Charles Petzold

Inventing the “Three-Finger Salute”

April 16, 2010
Roscoe, N.Y.

Everybody knows that IBM engineer David Bradley invented the Ctrl-Atl-Delete key combination used to reboot the IBM PC. But who first described this key combination as the "three-finger salute"?

I think I was. In the February 25, 1986 issue of PC Magazine (Volume 5, Number 4) is a cover story I wrote entitled "Operating in a New Environment," which introduced readers to the new world of Windows, TopView, et. al.. On page 114 is the following paragraph:

I'm pretty sure that when I wrote that paragraph over 24 years ago, I had never heard or read anyone else referring to Ctrl-Alt-Delete as the "three-finger salute." I know it's a miniscule contribution to our culture — and I'm not even that proud of it because "salute" suggests honoring someone or something while rebooting seems like a more hostile act — but I'm holding on to it.

Of course, I will graciously cede neologistic priority if anyone can find a previous printed use of the term "three-finger salute" in this sense.