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  • [Narrator] This is the IBM Personal Computer.

  • It was the most advanced computing machine ever created.

  • However, this isn't a story about a computer, but a story about when a computer stops working, and the man who created a way to start it all over; the man who invented Control + Alt + Delete.

  • (chiming music)

  • (exciting music)

  • Let's get into it.

  • [Dave] Hi, I'm Dr. Dave Bradley, but you can call me Dr. Dave.

  • Back in 1980, I worked on the IBM Personal Computer.

  • My particular job on the IBM PC was writing the basic input-output system.

  • (clicking)

  • [Narrator] Even with an elite team of engineers and designers, not everything goes smoothly when you're building a computer.

  • [Dave] We had programs that ran most of the time, but when they failed the only way to reset the system was turn the power off, (clock ticking) wait a while, turn the power back on, and it would go through a very long self test.

  • But the system might die every five to 10 minutes.

  • [Narrator] What he needed was a way to shortcut the restart process. (beeping)

  • [Dave] One of the things we discussed was putting a reset button on it.

  • But if you put it on the system board, there was a chance that you could hit it by mistake and all your data gets lost.

  • (upbeat electronic music)

  • So what we did was came up with a three-key sequence that would reset the computer, and you couldn't hit by mistake.

  • A single Control key, a single Alt key, and then, all the way over at the right-hand side, a single Delete key.

  • You hit that Control + Alt + Delete, you're deleting everything that you're working on right now and starting new.

  • I was also able to skip over many of the tests, so instead of taking a minute or two, it was 10 or 15 seconds.

  • But it wasn't a big deal at the time.

  • It was like number 17 on the list of 100 different things I had to fix.

  • [Narrator] Even though it was built only as a development tool, programmers began incorporating the feature into their applications.

  • From there it was released into the wild, but didn't immediately reach pop culture status.

  • (bomb whistling) - [Dave] For years it was no big deal.

  • And then at the 20th anniversary of the IBM PC, that's when Control + Alt + Delete became sort of a cultural icon.

  • (exploding) (screeching)

  • It was the simplest and easiest way to fix your problem: Hit Control + Alt + Delete and start all over.

  • (tape rewinding)

  • - [Narrator] Despite all this, Dr. Dave doesn't think much of this contribution to computing history.

  • - [Dave] I did lots of things with IBM, but all everybody remembers is Control + Alt + Delete.

  • But, I'll take that.

  • The fame of Control + Alt + Delete means that I worked on a very successful product, and I'm very proud of having been able to do that.

  • (fun instrumental music)

[Narrator] This is the IBM Personal Computer.

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The History Behind Ctrl+Alt+Del

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/05/13
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