Herald Journal Columns
June 10, 2002

Easter eggs aren't just for Easter


Computer programmers, despite their reputation as quiet and reserved people, have quite the crazy sense of humor.

I found that many programs and web sites have all kinds of interesting little pranks and idiosyncrasies, called "Easter eggs."

"Easter eggs" are fun little program tidbits built into certain software programs and web sites. They are are more or less hidden unless you accidentally stumble upon them or are told by someone else who has stumbled upon them.

By pressing a set of keys in a certain order or combination, these Easter eggs appear before your eyes.

We use Quark XPress software here at the paper. All of our copy goes through a process to get ready for the paper, including a spell check.

On the Macintosh computers, the shortcut to doing a complete spell check is to hit the apple, option, shift, and "L" keys all at the same time.

If you accidentally hit the apple, option, shift, and "K" keys (which is easy to do, believe me) a laser gun-carrying alien will step out from the left side of the screen and "shoot" the open Quark document window, making it a rainbow color. It's pretty cool. It's also pretty noisy.

We've heard this noise (which sounds like a laser gun) more than once around here, and it has caused a moment or two of panic. It never hurts anything, but panic sets when your hard work just up and disappears.

In certain versions of Microsoft Word, you can play a game of pinball, get a typing lesson, and make cute happy and sad faces.

To make a face in Word, click on the shift key, the semicolon key, and the 9 all at the same time. To make a different face, click on the shift key, the semicolon key, and the 0.

For a typing lesson in Word, open a new document and type =rand(200,99) and press enter. Then watch as your screen fills with characters.

Different web sites also offer different fun Easter eggs. My favorite search engine, Ask Jeeves, has quite a few.

This one is cool: go to www.ask.co.uk, and type in Why? Click on the "Ask!" button to the right. Then, click on "Ask!" again. The meaning of life will appear magically before you.

More often than not, these Easter eggs are discovered on accident, making you think that someone from "the other side" is communicating with you.

Computer people, although stereotypically mellow and serious, obviously have silly sides as much as the next people. I'm looking forward to the next "message from the dead" that I receive on my screen.

I just hope it doesn't delete my work!

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