Spring is swiftly approaching, and so is Easter. But, Easter eggs don’t just appeal to sugar-addicted toddlers and commercialized animals.
In the spirit of spring, let’s explore some of the more software-oriented Easter eggs that have invisibly wormed their way into everyday applications over the years.
Many of the best Easter eggs are in your Internet browser, where minigames and hidden features have abounded for years (unless you’re an IE user, in which case you’re probably too joyless to enjoy them anyway). These “features” are often released on April Fools’ day, but a few of them have become permanent staples of their host program.
Google is incontestably the king of Easter eggs, stuffing so many mini-games into their browser, Chrome, that it’s almost impossible not to have encountered at least one. Hit the spacebar when you’re offline and the dead-link dinosaur will leap into a running game; launch Maps and you can start a game of Pac-Man in your neighborhood streets or; type “zerg rush,” “recursion,” “askew” and “do a barrel roll” into the search bar to get a variety of amusing results.
Firefox may not have the same plethora, but there’s still some goodies in the “about:” feature. Typing in “about:robots” or “about:about,” among others, will get you some cute and occasionally helpful pages. Or, if you’re in the mood to be creeped the hell out, try typing in “about:mozilla” to be treated to the blood-red pages of the decade-old “book of Mozilla,” a continuously releasing text prophesying the apocalyptic rise of the web browser. Fun.
That’s not even considering what you can find on actual online locations. Websites have been sneaking in rewards for the careful user for as long as browsers, ranging from a hidden game of snake embedded in YouTube videos to a page of fake zombie-related headlines on Newsweek (both gone now, sadly). Given the rate at which online content iterates, these can be harder to spot, but it’s always worth checking to see whether a well-placed Konami code can get you anywhere.
Old school users will remember Easter eggs placed in the old text editors of yore, ASCII commands hidden in the depths of the command line. You can still access some of these today; if you own a Mac or Linux computer, simply open up the Terminal, type in “emacs” followed by “esc-x,” and then try typing an old game like “snake,” “pong” or “tetris.” Or, try weirder options like “doctor” to get a virtual psychiatrist, or “wow” to get random quotes from the Zippy comic strip.
Far more of these exist further down the rabbit hole but take varying levels of skill to find. An Easter egg isn’t much fun if it takes half an hour and 3 years of C# coding experience to activate.
But, for the laymen among us, it’s still worth pushing the boundaries of whatever app you’re using.
You never know when you might find a scrap of poetry or half-minute game, hidden away by a bored developer on a rainy spring afternoon.
Copeland is a member of the class of 2015.