Wednesday, June 5, 2013


If you've ever used a Windows computer, then you are surely familiar with the “three-fingered salute”: pressing the control, alternate, and delete keys simultaneously to reboot your computer.  While other operating systems have used the same key combination for rebooting, Windows users need to use it much more frequently.  Many other operating systems have a similar reboot command (perhaps with a different key combination), but users often never need to use it, so they don't even learn it.  Not so on Windows; virtually all Windows users need the three-fingered salute quite often.  In fact, for many people it's the very first thing you try when your Windows computer is acting up – because all too frequently it solves the problem.  I've been using Maci computers now for six years, and until I wrote this post I wasn't sure whether the Mac even had such a key combination (it does, but it's not CTRL-ALT-DEL).  I've never needed it.

The invention of the CTRL-ALT-DEL sequence is most often attributed to David Bradley, one of the engineers who designed the original IBM PC, in 1982.  He put the key combination in to make life easier for the engineers, as they frequently needed to reboot their computers.  There is another claim for the invention, though: Mike Wise, founder of A-Systems, in 1975.

Why one would be eager to claim this particular title, I'm not sure :)

Reader, former colleague, and friend Doug S. passed along this interesting video clip from 2002.  In it, David Bradley pokes a little fun at Bill Gates for having made CTRL-ALT-DEL famous – and Mr. Bill isn't happy about it:

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