Bill Gates: Ctrl-Alt-Delete was a ‘mistake’

Speaking at a Harvard fundraiser, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said the triple key command control-alt-delete should have been just one button.
September 26, 2013

Ever get annoyed that you have to hit three buttons — control, alt and delete — to log in to Windows? You’re not the only one, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has now gone on-record to say that the keyboard combination was a “mistake.”

Gates made the comments over the weekend at a Harvard University interview posted to the school’s YouTube channel Monday, that has picked up steam throughout the week. The full, nearly hour-long interview, conducted for a school fundraising event, makes for excellent viewing if you’re interested in Gates, his time at Microsoft and his current endeavors. But the part of the talk that’s getting the most attention is definitely Gates’ admission that ctrl-alt-delete isn’t exactly ideal.

“One thing I want to ask you about with respect to the software you’ve created,” said interviewer David Rubenstein, who is the co-chair of the Harvard campaign. “Why when I want to turn on my software and computer do I need to have three fingers?”

“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, going on to explain how they landed on the final combination before running out of steam. “And so we had. . .we programmed at a low-level that you had to. . .it was a mistake,” he finally concluded, to laughter and applause from the audience.

Not that Gates was willing to let the conversation rest there.

“We did some clever stuff,” he continued. “We were able to experiment with a lot of stuff, but more on the software side than the hardware.”

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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