Three fingers, no waiting

Mordecai Brown had a good year for the Chicago Cubs in 1908: he finished with a 27-9 record and an ERA of 1.47. He was not in the rotation for the most important game of the season, though: Jack Pfiester, who’d just come back from a tendon injury, was selected to face the New York Giants and Christy Mathewson. But Pfiester faltered early, and Brown came on to shut the Giants down and win the NL pennant; Fred “Bonehead” Merkle, who’d made that game necessary, was not available for comment, and the Cubs subsequently went on to their second consecutive World Series victory, 4-1 over the AL’s Detroit Tigers.

I have to wonder what Brown, nicknamed “Three Finger” for the most obvious of reasons, might have thought about the signature feature of Microsoft Windows. Bill Gates regrets it:

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has finally admitted that forcing users to press the Control-Alt-Delete key combination to log into a PC was a mistake. In an interview at a Harvard fundraising campaign, Gates discussed his early days building Microsoft and the all-important Control-Alt-Delete decision.

“It was a mistake,” Gates admits to an audience left laughing at his honesty. “We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t wanna give us our single button.” David Bradley, an engineer who worked on the original IBM PC, invented the combination which was originally designed to reboot a PC. “I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous,” Bradley said in an interview previously, leaving Bill Gates looking rather awkward.

Of course, no one ever has to reboot a PC anymore, right?

Still, Ctrl-Alt-Del persists into Windows 8. And the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since, um, 1908.

(Via this Adam Gurri tweet.)



  1. Dan T. »

    27 September 2013 · 7:09 am

    Pfiester pfaltered!

    I don’t see anything wrong with Ctrl-Alt-Del; something as drastic as rebooting should require more than one keypress which could be hit by mistake easily. Of course, it’s only in old DOS that it actually rebooted; in Windows it’s a much less damaging invocation of an options screen to do things like log in/out and pull up a task manager, but it’s still something that would be awkward to have popping up at you unexpectedly when your finger slips on the keyboard. Now, if Windows weren’t prone to Blue Screens of Death, you wouldn’t need a restart feature so much.

  2. Tatyana »

    27 September 2013 · 7:41 am

    What are they talking about? I never used it to start the computer, only if I need to get to the Task Manager. But I tried now and see there are 4 more options

  3. fillyjonk »

    27 September 2013 · 7:49 am

    I’m with Dan. I’m fumble-fingered enough that if it were one key, in the course of typing an exam or something, I’d probably wind up restarting the computer at least once. I can imagine the howling rage of millions of PC users who rebooted while working on an important document.

    I am an unreconstructed XP user here, but it’s been months since I’ve had to reboot. (Am dreading having to transition to 8 or whatever it’s become in 2014, when they stop supporting XP)

  4. McGehee »

    27 September 2013 · 10:16 am

    I notice in the Wikipedia article about “Merkle’s Boner” mention of Giants players Tinker and Evers. Is it possible that year they hadn’t a Chance?

  5. CGHill »

    27 September 2013 · 10:28 am

    Actually, Frank Chance was managing the Cubbies that season; he did get some playing time, but he wasn’t quite the marvel at first base that he’d been before.

  6. David Richard »

    27 September 2013 · 9:26 pm

    Microsoft makes computer keyboards — they could have created a 1-button reset anytime.

  7. CGHill »

    27 September 2013 · 10:03 pm

    What say we compromise on a two-button reset? Think Commodore 64 and the Run/Stop-Restore combination.

  8. Mel »

    27 September 2013 · 11:33 pm

    Fillyjonk … grab a copy of Win 7 from Newegg or a place of your choice … supported until 2020 from what I’m seeing.

  9. Tatyana »

    29 September 2013 · 11:55 am

    Just realized what that reminds me of: an ancient (in a sense “known from the time immemorial”) technique of industrial engineers: on every heavy-duty machine tool the all-important “ON” (or “POWER”) button is never just one. On automobile presses on truck plant where I once worked for 2 months, every time you need to turn on the top die (weighing about 50 ton) you needed to use both your hands pushing simultaneously 2 buttons on the left and right, plus a foot pedal underneath. And still, half of the crew on my shift were sporting missing digits on their hands!

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