Microsoft founder Bill Gates has made several exceptional decisions while he was head of Microsoft, leading them to success in the computing world. However, he did make some errors, most notably, the idea of going with the use of Control-Alt-Delete to log into Windows.
For a company famous for making technology great for everyday use, the Ctrl-Alt-Del sequence is as complex as it gets, especially for a pretty simple operation. For several years, people have used this sequence to access the Windows machine, and it wasn’t until recently that Bill Gates spoke up, admitting that the sequence was a bad idea.
Gates made this concession at the Bloomberg Business Forum when asked by David Rubenstein of Carlyle group why it took Ctrl-Alt-Del to log into the Windows machine and as he remarked at a 2013 Harvard fundraising campaign, he pinned the blame on the engineers. Grimacing slightly, Gates says “clearly, the people involved should have put another key on to make that work.” And when asked whether he regrets the decision, he said “You can’t go back and change the small things in your life without putting the other things at risk,” Gates said. But: “Sure. If I could make one small edit, I would make that a single key operation.”
The Ctrl-Alt-Del is a keyboard sequence used to interrupt a function, and the task which it executes is based on the context in which it is used. This operation is executed by holding down the Ctrl and Alt keys together, then pressing the Del key. IBM invented the Ctrl-Alt-Del sequence in the early 1980s (1980 or 1981) – the exact date is lost as it was “not a memorable event.” The sequence was coded by IBM engineer David Bradley to enable the IBM PC to be quickly rebooted. David Bradley initially thought of using Ctrl-Alt-Esc, but he realized this could be dangerous as you could press all three keys just by holding down to the left side of the keyboard. Ctrl-Alt-Del solved the problem as by using keys on both sides of the keyboard, you were forced to use both hands.
The reset feature, the original reason why the Ctrl-Alt-Del sequence was designed was originally intended as an undocumented feature for IBM’s use. However, it became apparent that resetting the machine to restart when programs hung would prove useful for end users too, and it became one of the things that early PC users had to know about.
There’s no telling of what role the Ctrl-Alt-Del command played in the rise and usability of the Windows OS. However, it is, of course, the most famous command in the Windows operating system.