Easter egg (media)

Easter egg (media)
Example of Easter egg hidden within image

A virtual Easter egg is an intentional hidden message or an in-joke in a work such as a computer program, web page, video game, movie, book or crossword. The term was coined—according to Warren Robinett—by Atari after they were pointed to the secret message left by Robinett in the game Adventure.[1] It draws a parallel with the custom of the Easter egg hunt observed in many Western nations as well as the last Russian imperial family's tradition of giving elaborately jeweled egg-shaped creations by Carl Fabergé which contained hidden surprises.[2]

This practice is similar in some respects to hidden signature motifs such as Diego Rivera including himself in his murals, Alfred Hitchcock's legendary cameo appearances, and various "Hidden Mickeys" that can be found throughout the various Disney Parks. An early example of this kind of "Easter egg" is Al Hirschfeld's "Nina".

Atari's Adventure, released in 1979, contained what was thought to be the first video game "Easter egg", the name of the programmer (Warren Robinett). However, evidence of earlier Easter eggs has since surfaced. Several cartridges for the Fairchild Channel F include previously unknown Easter eggs, programmed by Michael Glass and Brad Reid-Selth, that are believed to predate Robinett's work.[3][4]


Computer-related Easter eggs


Easter eggs are messages, videos, graphics, sound effects, or an unusual change in program behavior that sometimes occur in a software program in response to some undocumented set of commands, mouse clicks, keystrokes or other stimuli intended as a joke or to display program credits.

In the TOPS-10 operating system (for the DEC PDP-10 computer), the "make" command was used to invoke the TECO editor to create a file; if given the file name argument "love", so that the command was "make love", it would respond "not war?" before creating the file. It included a short, thoughtful pause before the response. This same behavior occurred on the RSTS/E operating system, where TECO would provide this response. Easter eggs found in some Unix operating systems caused them to respond to the command "make love" with "not war?" and "why" with "why not" (a reference to The Prisoner in Berkeley Unix 1977).

Many personal computers have much more elaborate eggs hidden in ROM, including lists of the developers' names, political exhortations, snatches of music, and (in one case) images of the entire development team. Easter eggs in the 1997 version of Microsoft Office include a hidden flight simulator in Microsoft Excel and a pinball game in Microsoft Word.[5][6]

The Debian GNU/Linux package tool apt-get has an Easter egg involving an ASCII cow when variants on "apt-get moo" are typed into the shell.[7]

The Archlinux package tool Pacman has an Easter egg involving an ASCII Mr. Pacman logo when type "pacman --version" into the shell; another Easter egg shows a Mr Pacman eating candy when you update with the command: "pacman -Syu" or when you install any program, you have to add the word "ILoveCandy" in the configuration file: "/etc/pacman.conf".[8]

VLC media player contains an Easter egg which changes the VLC traffic cone logo so that it's wearing a Santa hat. The logo changes on December 18, one week before Christmas, and reverts to its normal appearance on January 1.

An Easter egg is found on all Microsoft Windows operating systems before XP. In the 3D Text screen saver, entering the text "volcano" will display the names of all the volcanoes in the United States. Microsoft removed this Easter egg in XP but added others. One which continues still in Windows XP is to simultaneously press Alt+ Shift+2 in the Solitaire game to produce a forced win.[9]

Microsoft Excel 95 contained a hidden Doom-like action game called The Hall of Tortured Souls.[10]

Some computer and video game secret levels are triggered by an Easter egg. In 1994's video game Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, a highly acclaimed video game developed by George Lucas's LucasArts, the original prequel Maniac Mansion from 1987 can be played in its full version by using a home computer in one character's room.

In Saints Row 2, there are many known Easter eggs, one of which is a purple Easter bunny rising out of the water.

Google Maps contains several Easter eggs whereby a user asking for directions from Japan to China, from New York to Tokyo, or from Taiwan to China would be directed to either jetski, kayak, or swim across the Pacific Ocean.[11] Google's search also contains further Easter eggs, when a user types "Do A Barrel Roll" into the search box the page tilts 360° in a fashion reminiscent of a pilot manoeuvring their aircraft. The suggestion exists that this Easter Egg could be designed to encourage adoption of the Google Chrome Browser because to view the actual effect a modern browser is required. [12]

Amazon.com contains two perpetual Easter Eggs placed on the site by Jeff Bezos as tributes to Rick Dalzell and David Risher.

Treyarch is known to include Easter Eggs into their Call of Duty games such as World at War and Black Ops, like being able to obtain "wonder" weapons in certain single player missions.


While computer-related Easter eggs are often found in software, occasionally they exist in hardware or firmware of certain devices. On some home computers, the BIOS ROM contains Easter eggs. Notable examples include several early Apple Macintosh models which had pictures of the development team in the ROM (accessible by pressing the programmer's switch and jumping to a specific memory address, or other equally obscure means), and some errant 1993 AMI BIOS that on 13 November proceeded to play "Happy Birthday" via the PC speaker over and over again instead of booting.[13] Similarly, the Radio Shack Color Computer 3's ROM contained code which would display the likenesses of three Microware developers on a Ctrl+Alt+Reset keypress sequence—a hard reset which would discard any information currently in the dynamic memory.[14]

Several oscilloscopes have contained Easter eggs. One example is the HP 54622D, known to have an Asteroids clone (and even to save high scores in NV-RAM).[citation needed] Another is the Tektronix 1755A Vector and Waveform Monitor which displays swimming fish when Remote>Software version are selected on the CONFIG menu.[citation needed]

The Commodore Amiga 1000 computer included the signatures of the design and development team embossed on the inside of the case, including Jay Miner and the paw print of his dog Mitchy.[15]

Chip and printed circuit board Easter eggs

Many integrated circuit (chip) designers have included hidden artwork, including assorted images, phrases, developer initials, logos, and so on. This artwork, like the rest of the chip, is reproduced in each copy by lithography and etching. These are visible only when the chip package is opened and examined under magnification, so they are, in a sense, more of an "inside joke" than most of the Easter eggs included in software. This Easter egg requires you to open up the device, which usually voids the warranty.

The Commodore Amiga models 500, 600 and 1200 each featured Easter eggs, in the form of titles of songs by The B-52's as white printing on the motherboards. The 500 says "B52/Rock Lobster", the 600 says "June Bug", and the 1200 says "Channel Z".[16] The Amiga OS software includes a variety of hidden messages as well.[citation needed]

The CVAX microchip implementation of the MicroVAX cpu contained in its etchings the Russian phrase in the Cyrillic alphabet "VAX: When you care enough to steal the very best" in an effort to needle potential intellectual property-stealing clone manufacturers in the Soviet Bloc. [17]

Easter eggs on DVDs

Easter eggs are also found on movie DVDs. In some cases, an extra click to the right or left, or going up in the menu instead of going down to select a choice will bring up a hidden feature (usually a random object on screen will be highlighted for selection), including concept art, humorous outtakes, or deleted scenes.[18]

In media

In the episode "Blink" of the series Doctor Who, Easter Eggs on a set of DVDs help The Doctor relay a message to Sally Sparrow.

Security concerns

Because of the increase in malware, many companies and government offices forbid the use of software containing Easter eggs for security reasons. With the rise of cybercrime and the prevalence of the Easter egg's "cousin", the logic bomb, there is now concern that if the programmer could slip in undocumented code, then the software cannot be trusted. This is of particular concern in offices where personal or confidential information is stored, making it sensitive to theft and ransom. For this reason, many developers have stopped the practice of adding Easter eggs to their software. Microsoft, who has in the past created some of the largest and most elaborate Easter eggs such as the ones in Microsoft Office, no longer allows Easter eggs in their software as part of their Trustworthy Computing initiative.[19]

Douglas W. Jones says that "some Easter eggs may be intentional tools used to detect illegal copying, others are clearly examples of unauthorized functionality that has slipped through the quality-control tests at the vendor." While hidden Easter eggs themselves are harmless, it may be possible for malware to be hidden in similar ways in voting machines or other computers.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Robinett, Warren: Adventure as a Video Game. Adventure for the Atari 2600. In: Katie Salen a. Eric Zimmerman (eds.): The Game Design Reader. A Rules of the Play Anthology. MIT Press 2006, p. 690–713 (here p. 713) ISBN 0262195364
  2. ^ Hidden DVD Easter Eggs
  3. ^ The Very First Easter Egg (Was Not Adventure)
  4. ^ Channel F
  5. ^ "Excel 97 Flight to Credits". http://eeggs.com/items/718.html. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Pinball in Word 97". http://eeggs.com/items/763.html. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ "apt-". http://www.google.com/codesearch/p?hl=en#u_CbvX6xxA8/apt- [dead link]
  8. ^ "Archlinux package tool Pacman Easter Egg". https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=69603. 
  9. ^ David Hoye (March 13, 2003), 'Easter egg' hunts can turn up surprises" (subscription required). The Sacramento Bee.
  10. ^ John Gaskell (1999-07-19). "Excel Easter Egg – Excel 95 Hall of Tortured Souls". http://www.eeggs.com/items/719.html. Retrieved 30 April 2009. 
  11. ^ Firth, Niall (29 October 2010). "How do I get to China? Jet ski! Google Maps joke gives users unorthodox instructions for crossing the Pacific". The Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1324917/Google-Maps-joke-gives-users-unorthodox-instructions-crossing-Pacific.html. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 
  12. ^ "Solicitors", Contact Solicitors blog containing article about the Google Easter Egg called Do a Barrel Roll.
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ TRS-80 CoCo Wiki on the "3 Mugateers" ROM bitmap.
  15. ^ Corrigan, Patricia (2007). Bringing Science to Life: A Guide from the Saint Louis Science Center. Reedy Press. p. 69. 
  16. ^ Compute (Small System Service) 12 (6-9). 1990. 
  17. ^ [2] CVAX (1987)
  18. ^ "DVD Easter Eggs – Hidden Features on DVDs". DVD Easter Eggs. http://www.dvdEastereggs.com/faq.php. Retrieved March 22, 2008. 
  19. ^ Larry Osterman (October 21, 2005). "Why no Easter Eggs?". Larry Osterman's WebLog. MSDN Blogs. http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archive/2005/10/21/483608.aspx. Retrieved 2006-07-29. 
  20. ^ "A Conversation with Douglas W. Jones and Peter G. Neumann" 2006

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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