The Man Who Invented The Escape Key

You probably use it without even thinking. You've may have used it today, maybe in anger and frustration, maybe with a definitive sigh. The escape key is a fixture of modern keyboards everywhere, but who invented it? The New York Times dug into the question.

From the New York Times:

The key was born in 1960, when an IBM programmer named Bob Bemer was trying to solve a Tower of Babel problem: computers from different manufacturers communicated in a variety of codes. Bemer invented the ESC key as way for programmers to switch from one kind of code to another. Later on, when computer codes were standardised (an effort in which Bemer played a leading role), ESC became a kind of "interrupt" button on the PC — a way to poke the computer and say, "Cut it out".

Perhaps the key's most common use today — outside of full-screen gaming — is its important part in the "three-figured salute" PC users have come to know so well. JUST KIDDING. It's part of the (better) three-fingered salute I use so often and you should know: Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Still, it deserves a little veneration, don't you think? You can check out the New York Time's full peice for some more history on that key you know and (maybe) love. [The New York Times]


    I never use it, I didn't even know about Ctrl+Shift+Esc

    I couldn't tell you the last time I used CTRL+ALT+ESC but it would have to be when I was on Win98 or maybe even as far back as Win95. Task Manager gives you a much better informed path to killing an application.

      CTRL+SHIFT+ESC brings up the task manager....

      CTRL+ALT+ESC doesn't do anything, I think you mean CTRL+ALT+DELETE. Another slip--up from MM

        Why would I have brought up CTRL+ALT+DEL in an article about the ESC key? CTRL+ALT+ESC is a way of closing an application, like ALT+F4. Although, thinking about it, it might only be a Linux thing, which is why I wouldn't have used it for 10 or 12 years.

        CTRL+SHIFT+ESC Brings up windows task manager, CTRL+ALT+ESC closes the current window, like ALT+F4

        Last edited 08/10/12 6:38 pm

    escape is great for removing windows from messenger programs like skype, or pop up dialogs with yes/no or ok/cancel on them. great way to gracefully exit out of the current process without force killing. use it daily.

    I hit my ESC key to clear the stack in my cad program. So I potentially hit it thousands of times a day. No wonder it is the first key to wear the letters off.

    no, he means CTRL+ALT+ESC, what dinosaur operating system are you using? +delete brings up windows security which gives the option for task manager, whereas +esc brings up the task manager without the bullshit

      I think you'll find that is ctrl-shift-escape.

    In my mind, the "Cancel" button on dialogs is remapped to "Escape key". I've also used it for ages to invoke the "Stop" command in browsers. F5, F2, F3, F6, F9, F11, F12 and Esc are well-used on my keyboards!

    When programming I tend to use the ESC key all the time. I sometimes hit weird key combinations by accident that result in an unwanted pop up. BAM! Esc fixes all problems. Also when the auto suggest decides to predict what I'm inputting.

    FYI ^ Ctrl + Alt + Esc doesnt bring up the task manager, Ctrl + Shift + Esc does.

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