Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Readers’ Request: Easter Eggs

I find it interesting that one of the Most Popular Excel subjects among readers of this blog is Easter Eggs. As any of you who have been with me for a while knows, I addressed this a little over a year ago, and I regularly get requests to update this topic.

Virtual Easter Eggs are, of course, hidden games or messages that have been built into various software by cunning developers who have a sense of humor (utterly lacking at Microsoft these days) and enjoy building in a bit of intriguing fun into Excel. In years gone by, users who were “In-the-know” felt smug knowing how to reach the cryptic, and often entertaining, secret content.

The term “Easter Eggs” is attributed to one of the founding fathers of computer games, Warren Robinett. While working for Atari in the late 1970s, Robinett created a hidden screen which read, “Created by Warren Robinett”. Back then it was not uncommon for game designers to be given little credit for their work, so he probably felt his small ruse was justified (I agree…).

Old-timers” of Excel will likely remember that Excel 97 had an ambitious Flight Simulator hidden within the application (it was pretty cool!). Using a simple combination of keyboard commands brought you to this remarkable (considering the era) simulator game.

Although a good deal more difficult to access, Excel 2000 included a Car Racing Easter Egg which resembled the classic Spy Hunter game (which, if you are interested in the “oldies”, can still be found online).

Excel 2003 included an Office Quiz featuring the Crabby Office Lady (remember her?). If you still have a copy of this version, you can access this egg by typing in “Tortured Soul” in the search box.

Although there have been occasional rumors to the contrary, I don’t believe there are any more hidden gems in the Excel versions after 2003. In fact, it has been reported that Microsoft will fire any employee who is caught inserting an Easter Egg into any of their applications.

That’s a pity, in my opinion. Sure, I fully understand the potential for security problems, and the inherent lack of professionalism in playing around with Easter Eggs, but I also find the days of Easter Eggs to be a charming time in software development. An age of innocence, if you will. Ah well, here’s a nod to the good old days…

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