FROM THE TUSTIN NEWS, THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 2004


THE DOC IS IN...

How to hunt for 'Easter Eggs'

What better time than Easter to write about Easter Eggs.

It's three o'clock in the morning. Our 22 year old programmer is in his cubicle. The rest of the large, cubicle filled office space is dark. The desk lamp illuminates the clutter in harsh yellow light. The floor is littered with old pizza containers, some still partially full. Perspiration odor mingles with the smell of old pizza. Pepsi cans overflow the trash can. He has been at the computer since early yesterday morning. He is tired and his brain is getting foggy. What better time to break the monotony and have some fun. He stops what he is doing and writes an Easter Egg.

Easter Eggs are short bits of computer code hidden within an otherwise serious program. That's where they get their name. Many are just little bits of nonsense that a programmer hides just for fun. Some are more enlightening and might contain a list of fellow programmers that normally would not appear in the main part of the program.

At one time the whereabouts of these Easter Eggs were shared only with fellow programmers. It was their little joke. Now the Internet has removed the veil and many web sites tell of the location of Easter Eggs in many common programs. Sites like The Easter Egg Archive (www.eeggs.com) and Egg Heaven 2000 (www.eggheaven2000.com) list hundreds of Easter Eggs. AARP (www.aarp.org) has an excellent article about Easter Eggs. Or just search Google for "Easter Eggs."

Easter Eggs are initiated by using a weird set of keystrokes or mouse clicks. These are described in the web sites.

Before the U.S. Government got so serious, there were bunches of really amusing Easter Eggs in most programs. Unfortunately, the Government has decreed programs they purchase must be free of "undocumented code." This means Easter Eggs among other things.

If however you still use Windows 98 or other older programs, you still may find Easter Eggs imbedded.

An example in Microsoft Word 2000 is: open a new document. Type "=rand()" (that's equal, rand, left parenthesis, right parenthesis, without the quotation marks). See what happens.

Another in Microsoft Word 2000 is: open Word, press F1, Under What would you like to do, type the word Cast. Click search. Click the Microsoft Office 2000 User Assistance Staff. Click the graphic that appears in the Help screen.

Finally, type "Bill Gates" (without the quotation marks) and watch the Office Assistant.

Computer programs have thousands (or millions) of lines of computer code and take hours (or hundreds or thousands of hours) to write. This is tiring and monotonous work and a little fun breaks the boredom. See if you can find Easter Eggs in your programs and have fun.

If you would like to hear more about Easter Eggs, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.
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Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: www.arholub.com. This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at: doc@arholub.com.


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