Bill Gates Says His One Regret Is the Ctrl+Alt+Delete Command

The Microsoft founder reiterated his remorse regarding the two-hand command at a recent event.
Danielle  De La Bastide

Anyone with a PC is well versed in the Ctrl+Alt+Delete process to access the task manager when something goes awry; it’s usually not a problem for Windows users despite having to use both hands. However, the founder of the said computer company, Bill Gates has one regret, and that’s the Ctrl+Alt+Delete command. He would have preferred it as a single button.

Gates mentioned his remorse at a Bloomberg business forum in response to a question posed by The Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein, who asked why exactly Gates chose that particular command for the task manager.

“I'm not sure you can go back and change small things in your life without putting the other things at risk. Sure, if I can make one small edit, I'd make that a single key operation,” Gates explained to the audience at the Bloomberg event.

Clearly, to Gates, the “mistake” was due to the IBM developers he worked with at the time, something he repeated at another event at Harvard in 2013.

“The IBM hardware PC keyboard only had one way it could get a guaranteed interrupt generated,” Mr. Gates replied. 


He also blamed IBM engineer and inventor of the command, David Bradley who has heard his share of opinions on the subject. Bradley’s consistent response to the issue was that the keyboard was the least of their worries when it came to developing the overall system. The command was initially supposed to be something they used during development and not meant for public use. It started as a BIOS feature, then became a software feature with Windows 3.0’s Enhanced Mode.

“It was not a memorable event," said Bradley, a longtime IBM employee, speaking of that day in 1980 or '81 when he discovered control-alt-delete. It wasn't intended as something we were going to tell the customers about," he says. “Then it turned out that this reset was a problem-solver for people who were writing the programs and writing the instruction manuals."

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He also often shares the blame with Gates, “I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous,” he said.

Many claim that Gates could have fixed the problem decades ago, when Microsoft launched their first Natural Keyboard, they could have altered the command with a single key since they included new keys not seen on previous devices with the launch.

“And yet, strikingly, Microsoft didn't add a SAK button to its Natural Keyboard. It hasn't added one to any subsequent keyboard, either. All sorts of other keys have materialized—keys to control media playback, change the volume, adjust the screen brightness, and so on—but a logon key is not one of them,” writes Ars Technica.

Despite the back and forth between Gates and his former IBM developers, it’s clear that this mistake has become an icon we all know and love, one that is intimately associated with the Windows legend.

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