Easter eggs – but not the chocolate kind

The sun is shining, we had a double bill of long weekends ahead of us and a major choccy fest that is Easter on its way – so we thought we’d celebrate with a post about Easter eggs – the cool tech kind.

What are they?

An Easter egg is an intentional hidden feature, or message that is usually found within a computer program, web page, or video game. It is something you would either stumble upon by amazing coincidence, or go looking for if you’d been tipped off, say by the developer or more likely the internets. Interestingly, Easter eggs often rely on specific version of software or applications, so service packs can often remove them completely. Then again, you are probably not running Office 97 anyway, so this isn’t much of a caveat.

A brief history

Atari developer, Warren Robinett, suggests that he left the first ever Easter egg in the game ‘Adventure’. In the game players could find a secret message which read ‘created by Warren Robinett’ as Atari developers at the time were not given credit for their games. There term directly refers to Easter eggs as we know them, from the common Easter egg hunt many of us play on Easter Day.

Microsoft Easter eggs

While Microsoft no longer create Easter eggs, due to their commitment to creating ‘Trustworthy Computing’ – secure and reliable software – they have certainly had their fair share.

Apologies if you cannot find some of these – we don’t have all this software kicking around at Ubelly towers so couldn’t verify them all.

Stuffed animals


Strange as it is, Microsoft has had a couple of stuffed animals as mascots for various teams. The first is a teddy bear that one of the senior developers on the Windows 3.1 team carried around. This featured in the SETDEBUG.EXE and JDBGMGR.EXE system files, as well as a fictitious file, BEAR.EXE.

The other mascot was a bunny, two bunnies in fact. One bunny named ’16-bit bunny’ and the other ’32-bit bunny’ (which was of course larger). Some of the desktop features in Windows 95, including full window drag and anti-aliased fonts, could be turned on by placing the line ILOVEBUNNY32=1 under the windows section in win.ini.

Microsoft Office


Along with some pretty strange tips for word processing software (you should never dive into murky waters, plaid shirts and striped pants rarely make a positive fashion statement) Office 4.3/95 contained a mini-game in Microsoft Excel called ‘The Hall of Tortured Souls’ – a sort of Doom like game I expect you would not want your boss to catch you playing.

More games appeared in Office 97, with a flight simulator in Excel, pinball in Word and a magic 8 ball in Access. Office 2000 then followed with a small 3D game called ‘Dev Hunter’ and a car-driving game in Excel 2000 – accessed by a series of commands I doubt anyone ever came across by mistake.

Office for Mac didn’t miss out on the fun either, with Office 2004 in which a game of Asteroids could be found in the notifications application.

Internet Explorer


A pretty cheeky Easter egg in IE4 showed a stop error screen (aka blue screen of death) when the users typed ‘about:mozilla’ into the URL bar. Again Mac users did not miss out on the fun, with Acid1` appearing when users typed ‘about:tasman’ into the URL bar – it sort of makes sense though.

Windows


Easter eggs have appeared in a few versions of the Windows OS.

Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows 98 all have Easter egg credit pages featuring the developers.  Windows 2000 and XP step it up a notch with texture in the pipes screensaver that makes the pipes red and white like candy canes.

Possibly my favourite is on Windows 7, which features a reference to the ‘Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol’ which is accessible by the run command. This is a fictional protocol for controlling, monitoring, and diagnosing coffee pots (originally designed as an April Fool). I like the command ‘coffee:get’ which retrieves coffee from the HTCPCP server – if only it did and didn’t result in an error.

Do you know any other Microsoft Easter eggs we have not featured? Or know of any cool Easter eggs in other OS or video games (like the bunch that are in Call of Duty: Black Ops)? Let us know in the comments!

Published by David

David is a social media and tech gadget geek. You’ll usually find him blogging about the latest social networks, lauding them as the next big thing, or rambling on about the latest features on Windows Phone.

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