If you were to ask someone what an Easter egg is, most people would probably tell you that Easter eggs are brightly colored eggs that are dyed and then hidden for children to find on Easter morning. However, if you were to ask the same question to a computer programmer or developer, you might get a completely different answer.
What is an Easter egg?
An alternate definition of Easter egg exists in the context of software. In this case, an Easter egg could be a hidden message, graphic, word, video, game, track or something similar in the software. Easter eggs are never obvious to the user and only “appear” after something triggers them, such as a certain sequence of clicks or keystrokes. The name Easter egg comes from the Easter eggs that are hidden on Easter.
Easter eggs are found in software, on DVDs, music CDs, video games, and anything else that requires a programmer to write the application. They are done for fun and purely for entertainment purposes. Easter eggs can be a programmer’s name, hidden credits, a game, a hidden track, or anything else. Reasons programmers put Easter eggs in their software include to give themselves credit for their work, pay tribute to something or someone they are fond of, to add an inside joke, or to break away from the monotony of work.
Examples of Easter eggs
The following are some examples of Easter eggs within software programs:
Microsoft Easter Eggs
Microsoft has hidden a number of Easter eggs within their programs. For example, all Windows Operating Systems (before XP) have an Easter egg that can be found within the 3D text screen saver. If you enter in the word “volcano”, every known volcano in the world will be displayed.
Another example of an Easter egg within Microsoft occurs in the game Solitaire (this can be found on XP as well as prior versions). By holding down the Alt, shift, and number 2 keys at once while in the game, you will automatically win.
Earlier Microsoft programs also have hidden Easter eggs. Windows 3.1 has a developer page that credits all developers. This was discovered by right-clicking in certain areas, and then entering in code words that were only known through word of mouth. There is also a hidden game in Microsoft Excel, but recent versions do not have that. Excel 97 also has a hidden flight simulator, and within Word you can find a hidden pinball game.
Video Game Easter Eggs
Easter eggs in video games are common, and can be anything from a hidden level to a completely new game. For example, Atari’s 400/800 version of Pitfall II: Lost Caverns has an Easter egg that is a completely separate game that many considered to be better, more complex, and overall much better than the original Pitfall II game it is hidden within. This is also considered to be the biggest Easter egg that has been discovered so far; most are much less complex.
Other Easter Eggs
You can find Easter eggs in other things as well. For example, an Easter egg with the words “This Product is Dedicated in Memory of our Good Friend Ming-Zen Kuo” is found on the circuit board of the HP LaserJet 1100 printer. Another interesting Easter egg is found in the Kurzweil K2x musical keyboard series. By typing “Pong” into the search mode, users can actually play the game Pong.