What exactly is a Google “Easter egg”?
In the software or computing industry, an Easter egg is not an actual painted egg that kids are supposed to hunt, but it is something “virtual” that exists within a program, video game or software that can be found or accessed only through a set of special codes.
These virtual Easter eggs come in the form of a hidden message, or quirky feature, or an “in-joke” often created by the software author or programmers. Atari’s 1979 video game called Adventure is widely considered as the first software ever to contain such a virtual “Easter egg.”
Google Easter eggs, as it goes, are those little surprising additions to any Google product, be it software or an online service, which can be accessed only through some “special code.” In all its years of running a hugely profitable business, Google has accumulated quite a number of so-called Easter eggs in its products, from the search engine itself to its Android operating system or in any of its online services or software.
Addictive Google Easter Eggs
From the 1970s to the 1990s, software and video game programmers and engineers’ idea of “fun” was leaving a note within anything they created. This was similar to people leaving little scrolls of messages inside a stoppered bottle, and tossing it out in the ocean, except the “note” or “hidden messages” in the computing context can be accessed by millions of people.
There is no definite rationale why software engineers do this, but maybe they are bored or they simply want to leave something that would remind them and their loved ones of that time they spent in obscurity, laboring over millions of lines of computer code in relative isolation. Many such “virtual Easter eggs” have become pretty famous, along with the people who made them. One famous example is an actual pinball game hidden in the 1997 version of Microsoft Word.
Fast-forward to today: Google, which often touts itself as a “fun” and “fun-loving company,” often releases hoaxes in time for the annual April fool’s Day, or introduces “Easter eggs” in any of its several software and internet services. Google Easter eggs are worthy of note because quite often, they are delightful tributes or references to pop or Geek culture. At times, such Easter eggs represent unusual extensions of some Google software’s features, sometimes with a humorous bent. I have gathered some of the most interesting Google Easter eggs, which are also notable for being fun and addictive.
Google’s Built-in Calculator Can “Calculate” Anything!
Sure, Google’s built-in calculator can help you in a wide variety of equations, aside from performing common calculation tasks such as adding, subtracting, dividing, or multiplying. It also has a unit conversion feature that allows the user to convert from one system of measurement to another (such as from miles to kilometers). You can even use it to solve complex calculations, such as this one (5*9+(sqrt 10)^3).
However, perhaps a more awesome thing about the Google calculator is that you can also ask it direct word-based questions, as if one would ask some know-it-all. For example, you can ask it “what’s the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything,” for which the answer is 42, and is actually a reference to the late British author Douglas Adams’ book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Or if you ask the calculator “what’s a baker’s dozen,” it answers 13. Or “what’s the loneliest number,” it answers 1, which is a reference to a song by the late Harry Nilsson (as an aside, some of my most favorite Harry Nilsson songs were featured in 2006’s A Good Year, that romance movie directed by Ridley Scott and starred Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard).
Gmail’s “Love” for Spam
I have also been a heavy user of Google’s free email service, the Gmail, ever since Microsoft’s Hotmail became too bulky and insufficient for my needs. Google Mail (Gmail) is known for its efficiency, generous disk space (that “grows” the more you use the service), nifty communication tools such as the chat, and its being normally accurate in identifying spam emails.
Spam emails are the arch nemesis of any self-respecting email service, more so Gmail. But instead of being constantly heavy-handed about it, Gmail treats it with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Whenever you check the spam folder in Gmail, above the list of emails, normally on the upper left side of the screen, there is always a link to a recipe for spam—yes, that actual luncheon meat. And the link leads to a real spam recipe you can prepare, if you so love a diet high in sodium and fat.
Google Translate’s Other Talents
Normally, Google Translate has fairly serious uses. Personally, I often use it to provide multiple language translation options on some of my websites, or when I need to read something written in, say, Korean. But that does not mean it could not be “fun.” In fact, as far as Google Easter eggs go, Google Translate (in my opinion) has the coolest Easter egg: the beat box mode.
To make Google Translate show off its beat-boxing talent, you simply have to set the “Translate From” to “English” then type “pv zk bschk” at the beginning of the word you want to translate. This turns Google Translate into a beat-boxing mode. When you hold the mouse cursor over the speaker icon, you will now see “beatbox” instead of the usual “listen.” Now to make it perform, simply enter any combination of consonants after the initial “pv zk bschk” string and the translator will beat-box it instead of reading it as a narrator.
On a simpler note, you can also change the look of the Google Translate page. Simply load “translate.google.com/translate_buttons” (without the quotation marks) then drag the word “English” into your bookmark bar and click on it. It will reload the page with a very old retro logo.
Google Homepage Easter Eggs
And of course, last but not least are the Google Easter eggs you can find (and have fun with) on the search engine’s homepage. Such Easter eggs are simply accessible when you type a particular word or phrase in the search bar. The following are just some of my favorite Google Easter eggs.
Google loves wordplay, and it has a number of Easter eggs doing this. For example, typing “anagram” in the search bar will cause the search engine to perform an anagram by asking “Did you mean: nag a ram?” If you search “recursion,” Google shows “Did you mean: “recursion,” which actually forces you to perform a “recursive” search for recursion.
Google also loves making its homepage or results page “move.” For example, typing “Do a barrel roll” or “Z or R twice” in the search bar and the results page will actually “do a barrel roll”: it makes a full 360-degree rotation. Google made this Easter egg as a reference to Nintendo’s video game ‘Star Fox 64.’ Moreover, typing the word “askew” or “tilt” will make the results page slightly lean toward the right.
But my most favorite Google Easter egg for the homepage (or in this case, in the results page) is the one known as “zerg rush.” Type “zerg rush” in the search bar, and watch the result page get “eaten” by multi-colored letter “O’s” until nothing’s left. What’s more, you can actually stop the “carnage” by clicking on the attacking “O’s” a few times to kill them. This is, of course, a reference to the Blizzard game ‘Starcraft,’ specifically an in-game early attack strategy called the “zergling rush.”