9 Amazing Easter Eggs in Computing

An Easter egg is an inside joke, hidden message or feature in a medium such as a computer program, film or book.


In computer software, Easter eggs are secret responses to an undocumented set of commands. The results vary from a simple message or picture to short video games hidden inside your piece of software. Video gamers particularly love Easter eggs, which usually come in the form of cheat codes which unlock special powers or skip levels. Most computer-related Easter eggs are found in software; however, occasionally they exist in hardware or firmware of certain devices.


Over the years Microsoft created some of the largest and most elaborate Easter eggs before it stopped including them in its programs as part of the 'Trustworthy Computing Initiative', back in 2002.


We've reviewed some of the most memorable computer-related Easter eggs – most from Microsoft and a few from other big players, including the arch-rivals Macintosh.

1. Microsoft Bear

The Microsoft Bear was a mascot of the Windows 3.1 (and later Windows 95) team. It was the teddy bear that one of the senior developers used to carry around. Amongst its cameo appearances in Windows, today we remember the below – a little tribute to Brad Silverberg, product manager for MS-DOS, Windows, Internet Explorer and Office, and PC Magazine's Person in 1995 for his leadership of Windows 95.

The Microsoft Bear

Source: Wikipedia

2. Microsoft Bunny

The team of developers at Microsoft loved bunnies too, not only bears. Just like the Bear, the Bunny had an exported function named after him (BUNNY_351 in krnl386.exe). It was also used as the icon for rumor.exe (Microsoft Party Line) in some Windows Chicago betas.

3. Play 'Snake' on YouTube

Snake was one of the earliest computer games and enjoyed a huge renaissance when Nokia included it on their mobile phones in the late 1990s. It involves guiding a short snake around the screen, eating blobs. When the head of the snake crashes into a wall or part of its tail, the game ends.

I won't go into any detail on how many hours I wasted in my teens playing Snake, but I am happy to show you how to unlock the famous videogame on YouTube.

  1. Start a YouTube video and let it load properly.
  2. Pause it, hold down the left key for 2-3 seconds and simultaneously press up. The Snake game should pop up.
  3. It's time to play! Use your arrow keys to move the snake around and chase the pellets.
  4. Now, back to work!

It only works if you are on YouTube.com.

 

If you feel like playing, this YouTube video has a solid background (and somewhat appropriate Tetris music) to help you focus on a non-distracting background. As the message to the video says: "Let the retro gaming awesomeness begin."

4. Word 97 Pinball

Microsoft Word 97 contained a hidden pinball game. Looking back, it seems more eighties than nineties to me. A bit of Pinball is always fun, though.

 

5. 'Dev Hunter': hidden game in Excel 2000

Probably my favourite. When using Microsoft Excel 2000 and the Microsoft Office Web Components, a small 3-D game called 'Dev Hunter' is accessible. Although DirectX had to be installed for this to work, and the egg was incompatible with certain service pack upgrades, 'Dev Hunter' became a classic.

 

On the roadway shown in the game, a list of sentences appears, including:

  • YOU WILL RESPECT THE RECTANGLES
  • SO YOUR NAME IS MISSPELLED WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT
  • CIRCLES ARE GOOD TOO BUT THEY'RE NOT RECTANGLES
  • PIVOT PIVOT PIVOT CAN'T GET ENOUGH
  • A CHART SAYS SO MUCH EVEN THOUGH IT DOESN'T REALLY SAY ANYTHING BECAUSE IT CAN'T TALK
  • LAST BUT NOT LEAST BUT ALSO NOT COMPRESSED HAM

Enough said.

6. To be (an Easter Egg) or not to be: This is the question

Throughout the years, many unexpected features have been misclassified as Easter eggs. For example, since version 5, Excel has possessed a "datedif" function, which calculates the difference in whole days, months or years between two dates. Although this function is still present in Excel 2007 and 2010, it was only documented in Excel 2000. One could argue the benefit of such a formula, therefore its Easter Egg inclination. Frankly, it's pretty debatable.

7. Google… what did you mean?

 

From time to time, we all use Google to spell check and let the "Did you mean …" do the work for us, let's get over it. However, sometimes Google won't help us, like when spelling the word "anagram" – instead, it offers back an actual anagram for "anagram."

Source: Google

Recursion
When you type "recursion," which is the process of repeating something, Google suggests "recursion" – over and over again, in an infinite loop.

Source: Google

42 - Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Google also has a very popular calculator function. It's also convenient when you type "answer to life, the universe, and everything," a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As in that book, the answer is given as 42.

Source: Google

8. A little bit of history (for Mac users)

To make your Terminal display a list of 365 significant events type "cat /usr/share/calendar/calendar.history". Honestly, there's a lot to learn here. Also very useful for chit chats, like when you get stuck in the lift with your neighbours.

Mac History

Source: Business Insider

9. Your Mac can psychoanalyse you

Start up the Terminal on your Mac. Type "emacs" and hit enter. Quickly press Esc + x. Then type "psychoanalyse-pinhead" to see your Mac have a conversation with itself. Before it gets too severe and your Mac starts questioning your best childhood memories, stop the scrolling conversation by pressing Ctrl + G.

Mac Psychoanalysis

Source: Business Insider