CTRL ALT DEL an icon of computers


A number of years ago Bill Gates was at a Harvard university talk and stated that using CTRL ALT DEL was a mistake of Microsoft’s part.  They had wanted a separate key on the keyboard so that you could log on the computer. Of coarse now everyone has a windows key on their keyboard and it is still not used to log onto their computers.  All business class computers still you CTRL ALT DEL.  But where did this come from.

Well the funny part is that this was supposed to be a secret code only for advanced programmers. Back when the first IBM computers for home use were being developed, a programmer from Boca Raton named David Bradley was one of the twelve members of the development team. When they were working on different programming issues and coding they would have to restart the computer over and over again.  each time they restarted the computer it would have to do the memory test and other POST functions.  This stole valuable time from the developers and they were in a rush to get their computer to market.

So David came up with the solution for a short cut key combination that would allow a computer to reboot without running any of the POST functions or memory test and allow a programmer to get back to what they were doing. He had selected the combination because it would be uncommon for it to be hit by accident since the DEL was on the other side of the keyboard.  It was only passed on to developers there were on the project.  Later as other software was being worked on programmers would pass on the cool trick to reboot the computer way faster and save so much time.  This was even used when Windows would give that famous Blue screen of DEATH and the CTRL ALT DEL would be the fastest way to get the computer back up and running.

During the 20th anniversary celebration of the IBM PC, Bradley was on a panel discussion across from Bill Gates when he gave his side of the story.  “It was like a five-minute job in doing it. I didn’t realize I was going to create a cultural icon when I did it,” he said. “But I have to share the credit. I may have invented it, but I think Bill made it famous.”  Of coarse we are not sure if he meant it was because it was used to log onto windows for business, or because it was used to recover from so many crashes.

Either way Bill took the comment in stride and the shortcut has been cemented in every persons everyday usage for access to task manager or other settings within windows. It is still surprising that just five minutes of work defined a style of computer usage.  To this day it as never patented.


About Author

An avid gamer, JoeBoy has been reviewing and playing video games for over 30 years. Starting a non-profit call SolgamesUSA Foundation, JoeBoy has promoted using games to increase interest in learning about computers. He also runs a computer company: Your Computer Solutions Inc. that has been providing remote and on site services all across the country.

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