By  on November 14, 2007

The Bay department store flagship in Toronto was hit by the so-called blue screen of death this month when a computer error message was displayed for days across huge outdoor screens meant to carry illuminated seasonal graphics.

The error message is a familiar and unwelcome sight on desktop computers that encounter an operating system error and crash, and the moniker relates to the work inevitably lost as a result. The Bay's error message may have been among the largest on public display, with the four LED screens' combining for a surface area exceeding 8,000 square feet.

Passersby at Eaton Centre, the shopping district that draws 52 million visitors a year and is home to The Bay store, were puzzled about why the error message remained for so long. Blue screens were on view for four to six days, several observers said.

Hillary Marshall, director of corporate communications at Bay parent Hudson's Bay Co., did not specify the duration of the outage, but said the blue screens appeared periodically, not continually.

Marshall said the screens began operating properly on Friday. She said the source of the problem was unknown and may have been weather-related. The technology vendor providing the stand-alone system was to do diagnostic work this week.

"I would have hoped that if it was unrecoverable for an extended period, the screen would be turned off, both from a branding and an environmental perspective," said a retail executive who saw the error message.

Hudson's Bay is not the first to see its splashy graphics undone. Digital signs in Times Square in New York and Las Vegas have fallen victim to the blue screen, as have ATMs, kiosks and airline arrival-departure screens.

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