Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has admitted that the decision to use Ctrl+Alt+Del as the command for logging on to a PC was a mistake.
Originally designed to trigger a reboot of a PC, Ctrl+Alt+Del now allows users to log on to Windows and access the task manager. It is also known as a quick fix for the infamous “blue screen of death” on PCs, and the phrase has been adopted in popular culture to mean “to do away with” something.
Speaking at a fundraising campaign at Harvard University, however,Gates blamed IBM engineer David Bradley for the so-called “three-fingered salute”, claiming that he had favoured a single button.
“We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t want to give us our single button,” he said.
Bradley originally designed Ctrl+Alt+Esc to trigger a reboot, but he found it was too easy to bump the left side of the keyboard and reboot the computer accidentally. He switched the key combination to Ctrl+Alt+Del – a combination that was impossible to press with just one hand on the original IBM PC keyboard.
During IBM’s 20th anniversary celebrations, Bradley said that while he may have invented the shortcut, Bill Gates made it famous. However, his involvement has made him something of a programming hero, with fans asking him to autograph keyboards at conferences.
In his speech, Gates went on to praise IBM’s keyboard designs, claiming that the two companies “did some very clever things” in the early days of computing.
“The IBM PC character set, usually you have 128 characters like the lower case and upper case but we took the upper ones and put like suit symbols in – we were able to experiment with a lot of stuff but more on the software side and not the hardware,” he said.