PC users are all familiar with the three-finger salute control-alt-delete (ctrl+alt+del). It has rebooted our machines, enabled us to log into our systems, and interrupts the stupid functions that are clearly running in the background, making our computers sluggish. As much as it has become part of our PC culture, Mr. Microsoft himself, Bill Gates, has said this function is a mistake.
That’s right. A mistake.
Speaking at the launch of the Harvard Campaign, Gates said he had originally wanted a single button to perform the ctrl-alt-del function.
Image via Shutterstock
"So we could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button," Gates said. "So what we had, we programmed at a low level. It was a mistake."
The function was actually invented by IBM engineer David Bradley. The three-key combination was designed so that reboot could not be triggered by accident.
“You want to have something you do with the keyboard that is signaling to a very low level of the software – actually hard-coded in the hardware – that it really is bringing in the operating system you expect, instead of just a funny piece of software that puts up a screen that looks like a log-in screen, and then it listens to your password and then it’s able to do that," said Gates.
Despite the fact that Gates looks at this key combo as a mistake, there are defenders of this keyboard shortcut that feel this is the best mistake to happen to computers.
"Why? Because, as insecure as some perceive the Windows operating system to be, it could have been a thousand times worse if there were no keyboard interaction required to log on. That physical interaction tells the computer that you want to interface with the Microsoft Windows operating system, and ensures that rogue or spoofed software can't dupe users into typing usernames and passwords,” writes PC World’s Tony Bradley.
Keyboard shortcuts and commands can make your computing life much easier. Assuming you already know the basics such as cutting and pasting text and quitting an application, there are actually more intermediate commands resource that can help speed up your day-to-day activities a bit by saving you a few trips to the menu bar.
For example, CTRL+ESC opens the Start menu, SHIFT+right click displays a shortcut menu containing alternative commands, and SHIFT+DELETE deletes an item immediately without placing it in the Recycle Bin.
Edited by Alisen Downey