Due to the traditional Easter egg hunt, hidden messages in video games (or any other form of entertainment) are called Easter eggs. Nowadays, programmers add Easter eggs in almost every single video game and finding them, has been a constant challenge for gamers. But have you ever wondered which was the very first video game that added a hidden message to its coding?
Well, we thought we knew, but a recent discovery by ex-Microsoft executive (and well known geek) Ed Fries, changed everything.
Here’s the story. (the article continues after the ad)
For years people used to believe that the very first use of Easter egg was in the 1979 Atari video game Adventure. Because Atari didn’t include the programmers’ names in the game’s credits, a programmer named Warren Robinett, added the secret message “Created by Warren Robinett”. Of course, the message wasn’t in plain sight; it was triggered when someone moved their avatar in a single pixel (later called the “Gray Dot”). When it was discovered by a player, Atari not only did it not remove the message from the game but it also encouraged programers to include these kind of secret messages into their games.
As it turns out though, this was not the very Easter egg. Two years earlier, another Atari team of programmers, added a secret message in the 1977 video game Starship. Following a tip given by the member of the programming team, Ron Milner, Ed Fries went on to discover in early 2017 what is considered to be the first Easter egg ever embedded into a video game. The tip was that after a combination of button commands, the game would display the message “HI RON!”. The funny part though is that Milner himself forgot how to trigger it!
Intrigued by the idea, Fries, along with Milner and another ex-Atari programmer, found the hidden “HI RON!” text in the game’s code. Then, using the machine-language they were able to figure out what was the action that would made it appear on screen: The trick was that players had to drop in a quarter while simultaneously holding down two buttons. As soon as the coin was registered you had to release the two buttons and voila, you got the message (along with 10 free game credits)!
Here’s what you need to hold while dropping the quarter:
And here’s a video of the message appearing on screen:
Video: Alias1964 / YouTube
Oh, and if you are geek enough to handle, here’s the source code that generated the Easter egg:
So, what do you think?
Is this indeed, the very first Easter egg or do you think soon enough people will discover another hidden message in a game made prior to 1977? I guess only time could tell but for us gamers (yes, we do love gaming here at I’m A Useless Info Junkie), this is interesting stuff.