Alas for the easter eggs…

Remember back when Microsoft apps had cool easter eggs?  Easter eggs were always a fun way for the development team to leave their mark on history.  Maybe your favorite feature got cut, but hey, your name was there in lights for all to see!


Leading up the release of Windows 2000, Microsoft starting getting a lot more serious about selling servers into the government and large enterprise markets.  These guys saw NT 4 as the first really credible enterprise-class product from MS, and were evaluating Win2k to see how things were progressing.


The story, as I recall it, is that one of these customers had some strong words for our easter eggs, suggesting that any company that could let such things frivolous things into their products wasn’t doing a very good software engineering job, and thus couldn’t be trusted to run an enterprise-scale business.


The argument never made much sense to me.  Easter eggs, at least on teams I worked on, were never anywhere near critical-path code.  And they often seem to have been pretty well tested by every member of the product team who wanted to verify their name showed up.  Maybe there’s some story I don’t know about how an Easter egg caused a perf hit, or crash or something (I bet if such a story existed, Raymond would know it.).  In any event, it seemed like we one day got this email that said “no more Easter eggs ever again”, and that was pretty much the end of it.


Too bad, I always enjoyed the creativity and humor behind these little gems.

Comments (24)

  1. Ben Dover says:

    Not including the backdoors and other nasties like profanity that have been included in products in the past.

    If an SDE or whoever wants to be mr.fancy pants they can do so in theyre own time but not on a live product unless its part of the spec. They could always apply to the games BU or consider a career in the Solitare team.

    Its an issue of trust and the SDE abused that trust by including something not designed in.

  2. Ben Dover says:

    Its bad when a customer finds such backdoors and so called "gems" and has to get a QFE to fix them when they shouldnt be there in the first place. Enterprise (large scale) customers do run checks for such things especially ones that develop on such platforms. Telcos for example. This is an example Ive seen before, reports come in from telcos titled "Backdoor in operator console process" etc etc… ICSA Server from Microsoft had backdoors (and maybe still does for all we know).

  3. Ben Dover says:

    Im curious, how does one "Evangelist" easter eggs.

  4. Ben Dover says:

    I think that shows a failure of the process. What CMM level are you again 😀 I would certinally reevaluate that.

  5. Ben Dover says:

    I can see the "Fun" in such things, well 2 edge sword and always the issue is "Intent".

    But given this drive for "Trustworthy computing" and the current state of the landscape on bugs and the complexity level of the products and this move into mission critical and even more so, life critical solutions. It doesnt belong there for obvious reasons.

    You dont want this "Do as we say, not as we do" problem. All too often the problems arise in so called Mr.Fancy Pants code.

    Why do you think the big iron boys have such rhobust and solid systems. The product is only as mature as the people working on it. Have you ever seen the code quality of big iron systems, VAX/VMS for one. There is a reason why those platforms are so solid.

  6. Gee says:

    The inovation of the industry came from the imagination of the unconventional. By cramming these free-thinkers into coporate-world conventionality we’re stifling the very creativity that got us this far…in my opinion.

  7. Jim Kloss says:

    Bingo Gee. They can search for ’em, find ’em, and root ’em out … but they can’t write ’em.

  8. Jeremy says:

    Of course I’m not talking about back doors and security holes, I’m talking about classic easter eggs, like the one I linked to in Excel, or this one from the mature VAX/VMS system: The open source crown enjoys these too,

  9. Hans Jergen Ohff says:

    Yeah great, let them do that on theyre own time, if they want food in theyre mouth, they dont do it, simple. Welcome to corporate americASS.

  10. Jester says:

    I was quite please when a client recently asked me to put in an Easter Egg. Pleased enough that I’ll probably spend an hour or two of my own time some weekend to throw something in.

    They also asked me to put in a TPS Report which I gladly did. It must be printed out and filed daily.

  11. Internet Explorer still has one from the old browser wars…As most people know, typeing "about:blank" opens a blank page in Internet Explorer. Typing "about:mozilla" opens up a blue screen…a reference to Netscape’s browser which had a tendency to suffer from BSOD. Typing "about:mozilla" in a Netscape browser is another classic easter egg…

  12. RichB says:

    There are still easter eggs on the Microsoft website. I know, because I put one there.

    One of these pages reads: "Last updated: 18 February 2004" at the bottom.

  13. Hans Jergen Ohff says:

    Your fired.

  14. travelback says:

    well im happy to see that google still has humor and eggs

  15. Channel 9 says:

    Short answer, yes. Do a search for ‘easter eggs’ by me, Manip in the coffeehouse.