually as a result of file system errors, which can be corrected using disk-check applications.

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