It has been around for some time, but you may not have heard that the three finger salute (a.k.a. control+alt+del) has gotten a shortcut. One simple button does the trick now if you’re an owner of a variety of Tablet PC’s. I searched around for a regular PC that had this feature, but all of the results were Tablet PC’s. Understandably, it’s a bit difficult to hold down Ctrl+Alt+Del while using a pen. Many years ago, someone probably could have labeled that key combination as a sign of instability, however, those three keys can do much more these days. Pictured to the right is what the all-in-one key looks like on an ASUS R1F Tablet PC. Other known Tablet PC’s that use this combination key include the Hewlett Packard TC4200, and the Toshiba M7.

This key combination was developed by David Bradley in the very early 1980’s while he was working as an IBM engineer. The purpose behind using three keys, at a distance apart was intended.  This was because he wanted to make rebooting the system something that couldn’t be done by accident. It was designed as a way to get control of your system. Bradley has been quoted as saying, “I didn’t know it was going to be a cultural icon, I did a lot of other things than CtrlAltDelete, but I’m famous for that one.”

With the latest versions of Windows, pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete brings up a window that gives you different options for shutting down, viewing the running programs etc.  It might actually be nice to have an all-in-one option on any PC, like what is on a Tablet PC.Another interesting fact is that nearly every platform (including some calculators) have a combination of keys that forces a soft-reboot, brings up the process manager, or jumps to ROM monitor. Some of those key combinations are:

  • Mac OS (7 and later) — Command + Option + ESC
  • Commodore 64/128 – Run/Stop + Restore
  • IBM PC under DOS – Ctrl + Alt+Del
  • TI-83 (Calculator) – Mode, Alpha, S
  • TI-89 (Calculator) – 2nd + Left Arrow + Right Arrow + On

Most electronics have a form of Ctrl+Alt+Del that requires two hands to complete, it might be nice if PC manufacturers start to add singles buttons that perform this operation for us, just like many Tablet PC’s do today. Afterall, in most operating systems this key combination doesn’t do something irreversible, so accidentally bumping it wouldn’t be the end of the World.