NICE AND EASY: DIRECTV Easter Eggs?

This is probably going to be one short article.

Back when DIRECTV was made for enthusiasts and early adopters, a number of Easter Eggs made their way into the systems. Today, there aren’t really any secret passages left.

What is an easter egg?

The term “easter egg” refers to something in a computer program or movie that isn’t necessarily obvious. If you search hard enough, you might find it. More commonly today you just search the internet.

The origins of the term are pretty obvious to anyone who’s spent a Sunday in April looking for some hidden treats in the front yard. The history is a little more obscure, although you learned about it for sure if you saw the recent film Ready Player One.

The myth goes that in the 1970s, Atari was the king of home video games. They were a company that believed in group achievements, not individual ones, although their products were still simple enough that one person handled the development of each game.

The first Easter Egg we know of is thanks to a developer called Warren Robinett. Told he could not put his name on the box for the Adventure cartridge for Atari 2600, he coded a way for players to pick up an invisible dot. That dot served as a key to an otherwise inaccessible room where you saw this:

Or… it might have gone a different way.

That may have not been the first easter egg, though. In the interest of making this article a bit longer, I’ll share a story from my past.

In the 1980s I was working at a small computer company. The company hired a strange man named Larry Leppert. Larry took great delight in telling people that he had worked for Atari in the 1970s and that he was in fact the genius behind some of their early hits. He even claimed that he had a part in inventing Breakout. Larry said his name was erased from Atari history after he tried to form his own company. He even claimed his name was embedded in the source code of some of those early games.

I didn’t believe him and didn’t even think of him until I was telling this story to a coworker at Solid Signal a few years ago. He came up with this entry in Google Books.

So who knows, he might have been telling the truth and he, not Robinett, might have put the first easter egg in play.

DIRECTV easter eggs

As I said, there really aren’t any on Genies now. AT&T is much more of a “button down” company than DIRECTV was in its early days. They’ve closed off a lot of that developer spirit and hidden it behind several levels of corporate policy. While that’s a lot less fun for techies like us, it does sort of make sense for the 25 million DIRECTV subscribers out there. Still, the easter eggs were fun while they lasted.