The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

In computer-speak, an “Easter egg” is a joke, a secret feature, or a hidden message in a computer program, video game, DVD movie, or a website. The name is a reference to the traditional Easter egg hunt. From the earliest days of personal computers, their users have delighted in seeking and finding these hidden gems.

Easter eggs have been found in both the hardware and software of personal computers. Inside the Read Only Memory (ROM) chips on some motherboards have been found lists of the computer programmers’ names, political exhortations, short snippets of music, and even photographs of the developers. In software 20 years ago Microsoft Office included a hidden flight simulator in the Excel spreadsheet and a pinball game in Word. Earlier, the 1995 version of Microsoft Word contained a tribute to the programmers called “The Hall of Tortured Souls.”

Sadly none of these Easter eggs can be found in newer programs mostly due to the fact that software companies are required to document all features now. In order to sell software to the US government, the makers have to sign a contract “under penalty of perjury” declaring that no undocumented features exist in the software.

Modern examples of Easter eggs that might already be on your computer are few and far between. However; if you use the Firefox web browser, simply type “about: robots” in the address line and press Enter. If you use the Chrome browser there is a hidden game that becomes accessible when you see the “Unable to connect” screen. Just press your Space Bar the next time you see that. A lot more Easter eggs today are now found online, but be forewarned that web pages change, so the Easter eggs can come and go.

While on the google.com website, try searching for “do a barrel roll” (without the quotes) and hold onto your chair. There are reports that people who search Google Maps sometimes receive farcical answers such as travel times from Los Angeles to Honolulu: “6 hours by plane, 25 days by kayak.” Both of these qualify as Easter eggs. Still on google.com search for “zerg rush” and enjoy. After that surf over to youtube.com and search for “do the harlem shake” and be sure your speakers are on.

The video game maker Komani has a “cheat code” embedded in its games. Computer programmers put the code keys: Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B in the games for testing purposes. Try typing that sequence of keys on the www.digg.com web site and listen.

There are some examples of special web pages that have been created by web designers just for fun. The Dutch discount store chain HEMA has a well-designed website featuring their products, but for the real fun go to the hidden page at http://producten.hema.nl/ to see what kind of chaos ensues when you spill that blue glass on your computer. Happy Easter everyone!

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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