Bill Gates Admits Ctrl-Alt-Delete 'Was A Mistake'

Bill Gates: Ctrl-Alt-Delete

It's our last resort. It's the big screw you to a PC that's totally messing with you, but Ctrl-Alt-Delete was actually a mistake! A mistake that persists in PC and gaming culture to this day.

Speaking at the launch of The Harvard Campaign, Bill Gates discussed the origins of Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and admitted that it was actually the result of a stubborn IBM keyboard designer.

"It was a mistake," claimed Gates. "We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t wanna give us our single button."

A single button. Why didn't I think of that? Why didn't anyone think of that? And more to the point, why did a keyboard designer at IBM think that was a bad idea? Seriously. Come on keyboard guy!

But... but. Part of me agrees with the keyboard man because I know I would have accidentally hit that button, wherever it was on the keyboard, whilst trying to rapidly type, so maybe I should be thanking the keyboard designer!

[Harvard via Gizmodo]

Picture: Johan Larsson/Flickr


    A single button would have been a much bigger mistake.

      I'd assume it was intended to be an isolated key, much like power on a mac keyboard. I can safely say that I have never hit mine accidentally.

      I agree, the 3 button combo pretty much eliminates accidental activation
      I know I was forever hitting that damn "Windows Key" when it was first introduced
      I love my G15 that lets me disable it on the fly

      Power button on the top right hand side of all the old Mac keyboards suggests that it would have been fine. I grew up using those machines for years and years and never hit it accidentally.

        Maybe so, but I still don't see how one button for a critical interrupt is less of a mistake than requiring a three button combination.

      How many times have you accidentally hit Scroll Lock ?

        All the goddamn time, for real.

          Fair enough. I seem to hit it by accident once every 9 years. The Windows key however...

    But there's already a single last-resort key.


      Except for the last ~15 years, control alt delete has been a first-resort key combo, because it is used to log in to the OS in the first place. Well, it isn't on my home PC, but it is on all the computers at uni.

        That's for security. Windows does all sorts of things to make sure people can't hijack ctrl-alt-del. If you push it before logging in you can be confident that the form you're typing your top-secret password into really did come from Windows.

          Yes, but that could have been just one button, and that's exactly what Gates was talking about here, not the original use of the key combo (pre-windows) nor the command to bring up the task manager.

    Using one button would of being worse and I know that I would definitely accidently press it. Most cases you can just right click the task bar anyway, When your computer is too frozen for even that then there is the godly reset button.

    Oooooh yeah, I'd totally have been prying that key off the keyboard with a screwdriver.

      I did precicely that. Had one of those el-cheapo Acer keyboards that had a "power" button in the top right - next to the "pause" button. A couple of accidental presses of "power" instead of "pause" had me reach for the screwdriver. Back in those days, Windows 98 didn't have the option to configure the key behaviour.

    Ctrl+Shift+Esc is where it's at.

    Those look suspiciously like Apple keys...

    IMO three keys is better than some random permutation of 12 keys... or just one...

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