21 Feb 2009

An easter egg gone awry

Was reading this interesting thread on Stack Overflow the other day. Folks (mainly developers) were commenting on the interesting easter eggs they had incorporated into their codebases, either for fun or to beat boredom or just because an easter egg was a fancy thing then and every developer rolled out one in his/her applications.

That couldn't help bringing a smile back to my face when I was reminded of an interesting midnight support call wayback during my stint with a previous organization.

We had a feature-rich product with a thick client UI which started off with a login screen. This was a product we had taken over from another organization and now all the development and support for the product was done by our team. So we were still discovering and analyzing certain library functionalities in the source code. That was when we found that there was an easter egg hidden in the login module screen - wrapped beneath layers of OOP stuff.

The easter egg worked this way. If the user brought the mouse cursor on a particular hotspot area on the login screen, and clicked over it, a window would popup with a game of bricks and a scoreboard for keeping scores. So far so good - but instead of a ball the bricks game had the head of one of the lead developers from the earlier firm superimposed on it. So it was the head that you had to hit around and keep playing the game to score points.

It was a crazy idea but now that we had the product - what we did was to replace the head with the head of one of our lead developers. No other change as such was done.

The product was released and 2 months had elapsed since then. One fine day, it was 11.2o pm around midnight when I received a frantic call from the support team saying that some serious bug had been uncovered in the software. I pulled myself out of sleep and went to office and from the mails - the first impression I got was that some virus had been shipped in our release. I dropped in a mail to the client asking for a detailed explanation of the virus problem they had been facing.

The reply I got had me in splits. It went something like this ... " it seems there is some nasty virus that has been shipped alongwith version 6.5 of the software. It has only attacked one client terminal but it shows what appears to be a bouncing head and suprisingly it bears a striking resemblance to one of your offshore team mates. Ever since that head appeared - our network guys have reported an abnormal increase in network activity and all users have stopped using the client. Please advise on further course of preventive and corrective action".

The next day when the team met - we had a hearty laugh over the whole issue. The fact was communicated to the client who also heaved a sigh of relief and cracked a laugh. Well whatever - that egg was never removed and I bet still continues in the software.


  1. YEs even on Microsoft Windows there are many easter eggs but its reproducible once in a lifetime. I had read somewhere on toggling certain keys in MS Excel a photo use to pop up having all the developers of MS Excel . Some people often use to refer such instances as hot poatato

  2. Good one da! You are still doing this kind of experiments! Ha ha!