In 1979 Warren Robinett snuck a secret message into an Atari game, and Easter eggs in media were born.
You can find hidden secrets in everything from games and films through to hardware and your favourite gadgets.
These secrets usually centre around jokes, references, and commands that can unlock weird and wonderful things to make us smile.
Here, we explore the strange corners of different gadgets you use every day and uncover their hidden secrets:
ANDROID’S ABOUT PHONE
The different versions of Android have always been named after sweet treats, including Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow and more.
Each of these has come with its own Easter egg, accessed by entering Settings | About Phone (or Tablet) and then repeatedly clicking on the Version tab until something happens.
The subsequent animations have included a variety of weird and wonderful things, with Lollipop and Marshmallow offering up a Flappy Bird-style minigame. Gingerbread even brought up a painting of the Android logo holding hands with a gingerbread man, while surrounded by zombies on smartphones.
JURASSIC PARK 404
The dreaded 404 is the error code you receive when a web page is down, or you’ve typed an address wrong.
In most cases, such errors are irritating, but a few companies have made their 404s so good you can almost clap with glee that the site has crashed.
Over at nouveller.com/404 they recreate the famous sequence from Jurassic Park, where tubby hacker Dennis Nedry lets the dinos loose.
The NPR website simply lists other missing things, from Atlantis to Wally and your luggage.
LINUX FREE THE FISH
When using Linux, type ‘Alt+F2’, and then type ‘free the fish’ to release Wanda the goldfish onto the desktop.
Wanda dispenses snippets of fortune-cookie wisdom such as ‘you are confused, but this is your normal state’.
There are also various calendars, including a Lord of the Rings calendar, which marks the progress of the ring-bearer and his pals as they travel halfway around the world to stop Sauron.
GOOGLE’S GEEKY SIDE
Google prides itself on being a playful company and has added Easter eggs, April Fools’ Day jokes, and hoaxes into many of its products and services, such as Google Search, YouTube, and Android since at least 2000.
As the delivery service for popular culture, it’s no surprise to see references to Doctor Who when using their tools. Head to Earls Court in Google Maps and you’ll notice a police box sitting outside the Tube station. Hit the white X that appears in front of it and you’ll be ushered into the Tardis.
Google has also included a strange flight simulator into Google Earth. Simply press ‘Ctrl+Alt+A’ (or Cmd+Option+A on a Mac) and pick a plane to start soaring above the world’s cities, towns and terrain.
When using Google, searching for ‘askew’ will knock the page sideways, while typing ‘do a barrel roll’ spins the page 360 degrees.
Typing ‘zerg rush’ – a term borrowed from Blizzard’s StarCraft video game – invites a swarm of zeroes onto the screen to start devouring your search results. Click the zeroes to score points.
Where Google’s Easter eggs revel in popular culture, Apple’s Easter eggs revel in Apple culture.
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.
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.
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.
If you say ‘OK Glass’ to Siri – the command for launching Google Glass – 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.’
You can even 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.
MICROSOFT’S DARK PAST
The 1990s spawned a series of dark Easter eggs from the team at Microsoft.
The ‘Hall of Tortured Souls’ in Excel 95 is a Doom-like mini-game dropped players into a maze decorated with the names and faces of the Excel team.
Excel 97 swapped out the inescapable maze for a flight simulator, and then a racing game in Excel 2000.
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.
TERMINAL STRIKES BACK
Perfect for Star Wars fans – head over to the terminal in Linux or OS X, type in ‘telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl’ and hit Enter, and you’ll receive Star Wars art in ASCII art.
Windows owners can enjoy this too, but if you’re running Windows 7 or later, it will require a little bit of work to get going.
THE FRIENDLY ALIEN OF ADOBE
Adobe has a series of crazy and fun-loving Easter eggs hidden within.
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 to receive a visit from the alien.
If you pop over to Muse, place an Anchor on the design canvas. Copy and paste this ☃ snowman character into the anchor name and it will start snowing.
DINOSAURS ROAM THE CHROME
If you open up Chrome while offline, you will see a T-rex. But did you know this dino is part of an infinite running game?
To start the game, press the space bar or tap on the screen. Doing so will cause T-rex to jump. Keep tapping to make him jump over cacti and rack up a high score.
PLAY WITH MAC OS
The Terminal app on your Mac may seem a bit daunting, but it’s a very useful tool, and as it turns out, a fun one too.
Open Terminal, type emacs and then press enter. Next, press the Esc key. Then, press the X key. Finally, type ‘Tetris’ and hit return. It’ll then open up a Tetris game.
If you replace ‘Tetris’ with ‘Pong’ or ‘Snake’, it will bring up those retro games in the terminal as well.
SHOOT SOME HOOPS
Bored of talking to your friends in Facebook Messenger? Both impress and escape them in one move, by unlocking the hidden basketball game.
Send the basketball emoji in a chat window, and then tap on the icon to start the game.
Your friends can play by tapping the same icon and after you finish and vice versa.
THE SECRET HISTORY OF FIREFOX
There’s a creepy hidden message in Mozilla Firefox right now.
Every Mozilla browser includes a special ‘about’ feature that allows you to configure certain sections just by typing ‘about:whatever’ into the address bar. For example, if you type ‘about:about,’ you’ll see a list of all the menus they offer.
Some of the menus are actually cute Easter eggs, like ‘about:robots,’ which takes you to a page referencing things like Blade Runner, Futurama, and the eventual annihilation of all mankind.
However, if you type ‘about:mozilla,’ perhaps looking to learn a bit more about the browser, you’ll come across a red screen with ominous Bible-like text written on it.
Each verse is a metaphor for one of the updates Mozilla has released. Hidden developer commentary in the code of the 1998 page confirms that the beast Mammon is actually Mozilla’s main competitor, Microsoft Internet Explorer.
RELEASE THE SNAKE
When watching any video on YouTube, you can pause the content and enjoy a quick retro game of Snake.
While the playback is paused, hold down the left arrow key and press up at the same time. Now be prepared to waste several hours chasing those dots and trying not to run into your own tail.
THE KONAMI CODE
The Konami Code is arguably the most famous video game cheat code ever created. It gained popularity when it was included in the game Contra by Konami, where it granted the player 30 lives.
If that’s too hard to remember, you can use a simple mnemonic device: UUDDLRLRBA.
If you use Google Reader, for example, and type the Konami Code on your keyboard, your left sidebar reveals a hidden ninja.
GameSpot.com is a video gaming news website that brings you trailers, reviews, and downloads for the latest games out today. But once you enter the Konami Code and hit Enter, the main page switches to what one might have seen if the Internet had been around in the 1980s.
On a certain section of the BBC’s website, entering the code brings up a photo of Doctor Who’s robot dog, K-9.
Unfortunately, Konami Code Easter eggs are usually pretty short-lived. For a while, entering the code on Marvel Comics’ website brought up an image of a squirrel dressed as Deadpool, while doing it on ESPN.com caused the entire page to be invaded by unicorns.
In 2009, Facebook implemented a temporary Easter egg caused the Konami Code to trigger a lens flare effect all over the website.
Pressing the familiar keys on Newsweek even caused all the headlines on the front page to be replaced with fake news stories about zombies.