Bill Gates said during a recent interview with CNN that one regret he has when looking back on his life and career, is in making the interrupt function on Windows PCs trigger at Ctrl, Alt, Delete. Although a classic maneuver every Windows user knows, he believes it was overly complicated and if he could have a do-over, he would make it a single key press.
When you are the world’s richest man, one of the most respected philanthropists, and have a place on the Mount Rushmore of modern computing, it has to be hard to find anything to regret. Gates doesn’t have many, saying during his chat at the Bloomberg Business Forum that he thinks to change even the smallest of details of one’s past would have a serious butterfly effect with everything else. But he would change that two-handed interrupt command.
“The IBM PC hardware keyboard only had one way that it could get a guaranteed interrupt generated,” he said, pinning some of the blame for his decision on the IBM keyboard designs of the time. “So, clearly the people involved, they should have put another key on it to make that work. A lot of machines these days do have that as a more obvious function.”
This is something Gates has brought up before. In a 2013 interview, he mentioned pushing to have a single button for the interrupt command for the sake of convenience. He blamed IBM at that time too, suggesting that the whole use of the Ctrl, Alt, Delete command was a “mistake.”
An Ars Techinca article from the time points out, though, that is not necessarily the whole story. The original command was created in the early 1980s at IBM as a way to quickly reboot from the BIOS (basic input/output system). It was supposed to be a somewhat complicated command to input, requiring two hands, so there was little chance of someone triggering it accidentally.
It was later popularized with Windows 3.0 and saw some use as a specialized login prompt for the U.S. government’s use of Windows NT, as it was hard for malware to spoof it, according to ZDnet.
Not a fan of Ctrl, Alt, Delete yourself? These are our favorite Windows shortcuts.