If you’re a Windows user you probably wondered why Microsoft and Bill Gates made some of the decisions they did with the operating system. One of the strange, and at times annoying, decisions that Microsoft and Gates made early on in Windows development was to force users to use the Ctrl+Alt+Del key sequence. That key sequence was originally designed to reboot the computer as a way to log into Windows.
Gates recently spoke at a fund-raising campaign at Harvard for the Harvard Campaign where David Rubenstein asked him an interesting question. Rubenstein said:
Why, when I want to turn on my software and computer, do I need to have three fingers on Control, Alt, Delete? Who’s idea was that?
Gates went on to explain the thought process that went behind the keystroke combination during the early days of the Windows operating system. Gates noted that something needed to be done using the keyboard to signal to a “very low level of the software” to bring in the operating system as the user expects. Gates also noted that the triple key sequence is hardcoded into the hardware.
Gates said that there was an option to make a single button they can execute the CTRL+Alt+Del command. The reason that single button didn’t happen according to Gates is that the IBM keyboard designer didn’t want to give Microsoft a single button.
Gates said of the three key sequence:
It was a mistake.
David Bradley is the man who designed the original IBM computer and invented the Ctrl+Alt+Del command, which was originally intended to reboot the computer. Years ago, Bradley said that he didn’t know why Microsoft decided to make that keystroke sequence their login command.