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The origin of CTRL-ALT-DELETE

You may not have ever thought about it, but the far-too-often-used keyboard combination of Control + Alt + Delete had to have been brought into existence by some random coder at some point in technological history. But wait, it wasn’t just a random coder. The keystroke combo is attributed to [David Bradley]. He was one of the original designers of the IBM Personal Computer. You can even hear his own recount of the story in the video after the break.

He came up with the idea after growing weary of waiting for the Power-On Self Test (POST) routine to finish during each reboot of his software testing regiment. We remember the old days of slow hardware and can understand his frustration at the lost time. He decided to throw in a shortcut that allowed the software to reboot without power cycling the hardware. The original implementation used CTRL-ALT-ESC, but was later changed so that one frustrated keyboard mash couldn’t accidentally reboot the system.

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Rebooting the magic SysRq way


[Cory Wright] shares a tip on how to reboot a system with a failed hard drive remotely. The magic SysRq key is a linux kernel feature that lets you perform a number of interesting operations. If you’re working on a remote system where the disk has failed, you won’t have access to the reboot or shutdown commands. You can issue keystrokes to the magic SysRq device in /proc though, so you can send a hard reboot directly to the kernel with no disk access required.

The Wikipedia entry includes a handy tip on how to properly restart a otherwise frozen machine. It should save you from having to fsck the next time around.

[photo: Joshua Davis]