Ed Fries is known to many a video game buff as the one of the main creators of the original Xbox that marked Microsoft’s entry into console gaming. And while he’s been away from the spotlight for some time now, his blog plays host to his findings in an attempt to catalogue and preserve arcade classics from an era that’s forgotten by most.
In doing so he has, inadvertently, stumbled upon one of the first Easter eggs in video game history. Easter eggs refer to an unexpected or undocumented feature in a piece of software such as a game, included as a joke or a bonus. And according to Fries, the first one ever from an arcade game called Starship 1.
Fries interviewed Ron Milner — co-inventor of the Atari 2600 who also worked on Starship 1.
“That was the first and only game that I ever programmed and I think it was maybe one of the first games with a backdoor in it. I didn’t tell people about this, even within Atari, for at least 30 years, but I had some code in there that if you did a certain sequence of controls it would say ‘Hi Ron!’ and give you 10 free games,” said Milner to Fries.
What followed next was a painstakingly documented account of Fries trying to prove that this was indeed the case. From examining Star I’s code to obtaining and repairing a Star I arcade cabinet, the outcome was successful. And the process is well worth checking out on Fries’ blog.
“In my opinion, Starship 1 is the earliest arcade game yet known that clearly meets the definition of an Easter egg and the clever young programmer who put it there, Ron Milner, deserves our recognition and respect. Still, there were more than one hundred arcade video games released before Starship 1. Maybe somewhere deep inside one of them lies another even older Easter egg just waiting to be discovered,” a post from Fries reads.