I'll be honest: It's one of those things that I thought just sort of happened. It's as fundamental as red lights meaning stop, books starting on page nine, and hot dog buns coming in packages of 12. "Ctrl+Alt+Delete" couldn't have possibly been invented, could it have?

As a matter of fact, it was. And on Friday, David Bradley, the inventor of the keystroke function that bails out millions of locked-up computer users every day, retired after 28 years at IBM (NYSE:IBM).

His meisterstück required only five minutes of coding. IBM's engineers knew that they needed a way to reboot computers when all else failed. Bradley came up with a key combination that would be extremely difficult to do by accident, and by so doing, he designed a simple method to get us out of our mistakes.

(Dear Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) users preparing to write with the myriad ways of the superior Apple machines: We know, we know.)

Octagonal Stop signs... coke bottles... scrapple... manhole covers ...'Q' always followed by 'u'...

Bradley, who currently works at the IBM facility in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, will continue teaching at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In a recent interview, he says that he did lots of other things, but had no idea that his little program would become such a cultural icon -- that it was in fact designed as a developer-level tool, not for end users. He just thought it would be a failsafe "in an emergency break glass" tool.

Turns out that we have to break this particular glass often. Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) operating software systems also use Ctrl+Alt+Delete to reboot. Bradley famously stated at a conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of the PC that while he invented the function, Bill Gates made it famous.

Ironically enough, in the writing of this short blurb about Bradley's invention, I've had to use Ctrl+Alt+Delete. It's been a life saver, and I don't even know what "alt" is short for.

I'm sure you're going to tell me someone invented that, too. Oh, sure.