Every time a software program locks up and you want to start over, every time you need to change your password or log on or off your computer, you can thank David J. Bradley.
Bradley is the man who gave the world "control-alt-delete."
"It was not a memorable event," said Bradley, a longtime IBM employee, speaking of that day in 1980 or '81 when he discovered control-alt-delete.
"It wasn't intended as something we were going to tell the customers about," he says. "Then it turned out that this reset was a problem-solver for people who were writing the programs and writing the instruction manuals."
The original idea was simply to reset early PCs without turning them off. Microsoft adopted control-alt-delete to help ensure people powered down correctly, then to handle "administrative functions" such as the vital "end task" feature for computer software that crashes or otherwise gets stuck.
Bradley chose the control and alt keys because he needed two shift keys to make the operation work, and he chose the delete key because it was on the opposite side of the keyboard. He didn't want people to hit control-alt-delete by accident.
It's more complicated than that, of course, but most people don't have a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Purdue University, as Bradley does.