When most people hear the term “Easter Egg” they think of little chocolate eggs hidden for children to find as part of the Easter or springtime tradition in Western society. These kinds of Easter eggs, or Paschal Eggs, are linked to the Christian observation of Lent during which eggs were forbidden. However, in the world of technology the moniker “Easter egg” is used to describe an inside joke or secret in an interactive space– such as a computer game or on the web. This post will reveal some fun technical “Easter Eggs” you can hunt for right at home!
#1) Let’s start with the basics. Head over to Google.
Google is notorious for its whimsical sense of humor. Let’s start with a demonstration. Type the word “askew” into your Google search bar– the results will appear a little off kilter. Okay now let’s try something even sillier. Type “Do a Barrel Roll” into your Google search bar. Go ahead have a laugh! Are any of our readers fans of the novelist Douglas Adams and his series (which was later made into a blockbuster film) “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”? The books and the movie is famous for letting humanity in on the secret to life, the universe, and everything. Apparently the answer is 42. When you ask Google “the answer to life, the universe, and everything” its calculator function computes it to…42. I’m guessing you’re starting to get the picture here. Let’s try one more, type “zerg rush” into the search bar. Watch out for an advancing army of “Os”, click on them to destroy them and protect your search results!
#2) Is Google the only one having fun? Nope, head over to Mozilla Firefox.
Mozilla Firefox is a web browser–not a website. If you don’t have this browser, you can download it for free here. This Easter Egg is kind of weird and dates back to the birth of Mozilla Firefox– when the company worked off of AOL’s Netscape in 1995. Mozilla includes a silly search feature similar to Google. You just need to type “about: whatever” in the search bar. For example, if you type “about: about” it will show you a list of menus that Mozilla features. Try typing “about: robots”. You’ll find information sourced from Blade Runner and Futurama– it’s pretty cute. But if you type “about: mozilla” a strange ominous red box will pop up with a quote from “The Book of Mozilla”. The message has changed throughout the years and apparently each new verse is a metaphor for a Mozilla update.
#3) Microsoft Office: death of the Easter Egg
Back in 1997 Microsoft Office also had a sense of humor. If you can believe it, Microsoft Excel used to contain a flight simulator and Microsoft Word harbored a hidden game of pinball! But Microsoft cracked down on Easter Eggs citing them as a security concern. As of today, no Microsoft product contains an Easter Egg in accordance with their policy on Trustworthy Computing. This is a fair objection. The whole point of technical “Easter Eggs” is basically to reward innovative programmers and users. Programmers think it’s fun to hide a little joke within their code– a joke only computer nerds will find, until it becomes common knowledge. They originated in the 1979 video game “Adventure” for Atari 2600. But executives rightly stated that having hidden functionality within a program is a liability. Some of this innovative spirit was preserved– some Easter Eggs are now designed to detect illegal downloading. Most Easter Eggs are harmless but it is possible for malware to be hidden in similar ways.
Do you know of any technical Easter Eggs we’ve missed? Comment below and we’ll test them out!