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The secret history of Ctrl+Alt+Del

The secret history of Ctrl+Alt+Del

Ctrl+Alt+Del will go down in history as that one confoundingly difficult way to restart your PC when everything else has failed. But as its creator, David Bradley, tells Great Big Story, it was a pain by design.

The tool was first developed because Bradley and the 11 other engineers building the first IBM PC needed a quicker way to restart the computer when their code broke it down. They had been unplugging it and plugging it back in–another tried and true (if slow) method still familiar to any PC user today. But Bradley came up with another solution: Ctrl+Alt+Del. This bit of finger gymnastics, intentionally designed to never erase your work through an accidental typo, is now universal.

The twist is that Bradley, who is now in his 70s, never imagined the shortcut would be used by anyone outside his own team, let alone become an industry standard and cultural phenomenon. Which just goes to show that even small decisions you make when designing a product could have vast consequences…especially if you’re building a tool that will eventually be used by billions of people around the globe.

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