foods/eastereggs.jpgIn cyberterms, Easter eggs have nothing to do with Easter Sunday, though they often are associated with a new creation.

Easter eggs are universally understood to be a symbol of new life. Originally, eggs were painted bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring. Through the years, the Easter egg hunt has become a traditional game. On Easter Sunday, children will be searching living rooms, family rooms, and grassy mounds for Easter eggs and other hidden treats. In the computer world, you don't have to wait for Easter for that egg hunt. Hidden delights, called Easter eggs, can be found in computer programs any time of the year. For those of you who have never heard of a computer Easter egg, a little explanation may be in order.  

In cyberterms, Easter eggs have nothing to do with Easter Sunday, though they often are associated with a new creation and many times are quite colorful. Computer Easter eggs are harmless "goodies" found by word of mouth or accident. Click the right spot, edit the right file, or type in the secret sequence and, presto, you'll find anything from a list of the names of the programmers who created the product to a full-blown, multimedia tribute to the developers or sometimes even a game you can play. No one seems to be able to document the start of this practice, but Easter eggs have been cropping up in computer hardware and software for a couple of decades. Early cartridges for the Atari games contained Easter eggs. The latest hiding spots for Easter Eggs is in the now popular DVDs.    

Computer Easter Eggs: an Explanation 

I must preface this explanation by saying that computer programmers are sometimes a weird breed. Since I have spent part of my career as a programmer, I can affirm this fact without a shadow of a doubt.  Programmers work extensive hours and deal with many details and frustrations. In order to manage long, exasperating projects, many programmers resort to somewhat unique diversions. Since programmers are inextricably connected to their computers, their little amusements almost always are computer-related. 

One such programmer diversion is to develop an Easter egg for a computer program and to hide it within his or her creation. The egg is an undocumented and usually well-hidden piece of the program. Over the years programmers have written Easter eggs for several reasons.  Sometimes they create eggs just to break the monotony of programming and to have some fun.  Other times, an egg is a digital signature from the development team.  The company that develops a software program usually gets all the credit for the development of the product.  That means that most of the time, the people who actually wrote the program get little credit.  So programmers often create an Easter egg that lists the staff who has worked on the program. Their list is usually presented in some entertaining way. 

These Easter eggs aren't meant to be found easily. They can be discovered only through a secret combination of keystrokes, clicks, and commands that often have to be executed in a very precise manner. Easter eggs must be well hidden since most companies will remove Easter eggs if they are found while the product is being tested.  So it is a challenge to a programmer to keep his or her Easter egg from being found – and programmers love a challenge, which is another reason that the tradition of Easter eggs carries on year after year. These bits of code come hidden inside of operating systems, applications, Web browsers, games, and just about all popular software. 

Easter Egg Web Sites 

The whereabouts of Easter eggs were once shared secrets of computer programmers and engineers. Only the close group of code jockeys knew of the existence of most eggs. Now technology is turning on itself, and the Net makes it easier to find eggs. A number of Web sites catalog Easter eggs for easy finding. Many of these sites are open to information sent in by people just like you and me. 

There are several Web sites that are dedicated to Easter eggs. My favorite is The  Easter Egg Archive that contains lists of eggs that are found in many software programs. At  Egg Heaven 2000, you will find many Easter eggs that are written into Microsoft programs, like Windows, Word, Outlook, Excel, and others. If you find an egg, you can enter it at either of these two Web sites to share it with the world.  If you are on a quest to find more information about Easter eggs, try the  Easter Egg Database  where you will find links to a wealth of Easter egg information. 

So just what do programmers hide in their programs?  Easter eggs include everything from a full-blown multimedia tribute to the developers to cartoon characters to exploding volcanoes. Remember that programmers are known for having rubber chickens hanging from the ceiling.  In Easter eggs, their unusual sense of humor sometimes shows through. 

AOL's Cartoon Egg  

While Easter eggs have absolutely no practical use whatsoever, like screen savers, they can be just plain fun. Although this will not work in AOL Version 6, in many previous versions of America Online, you can find a quick and easy Easter egg. In the keyword box, type in the name of a cartoon character BACKWARDS and a picture of that character will appear.  So far, names I have found that work are Snagglepuss, BooBoo, Yogi, Shaggy, and Wilma.  Remember, to see the hidden pictures you must type in ssupleggans, ooboob, igoy, yggahs, and amliw. See if you can find any others. 

Netscape's Mozilla Egg 

Most versions of Netscape also have some Easter eggs that are fairly easy to access.  Simply type about:mozilla in the location field (where you would normally type a URL) and an apocalyptic quote from The Book of Mozilla will appear. Mozilla was the cartoon dinosaur that Netscape used as a mascot, and he has been featured in many Easter eggs over the years. Netscape users can also press Ctrl+Alt+F (Control+Option+F for Mac users) to bring up a hidden Fish Cam. 

The Apple Egg 

Almost all operating systems have Easter eggs; here's a classic for Mac users:  

1. In the finder, hold down control option and command
2. Click on the apple menu
3. One of the choices will be "about the MacOS Team"
4. Scroll to it and release cursor

This procedure works for the Mac OS Version 8.5, Version 9, and several others. 

Windows 95 Egg 

If you are using Windows 95, you can see an Easter egg by following these instructions. I believe that this works for most versions of Windows 95, but I couldn't try them all. 

1.  Create a new folder on the desktop and title it and now, the moment you've all been waiting for
2.  Rename that folder to we proudly present for your viewing pleasure
3.  Again rename the folder to The Microsoft Windows 95 Product Team!
4.  Open the folder, and the credits should be displayed.

Note:  to rename a folder, click on the folder icon with the right mouse button and choose rename. 

Windows 98 Egg 

In Windows 98, you can access an Easter egg by following these instructions: 

1. Click on Start 

2. Choose Settings, then Control Panel 

3. Double-click on the Display icon 

4. Click on the screen savers tab 
5. Use the down arrow under the word Screen Saver to select 3D Text 
6. Click on the word Settings next to the 3D text selection 

7. In the graphics text box, type the word  volcano 

8. Click ok twice

The next time your screen saver starts, you will see the names of various volcanoes appear. 

Word 2000 Credits 

To uncover the Easter egg that credits those hardworking programmers who worked on Word 2000, follow these directions: 

1.  Open Microsoft Word2000
2.  Press F1
3.  Under the What would you like to do?, type in the word Cast
4.  Click SEARCH
6.  Click the graphic that appears in the Microsoft Word Help screen

Works 2000 Egg 

To launch the egg in Works 2000:  

1.  Launch Works 2000
2.  Go to the Help menu
3.  Select About Microsoft Works 2000
4.  Click in the Listbox
5.  Type in the word Phoenix

DVD Easter Eggs 

Easter Eggs are now being hidden in tucked away parts of DVD discs. Several Web sites specialize in DVD eggs by offering a database of these hidden DVD features.  DVD Angle has an extensive list of DVD movies containing Easter eggs. Some eggs are credits; some are deleted scenes. If you find an Easter egg in a DVD, you are invited to add it to this site's list and get credit for unearthing it. Another site with directions to uncover DVD Easter eggs is the  Hidden Features site.  

Eggs are Everywhere 

Easter eggs can be found in almost all computer programs and operating systems.  If you don't have any of the programs listed above or you would like to see more eggs, visit some sites that list Easter eggs for various programs. These hidden treasures have been found in everything from operating systems to games. There are even Easter eggs built into portable devices like Palm Pilots. 

The computer Easter egg tradition has become firmly established. From its beginning in early cyber space, the Easter egg tradition lives on. Easter eggs in the Windows 2000 operating system were posted on several Internet sites before the product could make it to the store shelves.  

Programmers are not the only technical folks who hide things in their creations.  Chip designers have also been known to bury cute little extras into their work.  See the picture of  Daffy Duck embedded into a microprocessor chip,  Mickey Mouse on an alarm clock chip, or the  shepherd and  two-headed ram  found on an Intel chip.  While these are not Easter eggs in the strictest sense of the word, they are, without a doubt, very intriguing.  See more of these molecular expressions at the  Silicon Zoo.  My favorite site, The  Easter Egg Archive,  even has information on amusing tidbits that creators have hidden in non-computer creations such as movies, music, TV, books, and art. 

Finding Easter eggs and hidden pictures is like uncovering a bit of buried treasure. While many of these fragments of code and miniature works of art have been discovered and documented, there is no doubt that there are other still-hidden secrets waiting to be discovered.

After you have enjoyed the scrumptious Easter Sunday lunch and played hide and seek with baskets full of Easter eggs with your children or grandchildren, I have the perfect quiet time project. Log on to your computer and using my clues and hints, fill up your own basket with electronic Easter eggs. That old Easter bunny has thought of something for everyone.