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Ctrl+Alt+Delete Inventor Retires

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Jan 30, 2004 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina -- The inventor of the most famous computer keystroke announced his retirement this week after nearly 30 years in the computer industry; 28 years of which were spent as an engineer for IBM Corp.

David Bradley invented the famously known Ctrl+Alt+Delete keystroke, which in earlier versions was only used by developers. After 2000, the keystroke became more popularly known as an option for dealing with a computer glitch or system freeze.

According to legend, in 1980 when Bradley was part of a team of 12 engineers building IBM's first computer, he developed the keystroke as a faster way of exiting a program and rebooting, ultimately saving time in the race against industry competitors.

Bradley says he chose the specific sequence of keys because they were far enough apart to avoid ending programs in error.

The Associated Press reports that during the development phase of the famous keystroke, Bradley considered using the 'plus' key instead of 'delete,' but later came to his senses.

"The intention was to be cryptic," he said in an interview. "It was a key combination that was the moral equivalent of turning the power off and back on again, so it was not an action to be taken lightly. It wasn't something you wanted to happen accidentally."

According to Bradley, Ctrl+Alt+Delete was never intended to be used by the average computer user. But over time, Microsoft incorporated the keystroke into its operating system as an easy way for users to deal with software problems.

"I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous," Bradley said at a panel discussion celebrating the 20th anniversary of the IBM computer.

During his prolific career, Bradley developed lesser-known keystrokes that have proven invaluable for developers, and he authored several books on personal computers.

Bradley, who works at IBM's facility in Research Triangle Park, will work his final day at IBM on Friday and will continue on as a professor at North Carolina State University.

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