Bill Gates admits Ctrl-Alt-Del command a mistake

“Bill Gates has described the decision to use Ctrl+Alt+Del as the command needed to log on to a PC as a mistake,” BBC News reports. “Originally designed to trigger a reboot of a PC, it survives in the Windows 8 operating system as the command to access the task manager toolbar and is still used in older versions to log on. In an interview, the Microsoft co-founder blamed IBM for the shortcut, saying he had favoured a single button.”

“The keyboard shortcut was invented by IBM engineer David Bradley. Originally he had favoured Ctrl+Alt+Esc, but he found it was too easy to bump the left side of the keyboard and reboot the computer accidentally so switched to Ctrl+Alt+Del because it was impossible to press with just one hand,” The Beeb reports. “During IBM’s 20th anniversary celebrations, he said that while he may have invented it, Bill Gates made it famous.”

The Beeb reports, “Speaking at a fundraising campaign at Harvard University, Mr Gates said he thought that it had been a mistake. ‘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.'”

Read more in the full article here.

Tom Warren reports for The Verge, “Control-Alt-Delete isn’t the only recent mistake admission by Bill Gates. Earlier this year the Microsoft chairman admitted that the software maker didn’t nail the mobile market when it had the opportunity. ‘We didn’t miss cellphones, but the way that we went about it didn’t allow us to get the leadership,’ said Gates at the time, before admitting the strategy was ‘clearly a mistake.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Windows was a mistake.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]


    1. Some perspective: when Gates was still directly running things when Microsoft was smaller scale, Microsoft was a standard bearer of quality. At some point he lost control and other things got in the way. I have owned several pieces of software created directly by Gates or with his very close supervision, and they truly were or are hallmarks of excellent programming.

      1. Bill is a nerd. Trapped in a nerds body. Maybe more akin to how Steve Wozniak was to Apple. Except Bill did not have Steve Jobs to take the reigns of the frightening and magical beast they had created. Instead he had Ballmer. ‘nuf said, and here we are today …

      2. “he lost control and other things got in the way.”

        Bill Gates lost control? Wow, that’s some perspective.

        I can’t imagine what those “other things” could be, but Windows 95 was supposedly Microsoft’s first serious attempt to create a Mac-like experience for the PC, ten-years after Macintosh debuted. Remember Windows Shell?

        Linda Gates was instrumental in bringing Microsoft Bob to PC users the world over and Bill fell in love with the nerdy programmer who nailed the Windows interface, using a cartoon motif.

        Bill Gates not only thought Microsoft Bob was superior to Windows 95, he recommended it for all PC users, who in turn soundly rejected it!

        Bill Gates loved Microsoft Bob a lot less than Linda though.

        I can’t imagine what kind of quality software you’re talking about because Microsoft is not known for quality software!

        Look how many times they failed in the marketplace with shoddy ill-conceived hardware and software products?

        Ballmer couldn’t sustain those kinds of losses in the market. Especially when you consider, the moment Bill Gates left Microsoft, Steve Jobs unleashed Sir J P Ive in a skunk works that had no limits.

        History won’t be kind to Mrs Gates’ little boy Billy.

    1. +1
      I use this combo many times a day. Not just for logging into my work PC but also to close programs that have become unresponsive. Funny to see him describe Windows 7 as an older version of Windows.

    2. I can never remember the key combination to force quit applications on a Mac, because you don’t need to do it very often.

      I haven’t used a PC full-time since 2005, but CTRL-ALT-DEL is still burnt into my muscle memory (I have done it so many times) 🙂

    3. The most useful in windows perhaps, but not even close to the best ever.

      ctrl-alt-F1 (in unix) would let you open the root console even if the windowing system had crashed. This has saved my ass on more than one occasion (and kept me from having to “yank the cord”) on multiuser systems and servers where there were dozens (or even hundreds) of users actively using it.

      Left alt + F(n) would allow you to jump between user screens (separate accounts logged in) from n= 1 to 10

    4. “That is the most useful key combination in the history of computing.”

      It may be one of the most used key-combinations. But most useful? How would a single button have not been even more useful?

      1. Given that you had to use it (often) to get anything done qualifies it as useful. To put a single button on the keyboard devoted to a hard reset would have been an a priori admission of being screwed up.

    1. Windows was a mistake for every EXCEPT Microsoft. Windows held back innovation in the PC industry a good 10-15 years. Because of their insistence on constant legacy support (to allow them to continue bilking business in institutions for many years) companies like Intel were not able to push things forward nearly as fast as they would have if some one like Apple had been in the lead numbers wise.

      1. There is something to be said for legacy support. On my Windows PC, I have what was a very expensive engineering application (i.e. many thousands of $$) from the 1990’s. I can still run it.
        Just today, I had to open up some old QuarkXPress files. Fortunately, I kept Snow Leopard with Rosetta. Should I have to update Quark to read my old files?
        Did Apple have to drop Rosetta to be innovative? Absolutely not.

        1. If you don’t want to pay for it on a new computer, that’s your decision. I don’t think there should be any guarantee that old software will continue to work forever. If you want to benefit from the latest technological breakthroughs you may have to pay for them. If you don’t want to, don’t upgrade.

        2. Yes, absolutely they did. If developers could sit on their thumbs and keep on using their same PowerPC codebase ad infinitum, wouldn’t you if you were in their position? Instead you have a stated transition grace period to clean house and get on the progression bandwagon. In contrast you have, oh I dunno… Microsoft let’s say… continually caving into extending the support life for Windows XP. Allowing “downgrades” all the way up to Win8 for crying out loud.

    2. Last week I had to use a Windows laptop to access a Mitsubishi log file from a diagnostics package for a large A/C system. I wanted to save the log file onto a thumb drive – this is every day simple, right? Can you imagine my frank astonishment when the machine informed me that Windows did not have a driver for this “unknown” device!

      I then proceeded to download a driver and finally backed up the log file, I then set about emailing it to Mitsubishi only to be told that Windows could not access the WiFi connection.

      After trying for 1/2 hour to get the damn thing to send the email I gave up, plugged the thumb drive into my iMac and sent it on its way in a matter of seconds. Using the same WiFi connection.

      Every time I have used a Windows machine I have had a similar experience – something always needs updating or tweaking before I can get something done.

      So yes, Windows WAS and IS a mistake and from what I know about Windows 8 it has just got a whole lot worse.

    3. > Earlier this year the Microsoft chairman admitted that the software maker didn’t nail the mobile market when it had the opportunity.

      Microsoft was right there in smartphones (with Windows Mobile), and they were actually early with mobile devices, including some that were small “tablets,” when they started work on Windows CE. Microsoft just did not have any followthrough or commitment. Or maybe it was because Microsoft did not have Apple to copy.

      Both Windows CE and Windows Mobile languished… Microsoft was throwing everything they had at the “Longhorn” project, which degenerated into giving up and starting over with Windows Vista. During that time, Microsoft took its eyes off the mobile world.

      At about the same time Vista was finally released (to disastrous reception), Apple dropped iPhone on the world. After some time in denial, Microsoft panicked and threw away everything they had done in mobile to that point, and started over with Windows Phone (now that they had something from Apple to copy). By the time Windows Phone was release in 2010, it was over three years after iPhone, and they basically started over again at ZERO market share.

      And then, at about that same time, Apple dropped iPad on the world… This time, Microsoft’s reaction was to kill the Windows cash cow, by creating the Windows 8 kludge.

    1. True, but you won’t see any documentation from anyone in Windows group admitting to it. You can find articles after articles that it’s just a myth. Even the Microsoft Windows Engineers have written articles online denying such a thing. I have been trying to find something, anything that substantiates that information that was actually within that Microsoft group…. found nothing so far!

  1. I seem to recall hearing or reading around the time NT was introduced that the CTRL-ALT-DEL key combination was also used to defeat a class of malware that inserted itself into PCs at bootup and before login. A single button would not necessarily have prevented this.

  2. Is anyone else here old enough to remember the apple II’s that had a “restart” (I don’t remember what it was called) key directly above the backspace key? I seem to recall that hitting it by accident would INSTANTLY restart the machine.

    Am I wrong, was that not some species of Apple II? I remember people would make little cardboard boxes to put over that key to keep it from being accidentally hit.

  3. I’d accept Ctl-Alt-Delete if Gates would apologize for the Registry. I develop for both Mac and Win (Mac’s the fave, though). The Registry causes more trouble than everything else put together. Bad idea, poorly executed. Total abomination.

    1. Total agreement here, Mikey. Since Microsoft via Windows did not constrain developers or provide an adequate memory management infrastructure devs could write software anyway they liked causing different apps & drivers to access the same area of memory giving rise to registry corruption.

      I have memories of shovelling in 13 or so floppies to reload Win 3.1 every time I had a registry corruption since this was the simplest way to untangle the bloody thing or regain the speed I seemed to be losing.

      Never got much done but became a real wiz at fixing Windows computers back in the day!
      Thank god for Apple, at least we can all get on with our lives these days…

  4. we blame Ballmer for a lot (and he deserves it!)


    Bill Gates is still the Chairman of the Board,

    I can safely bet every major decision like Surface and Win 8 (use one OS for desktop and mobile to protect the Windows Desktop Cash Cow) had Gates Approval, in fact he might have demanded those moves..

    … which turned out to be fiascos,
    I doubt that Ballmer had the clout to create Win 8 by himself or didn’t clear it with Gates. (as Chairman).

    I believe that a lot of the msft disasters can also be partly placed on Gates door (like misreading mobile, iPhone, tablets etc). Note even in quite recent interviews he kept insisting on the primacy of the keyboard for tablets and that tablets should be equipped for ‘work’ which requires desktop Office etc.

    Ballmer has been vilified as an idiot yet Gates his partner (and as Chairman and in personal relationship sort of his Superior) gets off scot free. Once again I don’t think when they met privately Ballmer wouldn’t have had intense discussions about the future directions of Msft Windows, mobile etc or that he had the balls to go alone against Gates advice.

    BUT the general press STILL presents Gates as some sort of tech genius Seer like a smarter Steve Jobs. This was hold over from 20 years ago (when to my laughter) Gates was invited to numerous high brow tech conferences to expound on tech in the future and the like , he was even invited to write huge thick books on his tech ‘visions’. The press gives no of the blame of msft missteps (to put it politely) on Gates door.

    Don’t get me wrong, Gates is a smart dude but his brilliance is as a businessman – leveraging deals, negotiating, attacking markets – not tech innovation. Even the original MS DOS (Q Dos owned by Seattle Computer) was a product he bought and improved and Windows of course was a Mac rip off.

    he was never a ‘visionary ‘ tech guy like the general press likes to paint him. Every msft product was an attack on a successful (money making) product made by another company , Windows/mac, Zune/iPod Xbox/Playstation, Bing/Google, Kinect/Wii — he never took risks to PUSH the BOUNDARIES (just “this guy is making money on this, we can too ” )

    to recap I think that the criticisms for recent Msft failures have tarred Ballmer but Gates who should surely get some of the blame escapes reputation intact. As a Steve Jobs fan , a person who I think is the true apex tech visionary of my generation, I believe it’s time to take Gates off the same platform as Jobs.

    Gates is no tech genius visionary.

  5. Microsoft lives on the desktop PC market, which is dying. They never got Mobile, and they don’t get the cloud.

    I firmly believe that the departure of Darth Fester is going to hasten the demise of Microsoft. His replacement is going to be someone who knows how to survive in a bloated, monolithic bureaucracy – not someone who has the necessary smarts and balls to turn them into something innovative again.

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