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Dublin: 31.07.2014 02.31PM
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You might think Easter eggs are just the chocolatey treats that all and sundry will be devouring this weekend, but they’re also a surprising find for video gamers, internet browsers and tech users everywhere.
‘Easter egg’, in terms of media, refers to a hidden message. It’s said to have been coined by Atari staffers who were told by game designer Warren Robinett that there was a secret message hidden in his game Adventure, released in 1979. The subsequent hunt for the hidden content (which turned out to be an object that brought players to a screen saying ‘Created by Warren Robinett’) was likened to a traditional Easter egg hunt.
Since then, Easter eggs have been turning up everywhere, from video games, to computer software (and hardware), to DVDs. Google, with its wide range of services each with its own delights to be discovered, has helped to popularise the concept in recent years, but back in the day Microsoft was perhaps the biggest tech Easter bunny, hiding treats in all sorts of software and programmes.
For example, did you know that the 1997 version of Microsoft Office had a hidden magic eight-ball in Access, flight simulator in Excel and pinball game in Word? However, a ‘no Easter eggs’ policy was adopted in 2002 as these secret elements are usually untested and therefore raise security concerns.
But plenty of Easter eggs are still out there, just waiting to be discovered – but it helps to have a guide on where to look.
Google Search is a fun-loving tool – sometimes cheeky and a bit of a smart alec, but always clever. Last year, we had fun typing ‘Bacon number’ followed by any actor’s name for a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and, before that, ‘do a barrel roll’ made our heads spin – but what other search terms have unlikely results?
Have you ever asked Google Maps how to get from The Shire to Mordor? Well, that’s not the only surprise these comprehensive online maps have in store.
There are plenty more Easter eggs hidden inside other Google services. For example, you can check out Google Translate’s musical stylings if you set translation from English to German and type in a bunch of words formed using on the letters ‘p’, ‘k’ and ‘z’ (and thrown in a ‘bsch’ or two), then click the audio icon in the translation window and enjoy.
Google doodles are a treat in and of themselves, and my absolute favourite to date came on the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man. Not only does this doodle turn the Google logo into a playable Pac-Man, but an extra treat comes when you press ‘Insert Coin’ twice.
Google even hides Easter eggs in its Android operating systems. If you have an Android device, go to the settings menu, select ‘About Phone’ and then tap the version number a few times.
Check out some of these other Google surprises:
Avid gamers will be well aware of the Konami code, but for the uninitiated, this sequence of key-presses (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A) was used as a cheat in a number of Konami-made video games. However, its popularity among gamers and geeks has seen it used elsewhere.
Try entering the Konami Code when viewing Google Reader (while you still can), BuzzFeed, the BBC Glow Java Script Library, the website of designer Patrick A Carrell, Geek and Hype, and, my personal favourite, FrankDeals.
While Google seems to have the monopoly on Easter eggs, we’ve found them all over the web and beyond.
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