The art of Haiku applied to computer programming

I was reminded of these wonderful error messages as I was searching for a situation where an error in writing some code caused a failure in a space mission.



A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that

Stay the patient course
Of little worth is your ire
The network is down

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

Having been erased,
The document you’re seeking
Must now be retyped.

Rather than a beep
Or a rude error message,
These words: “File not found.”

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

The Web site you seek
cannot be located but
endless others exist

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

ABORTED effort:
Close all that you have.
You ask way too much.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
“My Novel” not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao, until
You bring fresh toner.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a simple stone.

Error messages
cannot completely convey.
We now know shared loss.

These have been around for a long, long time (1998) – credit comes from “Haiku Error Messages”


As it turns out, the error that I was thinking about was not a coding problem but a conversion problem; the Mars Climate Observer was launched on December 11, 1998 but was lost sometime around September 23, 1999.  Examination of the records showed that one of the contractors had used English units in a calculation while other calculations were done with metric units.  As a result of the failure to convert miles to kilometers, a $125 million dollar satellite was lost.  (see “Math Mistakes in History: The Mars Climate Orbiter”)

Wikipedia has a note about Mariner 1 satellite and the role that computer software played in its lost.  The satellite was destroyed shortly after its launch on July 22, 1962, when it failed to respond to guidance commands.  It has been suggested that this failure to respond was due to errors in computer programming but the information to confirm this is ambiguous at best.

I expressed some thoughts on technology literacy, or rather, illiteracy in the piece “What Does It Mean To Be Ahead Of The Curve?”.  I will be adding additional thoughts with my message on Sunday (see “42”)

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