10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

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eastereggs 300   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter EggsFind hidden hilarity and otherwise odd stuff, built right into the operating system you’re using. They’re hiding in plain site, in software you use every day, and when you find operating system easter eggs you’ll be delighted – it’s no wonder these hidden gems are called Easter Eggs.

From a full version of Tetris hidden in the Mac version of emacs to a mysterious cow dwelling in Ubuntu’s default package manager, hidden in-jokes can be found in most major operating systems today – desktop and mobile. You just need to know where to look.

I’ll run down a few examples of Easter Eggs from every major operating system: Windows, OS X, Linux, Android and iOS. Then we’ll work together in the comments to find even more. Sound like a plan?

Windows Operating System Easter Eggs

These days it’s Microsoft policy to not allow Easter eggs – it’s part of their Trustworthy Computing initiative. Historically however, Microsoft included all sorts of hidden awesome in its software. Excel 97 had a flight simulator built-in, Word 97 had a pinball game, and Access 97 and 2000 had a hidden magic 8 ball.

Today’s hidden features are more practical. For example, the now-famous God Mode. All you need to do is name an empty folder the right string of characters and you have a one-stop shop for most major Windows settings, right from Explorer. We showed you how to do this in Windows Vista and Windows 7. I just tested it in Windows 8 and it still works:

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eastereggs godmode   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

It’s boring, sure, but it is useful. Still, I’d prefer a hidden pinball game.

Tina dug up 5 weird Windows bugs and Easter Eggs, which I recommend you check out. My favorite – typing rand (5,10) in Microsoft word will create five ten-sentence paragraphs of random text (adjust the numbers as you like). Sure, it’s not as random as I’d like, but it’s still surprising.

Do you want to learn about Microsoft operating system Easter Eggs? Check Wikipedia for a complete list, or scroll to the comments below – I’m sure people will speak up there.

Mac Easter Eggs

Icons FTW

More than a few icons on your Mac have a second meaning. The default icon for iCal/Calendar, for example, says “July 27” – the day Steve Jobs introduced the program to Mac users in 2002. The Mac Mail icon has a postmark saying “Hello from Cupertino, California” – referring to Apple’s headquarters.

But perhaps the most obvious Mac Easter Egg – which you probably haven’t noticed – is the message written in the TextEdit icon.

easter eggs textedit   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

Longtime Mac fans will no doubt recognize this from one of Apple’s famous ads.

And, of course, there’s some mocking of Microsoft baked into the OS – the icon used for all Windows computers on your network is a CRT monitor, complete with a blue screen of death:

eastereggs bluescreen   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

Terminal Games

I bet you didn’t know this. Command line versions of classic games like Tetris, Snake and Pong are baked into OS X – you just need to know where to look.

Open your Terminal, then open the Emacs text editor by typing emacs and hitting “enter”. Quickly press “Esc” and “X” at the same time and you’ll be able to type a command. Type tetris and you’ll be playing in no time:

easteregg tetris   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

Type snake or pong to play those classics, or psychoanalyze-pinhead to see your Mac talk itself through its own issues (occasionally hilarious). There are other games supported – check out this MacLife article to discover them all.

This is an Emacs Easter egg, so it should work on any system with Emacs installed – not just Macs.

Speech Mode

Do you want more? Check out voice mode, which allows you to use your Mac by talking to it. Intended for use by the blind, these feature also lets you ask your Mac to tell you a joke. They’re not great, but whatever – they’re there.

Ubuntu/Linux Easter Eggs

I could really spend all day on this, so I’ll try my best to keep it short – there are probably millions of Easter eggs to be found in the open source projects that make up most Linux distros.

So let’s start simple – on Ubuntu or Debian, try typing apt-get moo at the terminal.

fortune cookies moo   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

Awesome, right? And while you’re at it, install cowsay. This program allows you to make a cow say anything you want, from the command line. “Fortune” is similarly useless – it gives you a random quote. For best results, combine the two commands (fortune | cowsay).

fortune cowsay fortune   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

There are many, many more tricks like this – share your favorites in the comments below.

Android Easter Eggs

Head to your Android’s settings, then click “About“. Tap the version of Android multiple times – seriously, just keep tapping it – and you’ll eventually see a surprise. Android 4.0, for example, brings you Nyandroid:

Different versions of Android offer different things, but the trigger is always the same – tap the version number multiple times. In 4.1 (Jellybean), for example, you’ll see a surprising number of Jellybeans:

easteregg android   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

Try this out on your Android device and see what you find! Works for Android 2.0 and later, but of course some stupid hardware vendors might remove it.

iPhone Easter Eggs

The best Easter eggs to be found in iOS are probably part of Siri – the virtual assistant responds to a number of unexpected questions. Ask Siri to open the pod doors, for example, and Siri will pick up the reference – and respond. Check out this gallery from The Verge for a complete collection.

Even More Easter Eggs

ASCII Star Wars

Okay, so this isn’t an operating system Easter Egg – it’s publicly offered over telnet. Still, with this simple command, you can watch an entirely text-based version of Star Wars from the terminal/command line. Works anywhere you can type a command – Linux, Mac and Windows. Type telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl and enjoy the show.

Robots In Firefox

Are you a Firefox user? Good. Type about:robots in the address bar to learn about humanity’s best friends – robots.

mozilla robots   10 Fun & Surprising Operating System Easter Eggs

How many of the references do you get? “And they have a plan” is my favorite.

It’s not just operating systems that include these sorts of jokes: Google offers many videogame related Easter Eggs, and Geeky Easter Eggs can even be found in music.

What are your favorite Easter Eggs? Let me know below.

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43 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Adam Campbell

Justin, thanks a lot! I have been using macs for years and I had no idea about the “hidden” games!!! I am also currently enjoying ascii star wars… Happy Easter to you and the rest of MUO.

justinpot

Glad I could point out something new about your Mac for you. Hope your Easter was awesome.

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Michael Heffner

Yay!! Something else to waste time with. :)

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Ashwin Ramesh

Haha nice! Thanks Justin!

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Eric Montgomery

I’ve always loved having access to a simple tetris game. :)

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Chris Marcoe

As a gamer, I’ve seen plenty of these. However, the ones NOT in games are the best, in my opinion.

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Greg

Aw no Chrome OS? ;)

justinpot

Enable Developer mode, then type “xyzzy” during the boot process.

Ben Leverett

exactly what do you mean, “enter developer mode” where, in what os or app

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Nevzat A

Finding easter eggs is always fun. Thanks Justin.

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Pooky Joralyn

any easter eggs in Windows 8?

justinpot

If they’re there, they’re hidden quite well – Microsoft has internal rules against Easter Eggs.

Pooky Joralyn

Do you know any?

justinpot

Other than God Mode (above), no.

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Scott MacDonald

Just tried out that Windows God Mode trick. That is actually pretty frigging sweet. What a great way to have those setting organized!

Reply

A&L

God mode: you can just type the letter a in the control panel search to get the whole list

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Carlos González

the Star Wars animation was amazing! the first time I saw it I was like: I have to show this to everybody!

justinpot

That’s why I mention it in an article at least once a year: I have a deep seated need for people to know it exists. :)

Reply

Chad

For a good time, search Debian source code for curse words – there’s plenty in the comments :P

justinpot

I don’t doubt this. At all.

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karthik chandrappa

wow,
In about:firefox
The first statement corresponds to 1st Law of Robotics by Issac Asimov in I Robot.
But sadly in my Kannada version someone translated it wrong
Instead of does not allow human come to harm it is translated as “Robots does not allow any human to harm them” as if they are threatning humans.
Check your native language version if the same mistake is made or not.
and there are three laws of robotics as defined in Issac Asimov’s I robot and i think todays robotics are not following it instead they are travelling in opposite diection.

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karthik chandrappa

Here a thread from bugzilla discussing firefox:robots easter egg
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=417302

I like this stetement in particular

Mike Lierman 2008-02-13 16:24:55 PST

I like robots better. Just don’t document this eastereggs. I love it when people find them and proclaim ” I discovered a Firefox Easteregg ” it’s really funny.

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Stuart Lesley

I just tried the =rand(5,10) in Word 2010 it looks like it pulls random paragraphs from the help file. They’ll do anything to get us to read the instructions.

justinpot

That’s great! For me it was just jumping over brown foxes….

darrennie

This also works on the Office 2011 for Mac version as well.

Reply

Márcio Guerra

Nice one! Those were really cool! Completely useless (pretty much all of them) but really cool. And I don’t mean to offend you in any sort, just to point out what they are, but, hey, it’s Easter Eggs, they’re supposed to be!

Thank you! Cheers!

Márcio Guerra

Reply

Ben Leverett

Does anyone know any other linux easter eggs, other than “fortune | cowsay” and “apt-get moo”?

baracuda

Press alt+f2 to get the run dialogue box
Enter “free the fish” without the quotes of course

Observe.
I believe it is gnome specific…

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Collins Biobaku

Easter eggs????????? Will go and find some for myself.

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Gotestra

I really want to try out the ASCII Star Wars trick, but I have no idea how to. I’m using Fedora 18 (switched over from Linux pretty recently). I entered “telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl”, but I got an error saying that no command exists by the name of “telnet”. I would really like some help.

justinpot

So apparently Fedora doesn’t come with telnet. You need to type “yum install telnet”, let the package install, and try again.

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Eric Jay P

i’ll try that cow in ubuntu, sounds cool.

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Lisa Santika Onggrid

I have known some, but there are several new things. How fun.

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Robert Brock

Does anyone even care about these things anymore ?

justinpot

See above comments.

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Stephanie Staker

Interesting article – way behind in reading due to family obligations but enjoying the catch-up. I am certainly glad I read the warning about 64 bit Windows 7! I have an iPhone so will go play there later. :)

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Ben J

Love the easter eggs!

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Prabha Rani

On my Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread, it shows a picture named “Zombie art by Jack Larson”. It has the android logo with Gingerbread man beside it and zombies behind them. Thanks for the easter egg!

justinpot

Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

Reply

null

type “about:mozilla” (without the quotes) into Firefox, and you will see a quote from The Book of Mozilla

Justin Pot

Nice one.

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