"If I ever meet you, I'll CTRL+ALT+DEL you!" -- Weird Al Yankovic

At a Harvard Univ. Q&A session this week, Microsoft Corp. (MSFTcofounder and former CEO Bill Gates spoke on a broad range of topics, but the highlight came when he mentioned CTRL+ALT+DEL -- the key combination that used to be required to log onto windows.

Asked by Harvard Campaign chair David Rubenstein, "Why, when I want to turn on my software and computer, do I need to have three fingers on Control, Alt, Delete? Who’s idea was that?"

... Mr. Gates quipped, "It was a big mistake."

The former CEO says he would have preferred a one-button login, but the International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) employee who designed the keyboard preferred the three button solution.  He explains:

You want to have something you do with the keyboard that is signaling to a very low level of the software — actually hard-coded in the hardware — that it really is bringing in the operating system you expect, instead of just a funny piece of software that puts up a screen that looks like a log-in screen, and then it listens to your password and then it’s able to do that.

But as PCWorld points out, if it was a mistake it was a fortunate one as it prevented a trojan from faking the log in screen.  The site writes:

Why? Because, as insecure as some perceive the Windows operating system to be, it could have been a thousand times worse if there were no keyboard interaction required to log on. That physical interaction tells the computer that you want to interface with the Microsoft Windows operating system, and ensures that rogue or spoofed software can't dupe users into typing usernames and passwords.

Others have defended the famous three button combination -- oft associated with errors and OS crashes in early Windows computers -- as being a key part of 90s nostalgia.

Even Weird Al Yankovic paid tribute to the shortcut in his song All About the Pentiums blasting, "If I ever meet you, I'll CTRL+ALT+DEL you!"

Source: YouTube

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
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