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Ctrl-Alt-Delete Defenders Tell Bill Gates It Wasn't A Mistake

Those are the hands of David Bradley, an original member of the IBM PC team and the inventor of the control-alt-delete function, hitting the right keys.
Bob Jordan
/
AP
Those are the hands of David Bradley, an original member of the IBM PC team and the inventor of the control-alt-delete function, hitting the right keys.

The news that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates now says it was a mistake to long ago force Windows PC users to type "Ctrl-Alt-Delete" at start-up is getting tons of attention because his public mea culpas are rather rare.

Gates told an audience at Harvard last week that he wishes there had been a single button, not a process that forced a rather awkward three-key combination.

But PCWorld thinks "Ctrl-Alt-Del was the best mistake to happen to PCs":

"Why? Because, as insecure as some perceive the Windows operating system to be, it could have been a thousand times worse if there were no keyboard interaction required to log on. That physical interaction tells the computer that you want to interface with the Microsoft Windows operating system, and ensures that rogue or spoofed software can't dupe users into typing usernames and passwords."

The Atlantic Wire offers another reason why Gates shouldn't apologize:

"It's a key combination we laypeople still remember today. Sure, it's remembered in conjunction with the most annoying PC glitches. But we people of Internet bloggery love nostalgia, and CTRL-Alt-Delete, thanks to Bill Gates, is chock full of '90s related memories."

Ctrl-Alt-Delete was "still a part of Windows through Windows 8," PCWorld reminds us.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.

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