n. A metaphoric mechanism with which one can reset, restart, or rethink something.
Other Forms
It's time to hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete on the computerized Bowl Championship Series. Or should we now call it the Bowl Split-Championship Series?
—David Thomas, “Fan's insider,” Fort Worth Star Telegram, December 11, 2003
Wouldn't it be nice if whenever we messed up our life, we could simply press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and start all over again?
—“Let it out,” The Indianapolis Star, September 08, 2003
1995 (earliest)
I don't know what it is about us computer types. During the holidays, I have a painted-on smile that's bigger than Bozo the Clown's. Each of my relatives finds a different computer trifle to give me, and I have to act appreciative.
—Chris Miksanek, “Ctrl-Alt-Delete those holiday trinkets,” Computerworld, December 18, 1995
Today's term was inspired by the recent retirement announcement of David Bradley, who, way back in 1980, programmed the original IBM PC to restart (perform a "warm boot," as the geeks say) when the user pressed the Ctrl-Alt-Delete key combination. Also known as the three-fingered salute and the Vulcan nerve pinch, this classic key combo has bailed out untold millions of users when their otherwise unresponsive paperweights, oops, I mean computers had frozen solid due to a slight shift in the barometric pressure. It's a tribute to the resistentialist nature of the computing beast that Ctrl-Alt-Delete remains a part of the Windows operating system to this day. And it's a tribute to the cultural penetration of Ctrl-Alt-Delete that the term is so often used in non-computing contexts, as the citations here show.