Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Guru Meditation is the name of the error that occurred on early versions of the Amiga home computers when they crashed. It is analogous to the black screen of death and the blue screen of death in other operating systems.
When a Guru Meditation is displayed, the computer runs the ROMWhack debugger, which is accessible by connecting a 9600 bit/s terminal to the serial port. This makes it possible to have a look at the contents of the machine and determine what made it crash.
The alert itself appears as black rectangular box that located in the upper portion of the screen. Its border and text is red when it is a normal Guru Meditation, or green/yellow when it is a Recoverable Alert, another kind of Guru Meditation. The screen goes black, and the power and disk-activity LEDs may blink immediately before the alert appears. In AmigaOS 1.x, programmed in ROMs known as Kickstart 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3, the errors are always red. In AmigaOS 2.x, recoverable alerts are green, while in AmigaOS 3.x, they are yellow.
This error is sometimes referred to colloquially as a "trip to India" or just "alert".
The alert occurred when there was a fatal problem with the system. If the system had no means of recovery, it could display the alert, even in systems with numerous critical flaws. In extreme cases, the alert could even be displayed if the system's memory was completely exhausted.
The error is displayed as two fields, separated by a period. The first field is either the Motorola 68000 exception number that occurred or an internal error identifier (such as an 'Out of Memory' code). The second is the instruction counter that the exception or error occurred at.
The text of the alert messages was completely baffling to most users. Only highly technically-adept Amiga users would know, for example, that exception 2 was an address error, and meant the user was accessing a word on an unaligned boundary. Users without this specialized knowledge would have no recourse but to look for a "Guru" or to simply reboot the machine and hope for the best.
The term comes from the early days of the Amiga corporation, and is partly an in-house joke. One of the early products produced by Amiga was the joyboard, a game controller much like a joystick but supposed to be operated by your feet. It was sold with the skiing game Mogul Maniac for the Atari 2600 game computer. When the Amiga OS crashed, the programmer working with it would sit down cross-legged on the joyboard, trying to keep it in balance thus resembling an Indian guru.
The Guru meditation error was removed from subsequent versions of the Amiga ROM (Kickstart), but some users choose to patch it back in.
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