These days most people know a keyboard shortcut or two: Windows Key + M will minimize all of your Windows, Ctrl + Esc pulls up the Start button, Alt + F4 will force close whichever program you are in… these are the shortcuts that most people use. These all pale in significance to the almighty Ctrl, Alt + Delete.
Back in the day, Ctrl, Alt + Delete used to reset your computer – these days it still functions to pull up the Task Manager and shutdown prompts. It has been with Microsoft operating systems since the beginning and yesterday, we learned (from none other than the ex-honcho himself, his excellency Bill Gates) that it was all a big mistake. He said that he had wanted a dedicated Reset key, but that IBM engineers resisted – at the time he didn’t quite have the same level of clout that he commanded in his glory days. I, for one, am kinda glad.
A dedicated Reset key would be a really, really bad idea – the Jump to Conclusions Mat bad. Seriously, Bill, Windows has been fantastic, and I love your philanthropic work… but a single key with so much power deserves to be divided and conquered. Think about how annoying it is when you accidentally hit the Windows key mid-game, it sucks – but you can recover. Now imagine if instead of forcing you out of the game it forced your computer into a reboot. Granted, these days it would probably bring up a prompt and you would get OK or Cancel the reset… but what would have happened back in the days of MS DOS? Beep, fade to black, another beep, and you would be back at C:\. No big deal? This was a good number of years before Auto-Save and Document Recovery. The one thing that would have mitigated the frustration was that computers, in those days, were temperamental beasts at the best of times – so hitting Shift + F12 (or whatever it was back then) was as automatic as breathing.
So yes, Ctrl, Alt + Delete was a mistake, but it was probably a lucky one for Gates and company: having accidental resets in the buggy mix might have proved too much.