Control-Alt-Delete was a mistake, says Bill Gates

One of the most well known and used keyboard sequences known to all computer users is Control-Alt-Delete. People have used this for years to access Window machines, and now, twenty years later, Bill Gates is speaking up about it.

During a talk last week at a Harvard fundraising campaign, Gates admitted that it was a bad idea to force users to use hold down “Ctrl+Alt+Del” to log into their computers. Surprisingly, Gates also said there was at the time of inception, an option for a single button/key that someone could press versus having to do the Control-Alt-Delete command. But an IBM keyboard designer didn’t want to give Microsoft, and the world, a single key to press.

“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,” Gates said.

Gates then went on to say that Control-Alt-Delete “was a mistake,” inferring that a single key would have been a much easier way to log in. Ouch.