Tuesday, 7 April 2020

10 Legendary Easter Eggs in the Tech Industry

Legendary Easter Eggs in the Tech Industry

by Thiago Earp

Even if everything points to an Easter holiday spent indoors, all is not lost. Again, technology comes to the rescue with these legendary Easter Eggs, hidden right behind your screen. Read on and let the hunt begin!

Hunting for Easter eggs is a long-standing tradition around the world. But easter eggs aren't all made of chocolate - again, the tech industry has spearheaded disruption.

This kind of easter egg is an undocumented hidden feature or message in software or hardware. Developers leave these features behind for users to discover, adding a bit of personality - and fun - to their creation.

Over the years, the tech industry has become famous for all sorts of humorous and weird easter eggs that people have managed to discover.

So if you’re looking for a fun hunt during the upcoming holiday, try and catch all ten of the best and most creative Easter eggs in the tech industry:

1. The First-Ever Egg

Adventure, a 1979 game released for the Atari 2600 console, contains the first-ever documented easter egg in a piece of software.

10 Most Creative Easter Eggs in the Tech Industry - Adventure, Atari

Back then, videogame and software companies were incredibly wary of crediting programmers. They were afraid that the popularity of those developers would outshine their brands.

However, Warren Robinett, Adventure’s creator, managed to sneak past the controls to make his name known.

In the beginning, Robinett wanted a mention in the Adventure manual, but he failed to arrange that. So he thought of a witty way to name-drop himself into the game - that became the first easter egg in the tech world.

To see Robinett’s name, players needed to enter the catacombs and perform a sequence of actions that would open a secret room.

2. The Best-Hidden Egg

The videogame industry is massive, and people are always uncovering new eggs from decades past. Some games like Punch-Out!!, Duck Hunt, and Serious Sam have Easter eggs that no one managed to find for 10-20 years.

But there’s one egg that was so well-hidden that it took 26 years for the public to find it. In fact, the programmer who created it gave up and revealed the secret egg to the fans.

10 Most Creative Easter Eggs in the Tech Industry - Donkey Kong

It’s located in Donkey Kong (Atari version), and it only appears after Mario’s demise. If you look closely, you’ll see the initials of Landon M. Dyer, a coder who worked on the game.

3. The Most Bizzare Egg

The “Book of Mozilla'' is among the quirkiest eggs located in Firefox and Netscape browsers.

If you visit “about:mozilla,” the browser will display a red background. Users will then be able to see all sorts of freaky apocalyptic quotes.

10 Most Creative Easter Eggs in the Tech Industry - Book of Mozilla

Although the real book doesn’t exist, many of its quotes hail from the Bible and similar literature. In total, there are seven verses. Most of them are about doomsday prophecies, the “beast,” and the “unbelievers.”

4. The Most Complex Egg

Trials Evolution from 2012 is a bike racing/puzzle game that contains probably the most complicated Easter egg so far. There is a riddle in the game that anyone can begin by solving a puzzle on some wooden planks.

The planks contain encrypted messages that are hidden throughout the game. When joined together, they form a complete riddle. The answer reveals instructions for unlocking a secret song in the Nature Calls map.

10 Most Creative Easter Eggs in the Tech Industry - Trials Evolution

And that’s just the beginning. After graphic analysis, the song reveals a piece of Morse code. The message directs people to a website with yet another problem waiting to be solved. 

The answer to that riddle reveals the coordinates to four locations: Bath, Helsinki, San Francisco, and Sydney. Each of these hid sealed chests with identical keys inside.

But how do we know this? Well, somebody actually solved the riddle in 2015! However, that’s not the end of the riddle - not until the year 2113, at least.

In just under 100 years, a mysterious chest will appear underneath the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. The riddle’s creator, Antti Ilvessuo, claimed that a man wearing an umbrella and a hat would bring the case to the location sometime in 2113.

One of the keys from the chests will unlock it, and to this day no one knows what the contents will be!

5. The Longest-Running Egg

So how can we top the previous egg? Well, the answer is quite straightforward — Google! This tech giant has inserted tons of hidden features or messages all over their products. And the chances are that they’ll continue to do so for as long as the internet is around.

Google Search contains numerous humorous easter eggs - from the bizarre “anagram” feature to the “do the barrel roll” command that flips the entire page around. 

Moreover, Google Maps and Earth are also full of pop culture references with images of the Bat-Signal, weird UFOs, and countless others.

One of the best eggs is undoubtedly the flight simulator that you can launch in Google Earth. To find it, simply go to the menu, select “Tools” and choose “Enter Flight Simulator”. All users can choose to board a plane and fly it around the world.

Google Easter eggs are so elaborate that there’s even a dedicated Wikipedia page that documents all the ones that have been found so far.

6. The Most Popular Egg

If you’re a programmer or a tech fan, the chances are that you’ve probably heard about the Konami Code. The famous button sequence “↑↑↓↓←→←→BA” was first used in Konami’s Gradius game. However, the whole world found out about it after the legendary Contra shooting game.

Essentially, it’s the earliest example of a cheat code in a game or software. In Contra, players would get 30 lives with the code instead of the regular three. Various Konami developers also programmed it into over a hundred other games. 

The Konami Code is definitely the best-known Easter egg in the software industry. It’s been referenced several times by other companies and organisations such as Facebook, Google and Digg.

ESPN’s website included it in 2009. When typed out, the site displayed an explosion with unicorns and hearts. It’s also hidden on the home pages of Buzzfeed and Google Stadia, and in new games like Contra: Rogue Corps.

7. The Most Surprising Egg

For years, μTorrent has had a secret Tetris game hidden in its official app. If you used μTorrent and were too impatient for your download to finish, you could run the game to pass some time.

You’ll find this egg in the About menu, and a simple “T” command will launch it. It’s a classic Tetris variant, but you’d never expect it to be featured in an app like μTorrent.

8. The Most Creative Egg

Did you know that your Mac can turn into a therapist? Apple has included a sort of virtual therapist that users can launch from the emacs text editor on the Terminal app of their Mac.

When running emacs, select Shift, Esc and X. Type the word “doctor” and then press the return key. The virtual therapist will then start talking to you.

You can ask all sorts of questions and discuss your feelings. You just simply type out your concerns and the doctor will answer them.

10 Most Creative Easter Eggs in the Tech Industry - Mac

Although it’s not a replacement for the real thing, it’s undoubtedly an entertaining and a highly innovative Easter egg.

9. The Creepiest Egg

In 2019, Facebook surprised the world with strange messages that appeared in the internal hardware of its Oculus VR headsets.

The story blew up in the media when “tens of thousands” of VR controllers were shipped with bizarre messages. These were along the lines of “Big Brother is Watching You” or “The Masons Were Here,” and they were incredibly creepy.

10 Most Creative Easter Eggs in the Tech Industry - Oculus VR headsets

In the end, it turned out that these messages were only meant for the device prototypes but accidentally became strange easter eggs. Of course, the company solved the issue with later production runs and apologised for the mistake.

10. The Most Expensive Egg

Several years ago, someone found an unusual message on the first block of Bitcoin. Satoshi Nakamoto created the message in an encrypted hexadecimal format. It stated: “sknab roftuoliab dnoces fo knirb no rollecnahC 9002/naJ/30 semiT ehT.”

When reversed, the message read: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”

While this obviously refers to the global financial crisis, it’s possible that Nakamoto included it on the genesis block to make a statement about his new creation.

If you want to hone your cryptography skills, you can hunt this egg (and many other hidden ones) in the blockchain yourself!

Happy Hunting!

What was your favourite tech Easter egg? Did you find other cool eggs we missed? Fortunately, the tech industry is enormous, and it’s brimming with brilliant minds. That means the hunt is far from over!

While many of us spend this year's Easter at home, we invite you to hunt some new eggs during the weekend and share them with us. Good luck and happy hunting!

Thiago Earp is Global Content Specialist at Firebrand Training. He’s fascinated with technology, human behaviour, and complex systems, and writes on a range of tech-related topics.