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Reset History

Does anyone remember the somewhat fictional ‘reset key’ that we all wished for to avoid losing all our work back in the dark ages of computing? What we have is the ‘escape key' . . .

The ‘escape key’ helped drive the computer revolution of the 1970's and 1980's. It was supposed to force the computer to stop what it was doing. If science fiction writers had included an escape key in their mad computer scenarios it would have cooled the intent of many a story: no more run-away computers.

The ESC key was created clear back in 1960. An IBM programmer named Bob Bemer was trying to solve the dilemma of various computers from various manufacturers that communicated in a variety of codes. (This problem is what the Internet eventually began to solve, creating a process that allowed any computer with a browser running to access data from other operating systems. )

But way back in 1960 the ESC key was invented to allow programmers to quickly switch from one kind of code to another. Later the escape key became a kind of interrupt button on the keyboard.

So why did Bemer choose "Escape" versus something like "Interrupt" to name his key? He worried about Y2K. Remember Y2K, the somewhat-end-of-the- world? Bemer advised Richard Nixon administration advisers of the imminent computing disaster coming in the year 2000. It didn’t and we didn’t need to escape.

Oh, well, I know that I still use the ESC key even on a new laptop. Maybe you don't have one on your smart phone? Well, see what you are missing? Wonder when the ESC key will finally go away? Maybe not for a long time: inwardly the computing in your device has not changed that much, just the hardware that you commonly hold in your hand has changed - a lot.

Thanks, gotta go. <ESC>


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