Easter eggs are everywhere if you know where to look. Spanning all seasons and all forms of multimedia, these inside jokes, hidden puzzles and cryptic messages typically surface in video games, movies, DVD menus and computer software. For cryptocurrency connoisseurs, Bitcoin-based easter eggs are particularly special. Extremely rare and esoteric, their existence can be traced back to Bitcoin’s very beginning.
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The Storied History of Easter Eggs
Easter eggs, defined as a “message, trick, or unusual behavior hidden inside a computer program by its creator,” have a history that goes way back. Not as far back as the resurrection of Christ which spawned the celebration of Easter itself, admittedly, but to the late 1970s at least, which in software terms is pretty ancient. It was “Adventure,” a video game for the Atari 2600, that started the trend.
Adventure’s easter egg arose after Atari forbade its developers’ names from appearing on games lest they be lured away to competitors. To circumvent this ban, one of Adventure’s devs left a hidden message buried deep in the game. Accessing it called for carrying an object through a series of rooms before passing through a wall to access a hidden room where the words “Created by Warren Robinett” were displayed in continuously changing colors.
It may not sound like much, but this subtle act of defiance was credited with starting the modern day trend for burying easter eggs in software and other multimedia. Fans of gaming franchises such as Grand Theft Auto will be only too familiar with in-game eggs, which are today routinely collected and categorized online for the benefit of other players, many of whom tick these occurrences off almost as if they were side missions. When cryptocurrency was conjured by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, it provided a new type of software in which coded messages could be buried, and its community rose to the challenge. From day one, Bitcoin has been a breeding ground for easter eggs of all kinds.
Bitcoin and the Egg With Two Shells
Crack open Bitcoin’s genesis block and inside you’ll find Satoshi’s famous headline procured from that day’s edition of The Times: “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.” What nobody seemed to realize until last year was that Satoshi’s cipher actually appears a second time in the genesis block. Concealed within the pseudocode for the genesis block is a seemingly inconsequential hexadecimal string. When converted to alphanumeric, however, it reads “sknab rof tuoliab dnoces fo knirb no rollecnahC 9002/naJ/30 semiT ehT,” which when reversed, of course, reveals that headline all over again.
Another covert banking reference can be found in an easter egg buried in Call of Duty Black Ops 3. Deep within the game, a billboard in post-apocalyptic Singapore reads “Live life in confidence knowing your bank will take care of your future.” Given the war-torn hellhole it’s placed in, it’s safe to say that the game’s dystopian future is one in which banks can’t be relied on to provide for the man in the street. Whether the message is construed as a subtle shill for permissionless cryptocurrency, or simply a dig at the established financial order, it has unmistakable echoes of the headline encoded in Bitcoin’s genesis block.
Less ambiguous is the cryptocurrency concealed in No Man’s Sky. Last year, two players stashed bitcoin on a pair of planets in the survival game. Finding it called for visiting communication stations on the planets where the bounty was concealed. While player rather than developer led, in every other respect it meets the criteria for a bona fide in-game egg.
Anything Can Conceal an Easter Egg
It’s not just video games that are ripe for the concealment of crypto-related puzzles and bounties. Cryptocurrency has been hidden in street art, stashed in Lego and placed in pictures, where in some cases it has lain for years before the code was finally cracked. In 2017, the Google Home smart speaker was found to contain a Bitcoin-based easter egg. Ask the assistant to speak to Mr. Satoshi, and the computerized voice will offer to provide information on a range of digital currencies.
By nature, easter eggs can lie undiscovered for years or even decades. It took nine years, after all, for the public to latch on to the second message concealed in the genesis block. It is therefore likely that there are many more Bitcoin-based eggs lying in wait in blockchains, video games, street art and other multimedia, just waiting for someone lucky or shrewd enough to uncover them. As one writer observed, every Bitcoin block is technically an easter egg which contains a coinbase reward for the first person to crack the code. Given its cryptographic design, cryptic creator and gradual permeation of popular culture, it’s inevitable that there are many more Bitcoin easter eggs to come. Next time you’re binging a box set or blasting your way through an MMORPG, keep your eyes peeled for covert crypto clues.
What cryptocurrency-related easter eggs do you know of? Let us know in the comments section below.
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