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David Bradley, IBM engineer, and father of the three-finger salute
August 8, 2013 1:54 PM   Subscribe

David Bradley is an engineer, one of the 12 strategists who worked around the clock to hammer out a plan for hardware, software, manufacturing setup and sales strategy for the first IBM PC from 1980-1981. At that time, Bradley and others were tired of wasting time rebooting the system without powering it down. So, one day he had something like "write keyboard shortcut to reboot system" on list of things to do, and Control-Alt-Delete was created. Years later, he said "I may have invented it, but I think Bill made it famous." (YouTube)

He followed up, noting that was how you had to log in to Windows NT. Bill Gates didn't look any happier at the moment, but in a later interview (YT), Bradley said Gates wasn't really offended.

In that interview, Bradley noted that this wasn't the first keyboard reset. Michael Donald Wise claims his Sphere 1 had the predecessor to the three finger salute, including a key combination that was impossible to accidentally hit, as was the case on the original IBM PC keyboard (previously).

Bonus links:
* Contrl-Alt-Delete on Wikipedia, which lists some history and similar key combinations on other systems.
* Are they real? An article on early microcomputer systems makers back in 1975, including a bit on the Sphere, plus a follow-up in 2006, when Michael Wise said Sphere delivered 1,300 units in its short life.
* Over David Bradley's long career with IBM, he did a lot more than write that keyboard shortcut, including obtaining seven patents. He's retired now, and he gives presentations about the history of the IBM PC.
posted by filthy light thief (21 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
There was a pretty good interview with him on Triangulation a few years ago, also.
posted by detachd at 2:01 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


CTRL-ALT-DEL is no RUN/STOP-RESTORE.
posted by GuyZero at 2:01 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I may have invented it, but I think Bill made it famous."

That was so classic.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:07 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Apple //e used "Control+OpenApple+Reset" to do a hard reboot.

But if you connect an old Apple ADB keyboard to a modern Mac (using an ADB-to-USB converter), "Control+OpenApple+Reset" will also do a hard reboot of your system. I learned that one the hard way.

And on the MacBook Air, Control+Command+Power also does a hard reboot. I just learned that one the hard way, too.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 2:25 PM on August 8, 2013


Combinations? Pah, my BBC had a single, treacherous, key for that.

(OK, you ended up also pressing O, L, D and Return afterwards, but still.)
posted by bonaldi at 2:29 PM on August 8, 2013


CTRL-ALT-DEL is no RUN/STOP-RESTORE.

Nor is it a SysRq REISUB.
posted by Zed at 2:34 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or just keep the power bar next to your computer.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:28 PM on August 8, 2013


Or just keep the power bar next to your computer.

Except the whole point was that a hard reboot made you have to go through the power up sequence again, and the soft reset did not.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:38 PM on August 8, 2013


I have an old Mac 512k that has a "developers button", which appears to be a plastic doodad that one installs into the side to initiate a soft reboot.

Fun trivia: never do "crtl-alt-leftshift-rightshift-esc" on a Novell server.
posted by gjc at 4:06 PM on August 8, 2013


The Apple 2 Plus had a Reset key that would do a hard reboot all by itself. And it was right where the Backspace key would be on a modern keyboard.
posted by moonmilk at 5:54 PM on August 8, 2013


Wasn't the default CTRL-RESET on the Apple ][+? Or maybe that was a preference--anyway, that's how it worked on ours. And then later, CTRL-OpenApple-RESET on the ][e, I believe....
posted by blueberry at 6:08 PM on August 8, 2013


I remember it being just RESET. But it was a looooong time ago, and that would have been dumb, so maybe not.
posted by moonmilk at 6:12 PM on August 8, 2013


gjc: "I have an old Mac 512k that has a "developers button", which appears to be a plastic doodad that one installs into the side to initiate a soft reboot."

Macs had these right up until OS X started shipping on the computers by default. They triggered a debugging session, rather than a reboot.
posted by schmod at 6:19 PM on August 8, 2013


It did feel weird hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del to log into Windows NT; it was so ingrained as a REBOOT NOW last-resort.

I have an old Mac 512k that has a "developers button", which appears to be a plastic doodad that one installs into the side to initiate a soft reboot.

ISTR it being called the "developer switch", but it's pretty much impossible to find anything relevant in a Google search without getting swamped with recent "developers switch to Mac" stories.

It came with my SE/30; a plastic doodad that clipped to the right-hand side of the case, with 2 plastic switches with prongs that projected into the air vents so that they could activate pushbuttons on the edge of the logic board. One was the reset interrupt; the other triggered a debug interrupt that, if you had MacsBug or similar installed, would drop you into the debugger.

It was handy to install it even if you weren't a developer -- when the Mac hung it was less far to reach than the power switch at the back.

This service guide is amusing:
When developer’s switch is installed, Macintosh sometimes resets intermittently

Remove switch and file it down about 1/16 inch.
(Also amusing: the solution to pretty much every symptom is "replace logic board".)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:33 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I used to love reading Apple's manuals back in the 1980s. A very dry sense of humor.
posted by gjc at 7:05 PM on August 8, 2013


We had a deal, Kyle: It did feel weird hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del to log into Windows NT; it was so ingrained as a REBOOT NOW last-resort.

I agree, it still feels weird, even when prompted to do so. It reminds me of people "helping" noobs in IRC with some computer problem. Alt+F4 was usually the shortcut provided, and 8 out of 10 times the user would suddenly disconnect.

For Windows XP, Vista and Win 7, you can disable the Ctrl+Alt+Del login requirement as an admin, but once you're logged in, it brings up the task manager one way or another. I'm using Windows Vista Business Edition, and I tried it without thinking. My laptop screen went black for a moment, then I saw a screen with the options to lock this computer, switch user, log off, change a password, start task manager, cancel, then more options via buttons with graphics (as seen here; source). I freaked out for a moment when the screen went black.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:28 PM on August 8, 2013


It's weird to me that the sequence was originally intended to be impossible to trigger with one hand — even the earliest computer I used growing up had a 101 key layout with the second Ctrl and Alt keys on the right side, just inches from the Delete key in that cluster of six.

My memories of becoming very practiced at rolling a hand across that chunk of the keyboard in just the right sequence to trigger it are not among my happiest computing memories. Stupid Windows ME machine.
posted by spitefulcrow at 10:56 PM on August 8, 2013


Slightly off-topic: why is it commonly called the Apple ][e instead of the Apple IIe?
posted by Night_owl at 11:20 PM on August 8, 2013


Apple's early branding for the Apple 2 was to use the brackets to make it look like a Roman numeral "2" and not the "Apple eye-eye". The monitor ROM would also show APPLE ][ at the top of the screen upon powerup. The Apple 2e, IIRC, actually says "Apple //e" and not "APPLE ][e" upon startup.

Diehard and romantic Apple fans just like using the ][ when referring to this series of computer.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:38 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


That video with Bill Gates was comedy gold.

SUCH... AN UNCOMFORTABLE... MOMENT...
posted by edheil at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2013


According to the Apple II Basic Programming Manual [PDF], indeed all you needed to do to reset, was hit the RESET button (no CTRL- needed). Maybe they changed it for the ][+.
posted by blueberry at 7:19 PM on August 10, 2013


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