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.


[via Gizmodo]

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

32 thoughts on “The Origin Of CTRL-ALT-DELETE

  1. For some reason I almost always use my left hand for ctrl-alt and my right hand for delete. The right hand 3-finger method is just clumsy and pretty much requires that you look at the keyboard.

  2. Hey, you left out the very best part of the wikipedia article:

    [quote]Bradley is also known for his good-natured jab at Bill Gates, at that time the CEO of Microsoft, and also the creator of many of Microsoft’s programs: “I may have invented Control-Alt-Delete, but Bill Gates made it famous”

  3. You know your a computer nerd when your the only one in the room cackling at the joke at bill’s expense. (this just happened to me, had to explain the joke to a couple ppl.)

  4. “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-.”

    I don’t mean to be a grammer Nazi, but the word you meant was regimen, not regiment. A regiment is a military unit.

  5. The Apple II had soft reset button on the keyboard, with a setting to also require the CTRL key to be pressed. It was still too easy to accidentally hit that combo, and I’m sure that was reflected in IBM’s three finger salute design.

  6. you need 2 fingers to break an apple II, 3 to reset it … It was sorta easy to do on the older keyboard design (I guess, I never had an issue as I generally dont meat hand my keyboards), but maybe not so much on the newer apple II keyboards where reset is off in left field and it takes an extra stretch to get your pinky out there

  7. I took an embedded programming class lead by him in college at NCSU. He had some notoriety in the engineering dept due to his IBM days and the ctrl+alt+del addition. He was kind of a lazy professor, but his stories were entertaining.

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