You’ve struggled for years to log on to your computer by trying to reach three keys simultaneously that were on opposite sides of the keyboard. You’ve cursed the name Bill Gates because of it.
Bill Gates agrees with you, it turns out.
At a Harvard fundraising event last week, Gates admitted in front of a live audience that the three-key logon system, better known to the world as “Ctrl-Alt-Del” was a mistake.
The audience laughed when moderator David Rubenstein asked why he needed to use all three keys. Watch the exchange which begins at 16:43
Gates started going under the hood to give his answer.
“Because when you turn your computer on, you’re going to see some screens and eventually type your password in, 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.
Then Gates just told it like it was.
“We could have had a single button, but the guy that did the IBM keyboard design didn’t want to give us our single button and so we had, we programmed a low level that you had to … it was a mistake,” said Gates, throwing up his hands in surrender.
The answer brought laughter and applause from the audience.
Our news partner GeekWire found the little nugget and has more on the history behind “Ctrl-Alt-Del.”