Bill Gates Talks Mistakes Like 'CTRL-ALT-DEL'

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft's Bill Gates has admitted that requiring users to enter Control-Alt-Delete in order to end a process was a mistake. Speaking before a crowd at a Harvard fundraising function, Gates subtly blamed IBM.

Gates says the initial thinking behind Control-Alt-Delete was that it would allow users to bypass applications and immediately interact with the computer's operating system. However, he admitted that there was probably an easier way of achieving that.

IBM Denies Single Button Option

"We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button," Gates said. "It was a mistake." (Source:

That comment caused the Harvard crowd to erupt into laughter, at which point Gates tried to defend his company by yelling, "We did some clever things!"

One of the men behind the original IBM computer was engineer David Bradley. He says the Control-Alt-Delete key combination was designed to help users quickly and easily reboot a computer.

"I may have invented it, but Bill [Gates] made it famous," Bradley said in a recent interview.

You can still use Control-Alt-Delete in Windows 8 to access the task manager, which allows users to see and disable running processes. The key combination can also be used to lock a system, sign out, or shut the system down.

Gates also spent some time in the hour-long interview discussing Microsoft's early years and how his personal and professional lives have changed over time.

For example, Gates says he was "fanatical" about work when he started Microsoft back in the 1980s. "In my twenties I didn't believe in vacation or weekends," Gates said. "Now I believe in multiple vacations ... I've given up fanaticism."

You can watch the Gates interview on YouTube by clicking here.

Gates Disappointed in Windows Phone Performance

This is hardly the first time Gates has talked about Microsoft's mistakes. A few months ago he discussed the company's late entry into the mobile market -- a decision the firm continues to pay for in the form of miniscule tablet and smartphone sales.

"We didn't miss cell phones, but the way we went about it didn't allow us to get the leadership," Gates said. He went on to describe Microsoft's initial strategy in mobile as "clearly a mistake."

Today, Microsoft's share of the smartphone market (which includes the Windows Phone platform running on Nokia smartphones) is tiny compared to iOS and Android. The firm has also struggled to convince consumers to buy the Windows 8-equipped Surface RT and Surface Pro tablet devices instead of Apple's iPad.

Part of the problem, according to outgoing chief executive officer Steve Ballmer: Microsoft was too focused on the PC.

"I regret there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows [Vista] that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone," Ballmer recently noted. (Source:

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