The Musical Easter Egg Hidden in Windows 95


by James Hunt

Developing software is difficult and often thankless work, so it's hardly a surprise that many developers take it upon themselves to have a little fun by inserting Easter eggs—or unofficial messages and content—into software. The first example dates back to 1979, when software programmer Warren Robinett snuck a secret code into the Atari 2600 game Adventure that revealed his name, sneakily circumventing Atari's policy of not crediting its developers.

Since then, Easter eggs have become relatively common in large software packages, particularly Microsoft Windows. And maybe the greatest Easter egg of them all was "Clouds," the secret Windows 95 theme song which was accessed in an near-impossible-to-discover way.

To access the "Clouds," simply load any version of Windows 95 (we suspect that's easier said than done in 2015) and perform the following actions:

1. Right click on the Desktop and select "New..." then "Folder."
2. Name the folder "and now, the moment you've all been waiting for" then press Enter.
3. Rename the folder to "we proudly present for your viewing pleasure" then press Enter.
4. Rename the folder one last time to "The Microsoft Windows 95 Product Team!" and press Enter again. Then open the folder.
5. Instead of the empty folder contents, you'll see the Windows 95 product team credits animation with the secret Windows theme tune—a piano-based ditty—playing over the top.

The music for the animation was written by Brian Orr, an intern on the Windows 95 team who was instructed to create music that would evoke images of "floating" and "peace" (to remain on-brand with Windows 95's marketing) and to make sure it retained these qualities on even the most standard sound cards of the day.

The result is surprisingly catchy, especially given the technical limitations—making it a shame that so few people ever got to hear it when you consider how many people used Windows 95 and that it was hidden on every PC on which the OS was ever installed.

If you don't have access to Windows 95 right now, you can view the entire process—and hear "Clouds"—in the video below.

If you enjoyed that, why not visit composer Brian Orr's SoundCloud page for more behind-the-scenes details.

The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

The Plugin That Keeps the Internet From Spoiling Santa Claus

During simpler times, the biggest threat to a child's belief in Santa was usually older siblings or big-mouthed classmates. Today, kids have access to an entire world wide web, full of potentially Santa-spoiling content. Luckily, there's a plugin that helps parents maintain their kids’ innocence through the holidays.

Created by the virtual private network provider Hide My Ass (HMA), the free software analyzes web activity for any information that might threaten to “bring a child’s belief in Santa crashing down.” In place of the problematic content, the plugin brings up an image of the jolly man himself. Typing the phrase “Santa is not real” into Google, for example, will instead take you to a web page showing nothing but a soft-focused St. Nick pointing into the camera and staring at you with judgmental eyes. The plugin is also designed to work for social media communications, internet ads, and articles like this one.

Hide My Ass

According to a survey of 2036 parents by HMA, one in eight children in the U.S. have their belief in Santa ruined online. Whether it's because of the internet or other related factors, the age that children stop believing in Santa is lower than ever.

The average age that current parents lost their faith in Santa Claus was 8.7 years old, and for today’s kids it’s 7.25 years. Concerned parents can download the plugin for Chrome here, though it may not be enough to hide every type of Santa spoiler: Of the parents who blamed the internet, 26 percent of them reported kids snooping over their shoulder as they shopped for gifts online.


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