Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Retro Look: Easter Eggs

You may, (as I do), find it just a bit curious that Easter Eggs has been the most frequently searched topic on this blog.  During the 7 years of the blog’s existence, Easter Eggs have been searched for 26,240 times!  This represents nearly 15% of all searches on Excel Enthusiasts.

So, what does this mean?  Well, I have a theory, but first let’s review what we’re talking about in this regard:

Virtual Easter Eggs are hidden surprises, games, or messages that have been built into various software creations by clever developers who have a sense of humor (apparently frowned upon at Microsoft these days).   In years gone by, users who were “In-the-know” could feel smug knowing how to reach this cryptic, and often entertaining, secret content. 

So, where did this unusual terms come from?  Easter Eggs” is attributed to one of the founding fathers of computer games, Warren Robinett. While working for Atari in the late 1970s, Mr. Robinett created a hidden screen which read, “Created by Warren Robinett”.  As with many talented people working for large companies in the past (think of the Disney empire…) it was not uncommon for designers to be given little credit for their work.  That being the case, Robinett probably felt his small ploy was justified.  I’m sure we all agree.

If you have been a longtime-user of Excel, you may remember that Excel 97 had an ambitious Flight Simulator hidden within the application (quite amazing for the time!). Using a simple combination of keyboard commands brought you to this remarkable 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.  If you are interested in the old classics, you can still find several downloads for this retro favorite.

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

About the only Surprise (it doesn’t even warrant being called an Easter Egg…) you’ll find in Excel these days is the DATEDIF function.  This curiously undocumented tool calculates the difference in whole days, months or years between two dates.  It’s nice to know about.

So, why do so many Excel users continue to search for Easter Eggs?  My theory is that several of us are nostalgic for the more innocent time of the past when you could find a little hidden Fun in our office work applications.  A little Fun is, after all, always a good thing…

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