Monday, July 1, 2013

The frustrating truth behind CTRL+ALT+DELETE

Would you believe it was invented in 5 Minutes and kept as an industry secret for over 10 years?
Hey guys, remember this? It was known by people my age as the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. It meant a reboot lasting long enough for an extended trip to the break room. That failing, as it usually did, you called the IT Dept. and got on their waiting list. In short, work came to a screeching halt for the better part of the day.

It was my recent connectivity probs that got me on this kick.  With plenty of time to read, I was immediately drawn to an article by Virginia Hughes in my favorite mag mental_floss. In it I learned that back in 1981 an IBM programmer named David Bradley, one of an elite group of 12 engineers, was racing to match RadioShack and Apple who already had PCs on the market.
The group’s pet peeve was the restarts prompted by each coding glitch. It automatically initiated multiple memory tests that were very tedious and time-consuming. And some days it occurred every five minutes.
 After five months of this, Bradley, in a fit of pique, created CTRL+ALT+DEL. It involved all of 5 minutes, and he was off to the next 100 items on his to-do list. Bradley chose those particular keys because with the DEL clear across the keyboard from the others, it was doubtful they’d ever be struck together by mistake. It was never intended as a shortcut for customers. It was just for him and his fellow coders for whom every second counted.

Not until 1990 when Microsoft’s Windows soared to dominance did this neat little trick enter the pop lexicon. As PCs all over the country crashed with the infamous “blue screen of death,” the quick-fix spreading wildly by word of mouth was soon hailed by journalists as “the three-finger salute.”
Okay, so we still get The Blue Screen of Death. But now it comes with instructions.

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