In the tech world, a lot of things go out of style. Companies phase products out and make improvements to software and interfaces as the years roll on. However, one thing that will never stop being amusing is the Easter egg.
Ever since the first Easter egg appeared in Atari’s game “Adventure,” Easter eggs have been a fun, if non-essential, stitch in the fabric of tech, gaming, and software geekery. Companies like Google have elevated the Easter egg to art with their thoughtful integration of surprises that go viral. But the history of Easter eggs is a long one. Interestingly, that first hidden surprise wasn’t created as a fun discovery for gamers; it was for recognition.
One Secret Room
Back in 1975, Warner Communications purchased Atari. After the purchase went through, a culture clash ensued between the new bosses and current employees. Warner had zero intention of crediting the creators of the games produced under Atari’s name. As payback for the suits’ snub, game designer Warren Robinett hid one of the first Easter eggs in his game, “Adventure.” After an elaborate series of steps, players enter a room where the words “CREATED BY WARREN ROBINETTE,” appear.
“I thought of it as a self-promotion maneuver,” Robinett told Wired. “Also, I was pissed off. Adventure sold a million units at $25 apiece. Meanwhile, I got a $22K a year salary, no royalties, and they never even forwarded any fanmail to me.”
Google Creates Egg Culture
Google has created so many Easter eggs over the years that there is a fully dedicated Wikipedia page detailing all of them. Earlier this year, the company made headlines when it rolled out its Thanos “Avengers” Easter egg that wipes out the search results with a virtual snap.
Back in 2018, Google Maps and Nintendo joined in on March 10 (International Mario Day) when Google transformed the blue dot on the map into Mario riding in his kart. The company’s incredible use of Easter eggs, besides being fun discoveries for users, also go a long way toward humanizing Google. They create goodwill for the company (a tough ask for a tech behemoth). Google now has internal tools that allow employees to insert Easter eggs and a formalized process for integrating them in searches.
“We focus on how much people are sharing this, how much people are delighted by it,” says Josh Ain, a Google search engineer. “And we think it’s good for Google.”
Lo-fi Easter Eggs
Sometimes, Easter eggs don’t have to be complicated discoveries sponsored by multiple corporations to prove they have a soul. Sometimes, websites add fun little touches or go even further with inside jokes. One example is the IMDB page for “Spinal Tap.” Users on the site can rank the movie on a scale of 1 to 11 stars (if you’ve seen the movie, you know).
Back in the day before it became the online multi-hyphenate conglomerate it is today, Amazon got in on the fun. On the company’s full site directory, beneath the copyright at the very bottom, is an invisible link. That link opens to a page that’s dedicated to former Senior Vice President of U.S. Retail David Risher. Though he left the company in 2002, Risher helped turn Amazon into the online commerce giant it is now.
The page includes Risher’s favorite products and a thank you from Jeff Bezos. The post-script reads, “In tribute to David, this Easter egg will reside on the Amazon.com Web site in perpetuity. Also, since every page must sell (and since I’m sure David would want it no other way), here’s an opportunity to buy something! :)”
Tesla Makes em’ Dance
As Tesla owners have learned over the past couple of years, Elon Musk has integrated several inventive Easter eggs into Tesla models. One of the best-known ones is a holiday Easter egg that turns the car into a light show performance soundtracked by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
For owners with more personal intentions, Tesla vehicles can enter Romance Mode. This switches the screen in the car to a crackling fire as mood music plays in the background.
Previously, Tesla Easter eggs used to be true Easter eggs. In other words, owners stumbled upon them mistakenly. Now, however, owners can access the Easter eggs through a menu option on the car’s display.
It’s a far cry from “Adventure.” Still, the search for Easter eggs across the internet and technology-powered products will continue and will only get more complex. It’ll be up to us to find them all.