At a time of year filled with eggs of the chocolate variety, we were reminded of a different type of “Easter egg” – a term also used to describe hidden features in software. Although it’s also used in relation to cryptic references in film and TV, the phrase was coined by a 1979 Atari video game (“Adventure”) in which a programmer included a secret message featuring his name despite such credits being against company policy. Here are a few of our favourite computer based “Easter eggs”, all of which can be tried out for fun, and – who knows – might even inspire some creative thinking!
Google’s search is well known for making helpful suggestions, but entering “anagram” returns the play on words “Did you mean: nag a ram?”. Along similar lines, try “recursion” for an endless series of suggested links. For some neat visual effects, a search for “askew” makes results go wonky, whilst “do a barrel roll” rotates your view through 360 degrees. “Flip a coin” produces an animated heads/tails outcome, with “roll a die” and “spinner” working in a similar way. For greater educational value, requesting “fun facts” returns a random interesting factoid. And for a history lesson of sorts, searching for “google in 1998” takes you to the first version of the search results page complete with “Take me back to the present” link. There are also some neat hidden games: a search for “zerg rush” will summon an army of ‘O’s which destroy the results page unless you zap them, whilst a search for “atari breakout” in the image search turns the display into an interactive break the wall game.
Continuing the theme of snazzy visual tricks, entering “use the force luke” in YouTube’s search makes the results levitate as if controlled by a Jedi Master. “Do the harlem shake” will cause the logo and screenshots to dance as the terrible tune plays. Whilst watching any video, type “awesome” for a multi-coloured flashing progress bar. In case you’ve never heard of it, the “Wadsworth constant” states that the first 30% of any online video can be skipped as it contains no worthwhile or interesting content. Sadly, a related “Easter egg” of adding “&wadsworth=1” to the end of any YouTube URL to jump to that magical point no longer works, but an equivalent outcome can be achieved by hitting any number key whilst the video is playing (e.g: 3 = 30% / 5 = 50% etc).
Word & Excel
In contrast to Google, Microsoft now has an official “no Easter Eggs” policy, but older versions of its software contained some nice examples. These included a flight simulator embedded in Microsoft Excel, and a pinball game in Microsoft Word – rumour has it there was even a web browser hidden in Internet Explorer 6. However, some interesting cryptic features still exist – in Word try entering “=rand()” and then hit ‘Return’ for a block of placeholder text, and more usefully in Excel the undocumented ‘DATEDIF’ function will find the difference in days, months, or years between any two dates e.g: =(DATEDIF(“03/10/1976″,”10/03/2017″,”Y”)) equals ’40’.
If you lose your Internet connection in Chrome, you’ll probably have noticed a small pixelated dinosaur above the text “There is no Internet connection” – but you might not realise that hitting ‘SPACE’ brings him to life in a neat retro mini-game. You can try this out by enabling “Airplane mode” / disabling Wi-Fi on your computer and then trying to access any webpage – use ‘SPACE/UP ARROW’ to jump and ‘DOWN ARROW’ to duck in order to avoid the oncoming cacti and pterodactyls. And if you were already aware of this hidden game, you might not know that on reaching 700 points the view switches from day (white background, black lines) to night (black background, white lines) – an “Easter egg” within an “Easter egg”. Which sounds exactly like the kind of real chocolate egg we’d like to receive on Sunday!