Control-Alt-Delete? Gates Says Command Was a Mistake

PHOTO: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates attends the Clinton Global Initiative during the Clinton Global Initiative,  Sept. 24, 2013 in New York.

It's a shortcut all Windows users know. A frozen program? Slow performance? The first move is, of course, holding down those three keys -- Control-Alt-Delete. It's a three-finger move to get to the task manager or get to a log-in screen, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates now admits the rather clunky command was a mistake.

When asked who came up with the shortcut during an interview at Harvard University this week, Gates said "it was a mistake."

"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. "We programmed at a low level. ... It was a mistake." The part in the interview was first spotted by Geekwire.

That IBM PC engineer was David Bradley. Bradley, who designed the computer in 1980, said in an older interview that "it was originally intended to be what we would now call an Easter Egg, just something we were just using in development -- it wouldn't be available elsewhere."

That certainly wasn't the case. Introduced in 1981, the command still lives on in Windows, including Microsoft's current Windows 8 operating system.

According to a 2010 article in the Indianapolis Star, the original idea was to create a way to restart the computer. He chose those keys because he didn't want people to mistakenly hit the keys and on that original IBM keyboard the Delete key was on the other side and, thus, required two hands.

Bradley said he didn't think it would become a "cultural icon," and then taking a shot at Gates and Windows' all-too-well-known issues, he said, "I might have invented it, but I think Bill made it famous."

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