Ctrl+Alt+Del command was a mistake, admits Gates

Odd combination of key strokes was not well thought out, Microsoft founder admits

Dubbed the three-finger salute by computer geeks, the Ctrl+Alt+Del command was always a bit of an odd combination of key strokes for such a basic function.

Now, Bill Gates has admitted the awkward finger-splaying instruction, used predominantly by frustrated PC users to forcefully end misbehaving programs, was a mistake.

Speaking at a Harvard fundraising campaign, Microsoft’s chairman admitted the combination of keys was not well thought out.

"We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't wanna to give us our single button...it was a mistake."


He suggested the original idea was to use a cumbersome key combination to ensure it was difficult for other software to fake a log-in screen and steal passwords.

"The guy" Gates referred to was David Bradley, an engineer who worked on the original IBM PC.

While Bradley has admitted to inventing the command, he blames Gates for making it famous.

The Ctrl+Alt+Del command was originally designed to reboot a PC and on older versions of Windows was used to log-in, but since Windows 8 launched, it has been used to access the task manager bar.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times