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Easter eggs (computing)

From the custom of the Easter egg hunt observed in the U.S. and many parts of Europe, Easter eggs consist of a message hidden in the object code of a program as a joke, intended to be found by persons disassembling or browsing the code. Digital Easter eggs also can consist of a message, graphic, or sound effect emitted by a program (or, on a PC, the BIOS ROM) in response to some undocumented set of commands or keystrokes, intended as a joke or to display program credits. See also Undocumented feature.

One well-known early Easter egg found in a couple of Unix operating systems caused them to respond to the command "make love" with "not war?" Many personal computers have much more elaborate eggs hidden in ROM, including lists of the developers' names, political exhortations, snatches of music, and (in one case) images of the entire development team. Microsoft Excel has a well-known car racing game secreted inside. The Palm operating system has elaborately hidden animations and other surprises. The DVD for The Abyss has at least nine easter eggs, including at least three different trailers for Aliens and two for True Lies, two other James Cameron films. Easter eggs in computer games often allow you to cheat - see Minesweeper for an example.

Based on the Jargon File.

External Links

  • The Easter Egg Archive (http://www.eeggs.com) has up-to-date lists and discussions of digital Easter eggs.

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