HOME
        TheInfoList






While the term Easter egg has been used to mean a hidden object for some time, in reference to an Easter egg hunt, it has come to be more commonly used to mean a message, image, or feature hidden in a video game, film, or other, usually electronic, medium.[2] The term used in this manner was coined around 1979 by Steve Wright, the then Director of Software Development in the Atari Consumer Division, to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure.

The secret room in Adventure with Warren Robinett's credit

The use of the term "Easter egg" to describe secret features in video games originates from the 1980 video game Adventure for the Atari 2600 game console, programmed by employee Warren Robinett. At the time, Atari did not include programmers' names in the game credits, fearing that competitors would attempt to steal their employees. Robinett, who disagreed with his supervisor over this lack of acknowledgment, secretly programmed the message "Created by Warren Robinett" to appear only if a player moved their avatar over a specific pixel (dubbed the "Gray Dot") during a certain part of the game and entered a previously "forbidden" part of the map where the message would be found. When Robinett left Atari, he did not inform the company of the acknowledgment that he included in the game. Shortly after his departure, the "Gray Dot" and his message were discovered by a player. Atari's management initially wanted to remove the message and release the game again until this was deemed too costly. Instead, Steve Wright, the Director of Software Development in the Atari Consumer Division, suggested that they keep the message and, in fact, encourage the inclusion of such messages in future games, describing them as Easter eggs for consumers to find.[3][4][5][6][7]

In video games

While Robinett's message in Adventure led to the use of the phrase Easter egg, Easter eggs were included in previous video games. The first text adventure game, Colossal Cave Adventure (1976), from which Adventure was fashioned, included several secret words. One of these was "xyzzy", a command which enabled the player to move between two points in the game world.[8] In 2004, an Easter egg displaying programmer Bradley Reid-Selth's surname was found in Video Whizball (1978), a game for the Fairchild Channel F system.[2] According to research by Ed Fries, the first known Easter egg in an arcade game was in Starship 1 (1977), programmed by Ron Milner. By triggering the cabinet's controls in the right order, the player could get the message "Hi Ron!" to appear on the screen. Fries described it as "the earliest arcade game yet known that clearly meets the definition of an Easter egg". The existence of this Easter egg wasn't published until 2017, leading Fries to suggest that, as more than one hundred arcade games predate Starship 1, earlier Easter eggs may still be undiscovered.[9][10] Fries noted that some Atari arcade cabinets were resold under the Kee Games label and included changes to the hardware that would make the game appear different from the Atari version. Anti-Aircraft II (1975) included a means to modify the circuit board to

The use of the term "Easter egg" to describe secret features in video games originates from the 1980 video game Adventure for the Atari 2600 game console, programmed by employee Warren Robinett. At the time, Atari did not include programmers' names in the game credits, fearing that competitors would attempt to steal their employees. Robinett, who disagreed with his supervisor over this lack of acknowledgment, secretly programmed the message "Created by Warren Robinett" to appear only if a player moved their avatar over a specific pixel (dubbed the "Gray Dot") during a certain part of the game and entered a previously "forbidden" part of the map where the message would be found. When Robinett left Atari, he did not inform the company of the acknowledgment that he included in the game. Shortly after his departure, the "Gray Dot" and his message were discovered by a player. Atari's management initially wanted to remove the message and release the game again until this was deemed too costly. Instead, Steve Wright, the Director of Software Development in the Atari Consumer Division, suggested that they keep the message and, in fact, encourage the inclusion of such messages in future games, describing them as Easter eggs for consumers to find.[3][4][5][6][7]

In video games

While Robinett's message in Adventure led to the use of the phrase Easter egg, Easter eggs were included in previous video games. The first text adventure game, Colossal Cave Adventure (1976), from which Adventure was fashioned, included several secret words. One of these was "xyzzy", a command which enabled the player to move between two points in the game world.[8] In 2004, an Easter egg displaying programmer Bradley Reid-Selth's surname was found in Video Whizball (1978), a game for the Fairchild Channel F system.[2] According to research by Ed Fries, the first known Easter egg in an arcade game was in Starship 1 (1977), programmed by Ron Milner. By triggering the cabinet's controls in the right order, the player could get the message "Hi Ron!" to appear on the screen. Fries described it as "the earliest arcade game yet known that clearly meets the definition of an Easter egg". The existence of this Easter egg wasn't published until 2017, leading Fries to suggest that, as more than one hundred arcade games predate Starship 1, earlier Easter eggs may still be undiscovered.[9][10] Fries noted that some Atari arcade cabinets were resold under the Kee Games label and included changes to the hardware that would make the game appear different from the Atari version. Anti-Aircraft II (1975) included a means to modify the circuit board to make the airplanes in the game appear as alien UFOs. Fries surmised that this feature may have been intended for a Kee Games release. For this reason, and because it required a hardware modification, Fries questioned whether it met the definition of an Easter egg.[10]

Since Adventure, there has been a long history of video game developers placing Easter eggs in their games.[11]:19 Most Easter eggs are intentional - an attempt to communicate with the player or a way of getting even with management for a slight. Easter eggs in video games have taken a variety of forms, from purely ornamental screens to aesthetic enhancements that change some element of the game during play. The Easter egg included in the original Age of Empires (1997) is an example of the latter; Adventure led to the use of the phrase Easter egg, Easter eggs were included in previous video games. The first text adventure game, Colossal Cave Adventure (1976), from which Adventure was fashioned, included several secret words. One of these was "xyzzy", a command which enabled the player to move between two points in the game world.[8] In 2004, an Easter egg displaying programmer Bradley Reid-Selth's surname was found in Video Whizball (1978), a game for the Fairchild Channel F system.[2] According to research by Ed Fries, the first known Easter egg in an arcade game was in Starship 1 (1977), programmed by Ron Milner. By triggering the cabinet's controls in the right order, the player could get the message "Hi Ron!" to appear on the screen. Fries described it as "the earliest arcade game yet known that clearly meets the definition of an Easter egg". The existence of this Easter egg wasn't published until 2017, leading Fries to suggest that, as more than one hundred arcade games predate Starship 1, earlier Easter eggs may still be undiscovered.[9][10] Fries noted that some Atari arcade cabinets were resold under the Kee Games label and included changes to the hardware that would make the game appear different from the Atari version. Anti-Aircraft II (1975) included a means to modify the circuit board to make the airplanes in the game appear as alien UFOs. Fries surmised that this feature may have been intended for a Kee Games release. For this reason, and because it required a hardware modification, Fries questioned whether it met the definition of an Easter egg.[10]

Since Adventure, there has been a long history of video game developers placing Easter eggs in their games.[11]:19 Most Easter eggs are intention

Since Adventure, there has been a long history of video game developers placing Easter eggs in their games.[11]:19 Most Easter eggs are intentional - an attempt to communicate with the player or a way of getting even with management for a slight. Easter eggs in video games have taken a variety of forms, from purely ornamental screens to aesthetic enhancements that change some element of the game during play. The Easter egg included in the original Age of Empires (1997) is an example of the latter; catapult projectiles are changed from stones to cows.[11]:19

More elaborate Easter eggs include secret levels and developers' rooms - fully functional, hidden areas of the game. Developers' rooms often include inside jokes from the fandom or development team and differ from a debug room in that they are specifically intended for the player to find. Some games even include hidden minigames as Easter eggs. In the LucasArts game Day of the Tentacle (1993), the original Maniac Mansion (1987) game can be played in its full version by using a home computer in a character's room.[12][13] The Amiga and Atari ST ports of the 1988 game Dynamite Düx include an Easter egg for a sexually graphic alternative intro that requires the player to edit the game's code in a hex editor.[14]

Other Easter eggs originated unintentionally. The Konami Code, a type of cheat code, became an intentional Easter egg in most games, but originated from Konami's Gradius (1985) for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The programmer, Kazuhisa Hashimoto, created the code as a means to rapidly debug the game by giving the player's avatar additional health and powers to easily traverse the game. These types of codes are normally removed from the game before it is shipped but, in the case of Gradius, Hashimoto forgot to remove it and the code was soon discovered by players. Its popularity inspired Konami to reuse the code and purposely retain it for many of its future games as an Easter egg.[2][12][15]

Technical issues may also create unintentional Easter eggs. Jon Burton, founder of Traveller's Tales, announced that many seemingly apparent Easter eggs in their Sega Genesis games came about as a result of introducing programming tricks to get around some of the difficulty they had in getting Sega's strict certification for their games, catching any exceptions during execution to bring the game back to a usable state as to pass certification. For example, hitting the side of the Sonic 3D Blast (1996) cartridge while it was slotted in the console would bring the game back to the Level Select screen, which Burton explained was the default exception handling for any unidentified processor error, such as when connectivity between the cartridge and the console's microprocessor was temporarily lost.[16]

In computer software, Easter eggs are secret responses that occur as a result of an undocumented set of commands. The results can vary from a simple printed message or image to a page of programmer credits or a small video game hidden inside an otherwise serious piece of software.

In the TOPS-10 operating system (for the DEC PDP-10 computer), the make command is used to invoke the TECO editor to create a file. If given the file name argument love, so that the command reads make love, it will pause and respond not war? before creating the file.[18] This same behavior occurred on the RSTS/E operating system, where TECO will provide this response.[citation needed] Other Unix operating systems respond to "why" with "why not" (a reference to TOPS-10 operating system (for the DEC PDP-10 computer), the make command is used to invoke the TECO editor to create a file. If given the file name argument love, so that the command reads make love, it will pause and respond not war? before creating the file.[18] This same behavior occurred on the RSTS/E operating system, where TECO will provide this response.[citation needed] Other Unix operating systems respond to "why" with "why not" (a reference to The Prisoner in Berkeley Unix, 1977).[citation needed]

Some versions of the DEC OpenVMS operating system have concealed exit status codes, including a reference to the Monty Python Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook skit; "exit %xb70" returns the message "%SYSTEM-W-FISH, my hovercraft is full of eels" while "exit %x34b4" returns a reference to an early Internet meme: "%SYSTEM-F-GAMEOVER, All your base are belong to us".[19]

Many personal computers have much more elaborate eggs hidden in ROM, including lists of the developers' names, political exhortations, snatches of music, or 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.[20][21] Since 2002, Microsoft does not allow any hidden or undocumented code as part of its trustworthy computing initiative.[22]

The Debian operating system's package tool apt-get has an Easter egg involving an ASCII cow when variants on apt-get moo are typed into the shell.[23][24][25]

An Easter egg is found on all Microsoft Windows operating systems before XP. In the 3D Text screen saver, entering the text "volcano" would display the names of all the volcanoes in the United States. Microsoft removed this Easter egg in XP but added others.[26] Microsoft Excel 95 contained a hidden action game similar to Doom (1993) called The Hall of Tortured Souls.[27]

The Google search engine famously contains many Easter eggs, given to the user in response to certain search queries.[citation needed]

Steve Jobs banned Easter eggs from Apple products upon his return to the company.[28]

The first Easter egg to appear after his death was in a 2012 update to the Mac App Store for OS X Mountain Lion, in which downloaded apps were temporarily timestamped as "January 24, 1984", the date of the sales launch of the original Macintosh.[28]

Hardware

Unlike DVDs and computer games, broadcast radio and television programs contain no executable code. Easter eggs may still appear in the content itself, such as a hidden Mickey in a Disney film or a real telephone number instead of a 555 fictitious telephone number.[original research?] A 2014 Super Bowl advertisement was leaked online in which a lady gives a man a real telephone number, which the advertiser had hidden as a marketing ploy; the first caller to the number received a pair of tickets to the game.[56] The 1980s animated series She-Ra: Princess of Power featured a character called Loo-Kee who typically appeared once per episode, hidden in a single screenshot. At the end of the episode, the screenshot would be shown again and Loo-Kee would challenge viewers to locate him before revealing his hiding place.[57][58]

More recent broadcast media, where viewers have access to high-resolution digital copies or streaming services, may include further Easter eggs that can only be found by freezing the show at certain points. In the anthology series Black Mirror, the producers have included Easter eggs that reference past episodes, or tie into future episodes, as a means of loosely tying together all episodes into a single Black Mirror universe.[59]

Security concerns

Security author Michel E. Kabay discussed security concerns of Easter eggs in 2000, saying that, while software quality assurance requires that all code be tested, it is not known whether Easter eggs are. He said that, as they tend to be held as programming secrets from the rest of the product testing process, a "logic bomb" could also bypass testing. Kabay asserts that this undermined the Trusted Computing Base, a paradigm of trustworthy hardware and software in place since the 1980s, and is of concern wherever personal or confidential information is stored, as this may then be vulnerable to damage or manipulation.[60] Microsoft created some of the largest and most elaborate Easter eggs, such as those in Microsoft Office.[61] In 2005, Larry Osterman of Microsoft acknowledged Microsoft Easter eggs, and his involvement in development of one, but described them as "irresponsible", and wrote that the company's Operating System division "has a 'no Easter Eggs' policy" as part of its Trustworthy Computing initiative.[22]

In 2006, Douglas W. Jones said that while "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.[62]

Netscape Navigator contributor Jamie Zawinski stated in an interview in 1998 that harmless Easter eggs impose a negligible burden on shipped software, and serve the important purpose of helping productivity by keeping programmers happy.[63]

Contemporary works about Easter eggs