Geek Trivia

What Was The First Software Easter Egg?

A Game of Pong
A Philosophical Musing
An ASCII-Rendered Woman
A Flight Simulator
Pandora's Box Wasn't A Box At All But A?

Answer: A Philosophical Musing

A software “Easter egg” is a bit of code hidden away inside an application that, when uncovered, performs some unexpected function. Modern Easter eggs are often quite sophisticated and as early as the 1990s, entire games were hidden away inside of bigger applications—Microsoft Office 97, for example, had a pinball game hidden inside Word and a flight simulator hidden inside Excel.

The earliest Easter eggs, however, were simple bits of code tucked out of sight by prankster programmers. The first recorded software-based Easter egg hails from the early 1970s and was found in the TOPS-10 operating system, which ran on the DEC PDP-10 computer. You could call the basic editor included in the operating system with the “make” command. If you entered the command “make love”, you would get a file named love, but not without a contemplative pause and the computer responding “not war?” first.

If such simple Easter eggs leave you yearning for the days before complex game-within-app Easter eggs, you’ll be comforted to know that the simple Easter egg has not gone extinct. Dozens of them abound—such as the VLC logo wearing a Santa hat the week of Christmas every ear. You can check out The Easter Egg Archive to find more Easter eggs in software as well as movies, music, and other media.

Image by Jason Fitzpatrick.