Easter Eggs

Going off on a slightly random tangent, this week I thought we could talk about Easter Eggs.Not of the chocolate gift variety we’ll all be receiving next month but rather an endearing name for a hidden piece of code that’s entered into an application at the design stage by a member of the programming team.The reasons for doing this is usually that most of the time a programming team is completely anonymous, for example, nobody knows the names of the individual people who sat down and created Windows XP; we just refer to it as being created by Microsoft.By inserting adding a small piece of code that is only accessible if you know where to look then essentially they are taking credit for the software by incorporating their own names in to it.Conversely, a programmer may insert an Easter egg into the program just as a joke or simply because he wanted to.

Most of the time the publisher will not actually know that the Easter egg is incorporated into the code and so will quite happy run off 10 million copies of said program completely unaware.It is usually at this point that the programmer in question will step forward and admit that he entered his own piece of personal code in to the software whilst it was being created and of course it is now impossible for the software to be recalled.

Easter eggs don’t always have to revolve around the software world either; hidden messages appear in many films that we watch or TV shows that we view or albums that we listen to on a regular basis.In the case of TV it usually just an appearance by the director as an extra in a group of people or on albums there are quite often hidden messages that you would never hear unless someone alerted you to their existence.

This is all very well, but obviously it is of no good to me and you unless we have a way of discovering these little nuggets of hidden software.Luckily, someone developed the website www.eeggs.com which contains literally thousands of these Easter eggs all sorted in to appropriate categories so that you can discover hidden code or messages yourself and luckily this is not quite as boring as it sounds.

Take for instance Excel 97 which probably contains one of the most famous Easter Eggs – By following the below instructions you can unlock a full flight simulator that has probably been locked away in the depths of your computer for the last 5 years and you probably never had any idea that it existed.

1)Open a new worksheet and press F5, then type in X97:L97

2)Hit the Tab key then hold down CTRL and SHIFT

3)Now click on the Chart Wizard Toolbar.

Congratulations, you’ve just unlocked your first Easter Egg so now use the mouse to fly around, using the left and right mouse buttons to go forwards and backwards.Remember that this trick is unique to Excel 97 so please don’t phone me saying that you can’t get it to work in Windows XP!

What about in Red Dwarf, the old late 80’s, early 90’s sci-fi?I would be surprised if any of you remember that show so long down the line but still, in one episode they visit a planet where everything is backwards and consequently everybody talks in reverse.Now the bar owner was supposed to be giving Kryten and Rimmer the sack but if you reverse what was actually said, you get “You are a stupid, square-headed, bald git, aren’t you? I ain’t pointing at you, I’m pointing at you. But I’m not actually addressing you, I’m addressing the one prat in the country who’s bothered to get hold of this recording, turn it round, and actually work out the rubbish that I’m saying. What a poor, sad life he’s got!”

Enough said really – On that note however, I should hasten to add though that I haven’t personally spent the time reversing around the episode to check for myself… If you do get a spare minute however then head towards www.eeggs.com and you may be surprised quite how much is hidden in the software we use or the programs that we watch everyday without us even knowing about it.

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.