Soft boot inventor calls it a day

Last Friday marked the end of an era of sorts in the computer business. According to numerous press reports, 28-year IBM Corp. veteran David Bradley logged off for the last time with Big Blue, seeking other challenges.

Part of the crew that developed the first IBM PC, Bradley’s most significant

contributions can be counted on three fingers – the ones that press the Control, Alt and Delete keys.

Bradley developed the combination to provided a quick way to restart machines under development from the keyboard. The three-finger salute was appropriated for Microsoft’s Windows operating system, from whence the rest of the outside world has become familiar with it.

Perhaps Bradley himself puts it better. recalls a panel discussion celebrating the 20th anniversary of the PC, involving Bradley and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. “”I may have invented it,”” Bradley said, “”but Bill made it famous.”” Ouch.

Reporting Bradley’s retirement, one mainstream news service referred to the key combination as “”the most dreaded keystroke in the history of computers.”” Piffle. I’m sure most PC users of significant experience have taken solace in a warm boot on many occasions. In earlier versions of Windows, its instantaneous ressurection of a lifeless machine – sans unsaved data, of course – was the shoulder on which we rested our weary heads in buggy times. Now, of course, it conjures up the Task Manager. It somehow seems a less complete repudiation of the tangled processing that has ground our machines to a halt.

Mac users can be smug and superior about their machines (please don’t send angry e-mail – I’m a Mac user), but the Mac equivalent of the soft boot is far more ham-fisted, requiring one to simultaneously press nine keys while standing on one leg and singing Nearer My God To Thee (please don’t send angry e-mail – everyone knows I’m exaggerating), and far less reliable. The Mac’s keyboard restart has never – ever – saved my can on a G4 without having to resort to the hardware reset we’ve been told to never – ever – use by tech support.

Sorry . . . I’m tearing up a little.

Soft boot. Warm boot. Three-finger salute. Vulcan nerve pinch. It must go by a thousand names, some of them even printable in a family publication. If you’ve got a pet name for your restart key sequence, send it along.

As for you, David Bradley, we salute you. With three fingers, natch.



When Dave Webb ceases to function in mid-process, he can easily be restarted by a slap to the back of the head.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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