4 Puzzling Technology Questions

Tech Talker answers some burning listener questions.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #242

Over the years I’ve fielded hundreds, if not thousands, of questions from listeners, family members, and friends. A lot of these questions make there way into the podcasts, but some of them aren't long enough for a show. Here are a few that didn't fit in any other episode, so I thought I'd combine them into a segment.technology questions

1.) Why do we use control-alt-delete?

If you are a Windows user, you’ve probably had to use the infamous control-alt-delete. This is a really strange key combination to ever have to press, so why do we have to use it? Where did it come from?

Way back in the days of the IBM PC, engineers would use the key combination to soft reboot the computer when a program they were working on froze. The soft reboot allowed them to unfreeze the computer without a full reboot. It was never intended to go mainstream, and the key combination was made to be obscure so that you couldn’t accidentally reboot the computer.

This caught on even more when the new Windows operating system used the same key combination to login and present the task manager. Now the unique key press is used in modern Windows operating systems as a way to protect your login screen. If you press “control-alt-delete” on a fake login screen, Windows will bring up task manager instead of prompting you to login.

It’s one of those combinations that comes from the very beginning of personal computers and has carried over to today. There is no rhyme or reason why exactly it came to be “control-alt-delete” other than the fact that it was obscure enough not to be pressed accidentally!

2.) Why do we need to restart after updates?

I get this question a lot from friends. It seems like an age old frustration of needing to reboot your computer in order to install updates. Personally, my computer only updates when I’m working on something that’s time sensitive, and it always takes forever.

So why in 2016 do phones, laptops, desktops, and most devices require you to reboot your computer after you install updates? Well picture it like putting new tires on your car. When programmers make a change to a program, they are literally changing the instructions a computer is using to perform operations. Changing out critical instructions while a computer is running is like changing the wheel of a car while it’s on the freeway: it can easily crash.

Now programmers are clever and there are ways they use to update computers that can’t restart, but this is a delicate process and can go wrong easily. It’s just easier to reboot and start with a fresh instruction set. Now if you’re on a Window’s operating system, this article will show you how to schedule your updates so they don’t happen unexpectedly. Apple isn’t nearly as annoying as Windows in the the update department, but if you want to disable automatic updates here is a tutorial for you.


About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.