Long before the blue screen of death and the unhappy Mac face, there was the Guru Meditation. You’d normally see this when you were in the middle of one of the fantastic games that were available for the late Commodore Computer’s Amiga system.
Seeing the black screen with the red flashing message meant you were done. Whatever you were working on was lost, and there was a small chance that your floppy drive was corrupt as well. It was not a good thing to see, but it was a common one. But why was it a “guru meditation”?
The story goes that when the first Amiga computer, the Amiga 1000 was being developed, a new type of controller would accompany it. This controller was a basically a joystick you could stand on so you could simulate surfing, skateboarding, sumo wresting—whatever game designers could come up with.
While the hardware folks were working on that, the software folks were battling frequent errors, and they were getting frustrated. Finally, someone suggested they should all meditate to relieve their stress, and one thing led to another… and a nascent game was developed: mediate in a balancing state on the new joystick board, and whoever can balance the longest wins!
As with many things in technology, the game and the joystick board never made it to market. But the folks at Commodore had a sense of humor, and decided to remind themselves to relax in every error message. Thus, the Guru Meditation error was born.
Though both Commodore and the Amiga are long gone, the guru meditation lives on in the form of error messages from the Varnish web caching software. You may see it if you try to access a web page that has a cache problem.
But the ultimate nod to the guru meditation is in the Wii Fit system, where the Wii Balance Board game “Lotus Focus” recreates the game those Amiga developers thought up 30 years ago.
UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that the “sad mac” was available to the public eighteen months before the Guru Meditation. The “chimes of death” that accompanied the sad mac, didn’t appear until much later.