The tech Easter egg hunt: The 9 best hidden secrets in tech history

5. The 9 secrets in tech history: Apple bites

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Whereas Google’s Easter eggs revel in popular culture, Apple’s Easter eggs revel in Apple culture – a fact that will surprise nobody. For example, the icon for the TextEdit application is a pen and notepad with something written on it. If you pull up the icon in Finder, you’ll discover it’s the “Here’s to the crazy ones” speech narrated by Richard Dreyfuss in Apple’s 1997 ad campaign, which subtly suggested that if Albert Einstein and Gandhi had been alive they’d have used Macs, and possibly worn black polo necks, and probably worked in Apple’s marketing department.

Among the user-avatar icons is a picture of a record with the words “magic, revolution, boom” and “unbelievable” printed on it. These were the words Steve Jobs used most frequently during keynote addresses, and probably while making omelettes at home: “I’m just adding a little cheese to the top, BOOM, unbelievable. Look at how crisp that is, isn’t it beautiful? I’ve revolutionised the omelette.”

He’d usually go on to sledge Microsoft, so thankfully there’s a little tribute to that in OS X as well. If your Mac discovers a PC on the shared network, it will display a 1990s-looking computer with Microsoft’s “Blue Screen of Death” error message on the display. Thankfully, Apple found the ideal expression of this curt, clipped superiority in Siri, its personal assistant. Say “OK Glass” to Siri – the command for launching Google Glass – and you’ll receive one of six irate responses, including “Very funny. I mean, not funny ‘ha-ha’, but funny”, “I think that Glass is half-empty”, “Stop trying to strap me to your forehead. It won’t work”, and “Just so you know, I don’t do anything when you blink at me.”

If you’re not in the mood to hear what Siri’s thinking, head to the Terminal in OS X, type “emacs” and hit Enter, then press Esc+X. Then enter “psychoanalyze-pinhead” and watch as your Mac turns its Freudian gaze upon itself. 

6. The 9 secrets in tech history: Who Upset Mozilla?

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Firefox is the little browser that could, then did, and then couldn’t work out what to do next. Built as the anti-Internet Explorer, it championed openness, speed and not being rubbish, and set the standard for all of those things until Chrome came along and stuck a massive multicoloured flag in the internet.

The history of this struggle is told through a sinister Easter egg buried within the browser. Type “about:about” into the address bar and select “about:mozilla”. You’ll be presented with the phrase “Mammon slept. And the beast reborn spread over the earth and its numbers grew legion. And they proclaimed the times and sacrificed crops unto the fire, with the cunning of foxes. And they built a new world in their own image as promised by the sacred words, and spoke of the beast with their children. Mammon awoke, and lo! It was naught but a follower. From The Book of Mozilla, 11:9.”

Although it sounds like something you’d find scrawled on the wall of a serial killer’s shed, the page reference refers to an important milestone in the company’s history, with the quotes updated whenever there’s a new release. After you’ve fled the “about:mozilla” page, stop by the “about:robots” page for a crash course in geeky robot references. 

7. The 9 secrets in tech history: Terminal Strikes Back

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Ever thought the problem with Star Wars was the special effects, actors, colours, movement, sound effects and, you know, visual elements? Well, head over to the terminal in Linux or OS X, type in “telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl” and hit Enter. Witness the glory that is Star Wars in ASCII art. Windows owners can enjoy this foolishness, too, but if you’re running Windows 7 or later, it will require a little fiddling to get going. The internet is your friend on this one. 

8. The 9 secrets in tech history: Microsoft’s disgruntled workers

If a psychiatrist had examined the Easter eggs in Microsoft’s products throughout the 1990s, they’d have stormed Redmond and demanded Bill Gates release the programmers he surely had chained up in the basement. Each one is a little cry for help, none more so than the “Hall of Tortured Souls” in Excel 95. This Doom-like mini-game dropped players into a maze decorated with the names and faces of the Excel team.

Thankfully, the graphics of the day couldn’t convey the screaming, visceral horror of their imprisonment, so instead we got a maze designed by demented Teletubbies. Excel 97 swapped out the inescapable maze for a flight simulator (a cry for freedom if ever we heard it), and then a racing game in Excel 2000 (help us, we’re going nowhere fast). These quiet pleas by the programmers were snuffed out in 2002, when Microsoft launched its Trustworthy Computing initiative, which promised nothing unexpected would find its way into your software – except for bugs, disappointment, bad ideas and sudden U-turns. Good to know where we all stand. 

9. The 9 secrets in tech history: Adobe attacks

Adobe After Effects CC 2015 review: Character Animator

Think Adobe and you’re quite likely to think industry- behemoth-that-has-come-to-take-over-the-world, so it’s perhaps surprising to learn that behind that serious façade lies a jolly heart, expressed in half a dozen genuinely amusing Easter eggs.

Among them is InDesign’s friendly alien, who will turn up if you wade into the File menu, select Print Presets and click “Define…”. Create a new Print Preset and call it “Friendly Alien” , then save it. Now open a blank document and go to File | Print, and change the print preset at the top of the dialog box to Friendly Alien. Click the large P in the Print Preview window in the dialog box. You’ll receive a visit from the alien, whose smiling face should be enough to dispel the despair instilled by InDesign’s print options.

If that’s not helping to lift your mood, pop over to Muse, and place an Anchor on the design canvas. Copy and paste this ☃ snowman character (available from the Muse Facebook page here) into the anchor name and it will start snowing.

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[Image: Amy G – Flickr]

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