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 I.B.M. 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]