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Bill Gates Says Ctrl+Alt+Delete is IBM's Fault

By - Source: The Verge | B 53 comments

Gates doesn't want the blame for Ctrl + Alt + Delete.

Ctrl + Alt + Del. You've probably done it hundreds of times over the years you've been using computers. But did you know that Bill Gates never wanted that sequence to exist in the first place? Apparently, Gates wanted the function of Ctrl + Alt + Delete to be taken care of with a single button. Unfortunately, IBM's keyboard design didn't allow for it.

"It was a mistake," the Verge quotes Gates as saying during an interview at a Harvard fundraising campaign. "We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't wanna give us our single button."

Despite Gates' admission that he sees the combination as a mistake, it still exists on Windows machines today. The engineer that came up with it is David Bradley, who worked as a designer on early IBM computers. According to CNN, Bradley says they didn't mean for it to be available outside of development.

"I originally intended for it to be what we would now call an Easter egg -- just something we were using in development and it wouldn't be available elsewhere," Bradley said in 2011. "But then (software publishers) found out about it. They were trying to figure out how to tell somebody to start up one of their programs, and they had the answer. Just put the diskette in, hit Control-Alt-Delete, and by magic your program starts."

Bill Gates left Microsoft Gates stepped down from his position as CEO of Microsoft in January of 2000 and instead filled the role of 'Chief Software Architect.' In 2008, he stopped working full-time at Microsoft to focus more on his philanthropy.

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  • 26 Hide
    stevejnb , September 26, 2013 1:47 PM
    Meh, I'm with whoever designed the IBM keyboard. Ctrl-alt-delete as one button would be worse than the accidental clicks of the sleep mode buttons some keyboards have. Huge pain in the arse and then you're trying to figure out what the heck happened as your screen suddenly goes blank.
  • 25 Hide
    dextermat , September 26, 2013 12:42 PM
    I think Ctrl+Alt+Delete is a great mistake. On windows 98, if you do it twice, it reboots the computer. How many times did win 98 froze and the only thing that worked was "Ctrl+Alt+Delete"

    Same thing with xp, vista, 7 and 8. If your trouble shooting, removing viruses. Most of the time it's a great tool!
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    funguseater , September 26, 2013 12:14 PM
    There were a number of functions attached to ctrl + alt. How would adding an extra key simplify the user experience without endangering your data (its easy to hit a single button by mistake but a combo is much harder to accidentally push)? Not sure of the point to this story, Bill Gates doesn't like it... who cares. And Ctrl+Alt+Delete was for rebooting the machine not specifically for starting a program unless it had its own boot environment.
  • 3 Hide
    Kieran Warren , September 26, 2013 12:42 PM
    they still could have changed it to a single button years ago. Just have support for both so that old keyboards can do ctrl+alt+del and the newer ones would do button 'x'
  • 25 Hide
    dextermat , September 26, 2013 12:42 PM
    I think Ctrl+Alt+Delete is a great mistake. On windows 98, if you do it twice, it reboots the computer. How many times did win 98 froze and the only thing that worked was "Ctrl+Alt+Delete"

    Same thing with xp, vista, 7 and 8. If your trouble shooting, removing viruses. Most of the time it's a great tool!
  • 6 Hide
    giovanni86 , September 26, 2013 12:54 PM
    That combination is used by me more than a hundred times.. More likely I've hit those 3 keys thousands or even a million times. It does what it was intended to do. Get me out of pickles with my PC.
  • 5 Hide
    PhilFrisbie , September 26, 2013 1:02 PM
    The suggestion that Ctrl-Alt-Del could have been replaced with a single key is ignorant of its function. I don't care who is saying it!
  • 3 Hide
    AMDRadeonHD , September 26, 2013 1:15 PM
    It's awesome what people learn in life.
  • -3 Hide
    anonymous_user , September 26, 2013 1:23 PM
    "Bill Gates left Microsoft Gates stepped down from his position as CEO of Microsoft"

    Ummm what?
  • 26 Hide
    stevejnb , September 26, 2013 1:47 PM
    Meh, I'm with whoever designed the IBM keyboard. Ctrl-alt-delete as one button would be worse than the accidental clicks of the sleep mode buttons some keyboards have. Huge pain in the arse and then you're trying to figure out what the heck happened as your screen suddenly goes blank.
  • 6 Hide
    brucen13 , September 26, 2013 1:47 PM
    It may have been a bigger mistake for Microsoft to get the single key function. At least it takes a conscious effort to hit Contl-Alt-Del instead of fat-fingering a single button. Oops! Grrrr... Damn!
  • 4 Hide
    newbie_mcnoob , September 26, 2013 1:54 PM
    He also said that "640 KB of RAM is more than you will ever need" was IBM's fault.
  • 1 Hide
    stevejnb , September 26, 2013 2:01 PM
    Actually Newbie, he went on record and claimed he never said that. Maybe true, maybe not... Who knows?
  • 3 Hide
    DRosencraft , September 26, 2013 2:03 PM
    I think making it a single button would be fine, depending on where you put it. All it does ctrl+alt+del does is open up Task Manager (older OS iterations potentially restart your PC). It doesn't automatically change anything, and all you would need to prevent such accidents is what is common now anyway, which is a prompt asking if you're sure about doing whatever it is you're doing. Putting a single button up by the F keys would keep it out of the way - how likely is anyone to accidentally press an F key? But either way, it's not really a big deal.
  • 1 Hide
    hiryu , September 26, 2013 2:09 PM
    Single key to replace Contl-Alt-Del would cause more problem. In DOS era, the combination would instantly warm reboot the computer. Accidentally pressing the single key would mean someone would lost the unsaved work, or even worse, if the computer reboots while writing on the disk, it would corrupt the file and lost the whole thing.
  • 3 Hide
    GoldenI , September 26, 2013 2:17 PM
    Who is responsible for making Alt + F4 enlarge your screen?
  • 2 Hide
    blppt , September 26, 2013 2:19 PM
    "He also said that "640 KB of RAM is more than you will ever need" was IBM's fault."

    I think that could be blamed on Intel, not IBM, with its segmented memory architecture x86 chips (640K low memory, 384K high memory in the first MB).

    Still wonder what the computing world would be like had IBM chosen the 68000 for its PC like the engineers originally wanted. Oh well.
  • 3 Hide
    Zaxx420 , September 26, 2013 3:20 PM
    Ctrl+Alt+Del on a single key...too easy to hit it by mistake imo.
  • 4 Hide
    lsc , September 26, 2013 3:36 PM
    Wait a moment... is he saying that he wanted a single button to do what Ctrl+Alt+Del did back in the age of DOS and up? Ok, how many people here accidentally hit the "Windows" key while in the middle of something and screamed out loud in profanity? How many developers and apps made an option to shut off the "Windows" key to protect us from the critical moments where an accidental Shift, Ctr, or Alt, was mistyped by one key? I like my Ctrl+Alt+Del dammit!
  • 2 Hide
    rolli59 , September 26, 2013 3:39 PM
    IBM should be happy to take the blame for that, just imagine all the people screwing up their computers by mistake if it was a single keystroke!
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