Bill Gates was and is a genius, and his brilliance and leadership brought to life the juggernaut that is Microsoft, but of course, he and his company made some missteps along the way. (And continue to do so.) Some of them were large, some were tiny, but something that millions of users had to live with every day was the Ctrl+Alt+Del keyboard command.
Originally developed by early coders as a way to quickly soft boot a machine that was acting up, Microsoft took the command and baked it into Windows. It became a tool for bringing up the Task Manager as well as for logging in to Windows.
In an onstage interview with David Rubenstein, Gates admitted that using the command for logging in was a mistake. Rubenstein posed the question as a non-sequitur: “Why, when I want to turn on my software and computer, do I need to have three fingers on Control, Alt, Delete?” (Skip to about the 16:30 mark.)
Gates replied seriously, by explaining that essentially it was a way to ensure that when you brought up the operating system, it was the actual operating system and not some software that was going to jack your password. He said that originally Microsoft wanted to have a single button that would do the same thing, but the IBM keyboard designers didn’t want to give them their own button.
Eventually though, to a big laugh from the audience, Gates admitted: “It was a mistake.” An interesting bit of computer history, that, and a funny, candid admission from Gates himself.