Our Hunt for the Best Coding Easter Eggs

April 13, 2017 Ayala Goldstein

Easter Sunday is nearly here, and we thought we’d take the time for an Easter Egg hunt. We’re not talking about the traditional hunt for pastel-colored eggs or chocolate egg treats – we’re talking about finding some of the stand-out tech Easter eggs that we’ve heard about.

 

In case you have yet to discover the wonderful world of virtual Easter eggs: here’s a quick rundown of what they are and how they came to be: a tech, or coding Easter egg is a secret message or feature hidden inside interactive code. Easter Eggs can be found in video games, movies, and – of course, pretty much every type of virtual media.

The term was coined back in 1979 when an Easter egg was coded into Atari 2600’s video game - Adventure. As the story goes, at the time game developers were not given credit for their work because the corporations were worried that they would become more famous than their brand, or poached by rivals. Warren Robinett, who was working hard to develop Atari’s first action-adventure game, was not happy with this policy. In an anti-authoritarian move typical of open source principles, he snuck his name into the game.

Robinnett’s Easter egg in Atari 2600’s Adventure

It may not be the first Easter egg in the history of gaming or code, but that’s when the phenomenon got its name. When Atari management learned about Robinnett’s secret game from a 15-year-old gamer they were less than happy- until they realized that players loved the Easter egg hunt game-within-a-game.

Since then, Easter eggs have become a hidden treasure that developers love to bury under the surface and users love to search for.

Browsing for Easter eggs

Both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have hidden quite a few Easter Eggs over the years. These are some of our favorite examples:

When asking my friends for cool Easter eggs they had come across, one of them sent me these coordinates:

sqrt(cos(x))*cos(300x)+sqrt(abs(x))-0.7)*(4-x*x)^0.01, sqrt(6-x^2), -sqrt(6-x^2) from -4.5 to 4.5

and told me to paste them into the Google search bar. This is what I got:

The image of a heart modeled according to the sqrt(cos(x))*cos(300x)+sqrt(abs(x))-0.7)*(4-x*x)^0.01, sqrt(6-x^2), -sqrt(6-x^2) from -4.5 to 4.5 coordinates

Google search coders have planted quite a few gems over the years, some of them show off their calculation skills, like in the above example or the search results for the phrase “once in a blue moon”:

 

Search results for “Once in a Blue Moon”

Others make us blink, like the search result for “do a barrel roll” (try it!), or wonder if there’s something wrong with our screens, like when we google “askew”:

Search results for “askew”

Those are just a few samples of Google search Easter eggs.

But many others have taken a crack at the Easter egg game.

What about Mozilla?

The Mozilla about: pages are full of useful information for users, and quite a few surprises:

Ever wonder about the history of Mozilla’s Firefox browser? Mozilla coders have got you covered. Search for about:mozilla in a Firefox browser to read the excepts from the apocalyptic “Book of Mozilla”

A verse from “The Book of Mozilla”

Created by Mozilla coders, these passages are quotes from an imaginary book portraying the complete uncensored story of how Firefox emerged like a phoenix after a dramatic battle that Netscape waged against Internet Explorer.

The Mozilla about: pages also bring a message from the future. Or, to be more precise, from friendly robots in the future. Searching for about:Robots will present us humans with this peaceful if somewhat unsettling message:

Firefox search results from “about:robots”

What is the plan? Hopefully, Mozilla coders have also buried some Easter eggs with tips for us to use when this mysterious robot plan is put into action.

No doubt, the unicorn that will start bouncing around in your Mozilla “Settings” Menu after you follow these instructions will certainly help: 

1. Open the Firefox Browser

2. Click the Menu (or “hamburger”) button 

3. Remove all existing buttons

4. Close the menu

5. Re-open the menu ------->

 A unicorn appears in the Mozilla
Menu once all buttons are removed

Space Invaders anyone?

Finally, Apache Open Office coders have tried to help you with your down time in Open Office Calc. If you feel like you’ve been staring at your spreadsheets for too long, some functions that have been Easter egg-ed into the spreadsheets (preceding versions 4.3) might bring some relief:

If you enter =GAME(“StarWars”) into a cell and click Enter, you will get a chance to go old-school with a game of Space Invaders.

Space Invaders Easter egg in Open Office Calc

Feel like going even farther than that? How about a game of tic-tac-toe? Use the =GAME(A2:C4;"TicTacToe") formula in cell A1 and – game on.

Apache have more hidden treasures in their Open Office applications – just make sure to fit some work in between hunts.

Those were just a few of the Easter eggs hiding in the software we all use every day. There are so many more hidden in our cell-phone applications, browsers, operating systems, digital media – the list goes on and on, and they can get quite addictive.

Have you found an Easter egg that wowed you? Tell us about it!

Happy hunting!

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