1024: Error Code
Title text: It has a section on motherboard beep codes that lists, for each beep pattern, a song that syncs up well with it.
Complex computer programs often incorporate a numbering system for errors that are anticipated might occur. This way, the code can be referenced to tech support so that there is some feedback from the program as to what is wrong (akin to a car dashboard with multiple lights telling you if you have a battery problem or an engine problem or a cooling problem, etc.) Most people have seen at least one error code in their life. Perhaps the most famous error code is seen in web browsers, 404 (not found). Another code is 403 (forbidden).
The guy at the computer gets the error "-41", but cannot tell even what program it comes from. So, the other guy decides to look up the code in a book apparently called Error Codes. The book then indicates to go to a lake instead of how to resolve the computer problem. Which seems like a great solution because it would be very relaxing! The panel with the image of the lake is fairly rare as far as XKCD comics go, in that is is approaching a photorealistic picture.
The beep codes referenced in the title text refers to the error codes produced by motherboards. Because the motherboard is sort of the "heart" of the computer, the designers apparently did not want to rely on any form of error display that might be compromised by the error itself (i.e. a visual display). Instead, motherboards typically have a code consisting of beeps from the system "pc" speaker which is expected to work without error in most situations, as it's wired directly to the motherboard. In a sort of morse-code-type system, certain lengths and numbers of beeps refer to different errors like memory problems, video card problems, etc. The one quick beep that occurs on boot sequences is the POST (Power On Self-Test) beep, which detects vital parts of the system, like motherboard, memory, monitor, etc. The beep indicates that everything necessary to boot is present. Anyone who has built a few computers is probably familiar with less happy beep sequences.
It is possible Randall wanted comic number 1024 to be about computers because 1024 is a significant number in computer systems: it is exactly 210, and as such is sometimes used instead of 1000 as the power constant for file sizes for the sake of easier binary arithmetic. This was referenced in 1000: 1000 Comics.
- [A guy sits at a computer, while a friend takes a book off a shelf behind him.]
- Computer guy: "Error -41"? That's helpful. It doesn't even say which program it's from!
- Friend: -41? I'll look it up...
- [The friend looks at the book.]
- Friend: It says -41 is: "Sit by a lake."
- [The two walk.]
- [The two sit down.]
- [A large, in-color painting of a lake with pond lilies.]
- [The two are still sitting.]
- Computer guy: I don't know where you got that book, but I like it.
- Friend: Hasn't been wrong yet.