What Console Featured The First Video Game Easter Egg?
Answer: Fairchild Channel F
We’ve come to expect Easter eggs—bits of code tucked away inside applications by the programmers and left as a surprise for the users—to be fairly novel and sophisticated. Google, for example, frequently hides Easter eggs inside the Google logo that include full animations and games. In the early days of software and game design, however, there wasn’t much room to spare for elaborate Easter eggs.
The first known Easter egg in a video game console was found in a game for the Fairchild Channel F. The Fairchild Channel F was a second-generation game console released by Fairchild Semiconductor in 1976. Other consoles from the same generation include the Atari 2600, the Magnavox Odyssey, and the Mattel Intellivision.
The Fairchild Channel F was unique in many ways. It was the first programmable ROM cartridge-based game console and it was the first game console to use a microprocessor. It also had a “hold” button on the console—the first appearance of a pause-like feature on a video game console—users could hit the hold button and freeze the action indefinitely, returning to it at a later date. The hold feature wasn’t quite as developed or useful as a game-save feature, but it was unique at the time.
In addition to all that, the Fairchild Channel F can also boast the first known Easter egg in a console video game. The system had 2 integrated games, 26 cartridge-based games, and 2 demo cartridges. Cartridge #20, Video Whizball, was a Pong-like game where you bounced a ball across a court and into an opponent’s goal. By playing a sequence of games with the match set up on a certain level with a certain fixed score for completion, you could make the programmer’s last name, Reid-Selth, appear in the center of the court as an in-game object your balls could bounce off of (he also hid his daughter’s name, Tracy, in the last five bytes of software code).
Less interactive and on Democart #1 for the system, there was an Easter egg that would print the programmer’s name—MICHAEL K T GLASS—if you held buttons 1+3+4 and released them together at the same time after the demo was over.
Since then, video game Easter eggs have become increasingly sophisticated and range from subtle references to other video games to entire mini-games hidden within the host game.