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Throughout the 1990s, Microsoft developers were in a race of one-upmanship to produce the most elaborate secret “Easter eggs.” These included games of pinball, racing, and even flight simulators, all hidden within Office and Windows. Let’s take a look back at some of the best. “Easter eggs” are developer credits, silly features, or inside jokes hidden in software. Because you can only access these through a series of arcane steps resembling an Easter egg hunt, that’s how they got their name. Easter eggs were a sly, fun way for authors to secretly immortalize themselves in their work, even if individual programmer credits were discouraged for the sake of company unity. Microsoft’s history with software Easter eggs began as far back as the Commodore PET BASIC in the 1970s. Over the decades, it grew dramatically, continuing through MS-DOS and reaching peak complexity during the late ’90s in Microsoft Office applications. Microsoft Management officially put the kibosh on the practice in the early ’00s, citing security and customer trust concerns. For a while there, however, the eggs were on a roll—and they got pretty wild! In the ’90s, Excel attracted a large share of elaborate Easter eggs. For example, in Excel ’95, if you follow a series of complex steps, a window called the “Hall of Tortured Souls” appears. In this apparent reference to Doom, you can actually roam a 3D, first-person environment. After crossing a zigzag bridge, you discover a room with the names of Excel ’95’s developers and a low-resolution photo of the team. During the development of Windows 3.1, one of the programmers carried around a stuffed teddy bear. It became an inside joke and unofficial mascot for the operating system. When the team hid developer credits in the Program Manager of Windows 3.1, the bear naturally made an appearance. The Easter egg normally shows a man in a yellow suit next to a scrolling list of the developers’ internal email system names. If you perform the trick repeatedly, though, you might see the bear’s head in the yellow suit instead. Once word got out about the hidden “flight simulator” Easter egg in Excel ’97, it spread quickly in the press because it sounds so sensationally weird. In truth, though, it’s not exactly a flight simulator in the sense of gauges and airplane controls. Rather, it’s more of a surreal 3D, first-person flying experience over a purple landscape. If you fly around enough, you find a black monolith with the scrolling names of Excel ’97’s developers on it. See many of these wild and interesting Easter Eggs on OUR FORUM.
 

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