As much as we’d like to obsess over large, chocolaty brightly foiled hollowed eggs for the entire length of a blog, instead we’re talking about Easter Eggs in the world of computing. Yes, they can be just as much fun (and far more slimming).
The term ‘Easter Eggs’ in the programming sense refers to an ‘undocumented novelty’ placed in a game (usually), for the fun of it – an inside joke by the developers, if you like. What initially started as ‘was that a glitch?’ has now developed into a purposeful hunt for the special treats hidden by developers by those exploring their virtual worlds. This blogger became aware of Easter Eggs thanks to having a teenage son with an Xbox, who perpetually hunted for ‘Easter Eggs’. I soon realised that there were Easter Eggs hidden in programs aside from games. They are not harmful to the program you are using nor the game you are playing and, unless you are lucky enough to stumble across them, you have to know how to find them.
It’s not just indie developers who enjoy installing little surprises, and it isn’t just for gamers. Big players like Microsoft and Google aren’t immune to the temptation either. Let’s take a look.
At one point Bioshock fans could enter the coordinates 63° 2′ N, 29° 55′ W into Google Earth which would direct them to an image of the (fictional) city of Rapture, an underwater city buried the middle of the ocean, originating from the Bioshock games. Although the city was removed, these coordinates now indicate Rapture Lighthouse.
It’s not just Earth-bound; fly over to Mars, search for ‘Meliza’ and you are flown to a Mars-based bot which can engage in some basic ‘bot chat’. Before you dismiss it as limited, ‘Meliza’ is one of the descendents of ‘Eliza’, the very first incarnation of responsive artificial intelligence (aka chat bots) developed in the 1960’s.
We’ve also tested another couple of currently working Easter Eggs. When it comes to Gmail, you may not know it but you can suggest a feature for Gmail. When you do, you could find something very helpful at the bottom of the ‘Helpful additions’ list, and yes, I clicked to suggest it.
Or you could try doing a Google search using “do a barrel roll”.
Here’s another mini-marvel: In Google Translate, choosing to translate German to German, copy and paste: “pv zk pv pv zk pv zk kz zk pv pv pv zk pv zk zk pzk pzk pvzkpkzvpvzk kkkkkk bsch”, without the quotation marks and await the ‘translation’. Instead of ‘Listen’ you now have ‘Beatbox’; click to play!
And it’s not just games and websites which feature Easter Eggs. Open a new Word document and type “=rand(200,99)”, again without the quotation marks, followed by hitting the return key. This exercise is actually more entertaining in different languages, but interesting enough in English.
Animation Studio Pixar uses Easter Eggs in their movies; all explained in this entertaining short video released just in time for Easter.
Where did it come from? The Easter Egg dates back to 1978, with an Atari game called ‘Adventure’. The developer, Warren Robinett was just another salaried Atari employee at the time. Being an employee, he wasn’t able to get his name in the credits, so he added a secret room in the game where he could display his signature. Apparently this is common motivation for the Easter Egg.
Although there is some debate about whether certain functions are true Easter Eggs, and these are only the most basic examples, it’s still fun trying them out. And, as with the chocolate variety, Easter Eggs often don’t last long as some are removed by developers once the secret is out.
Have you found any Easter Eggs?
Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.