User asked why CTRL-ALT-DEL restarted PC instead of opening apps

It turns out that keyboards work best when they’re not under pressure

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, The Register’s Friday foray into readers’ recollections of tech support jobs that went janky.

This week, meet “Miles” who told us that “back in the 90's I was supporting a DOS-based machine control application that was installed around the world.”

“To give us remote access we had pcAnywhere installed, which ran as a TSR [ that’s a Terminate and stay resident program – Ed] that responded to the keyboard short-cut ALT-CTRL-F10 to establish a connection to us via modem.” If a user anywhere made that magic keypress, Miles and his mates could remote in to sort stuff out.

Miles told us the tale of a user who complained that their keyboard just wasn't responding to ALT-CTRL-F10 at all. “Nor did it respond to CTRL-ALT-DEL or anything else,” Miles recalled. Even a power cycle from the mains had no effect.

“I asked that they try hitting Escape, or maybe the caps lock key to see if that at least changed the status of the caps lock light.”

Dot matrix printer with continuous stationery

Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper


At which point the user asked for a little time because “I need to put the phone down and move my folder off that end of the keyboard".

And then the keyboard magically repaired itself!

Another of Miles’ marvellous users complained that ALT-CTRL-F10 didn’t invoke pcAnywhere, and instead rebooted his computer.

“This happened several times,” Miles told us. He and his colleagues eventually figured out the cause: “the long-serving engineer with plenty of experience of this process forgot ALT-CTRL-F10 and used CTRL-ALT-DEL as the shortcut instead.”

How have users’ typos made your life a misery? Write to On-Call with your story and we’ll try to run it here, without typos, on some future Friday. ®

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