When Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One blasted into cinemas in 2018, a crucial part of the plot involved Warren Robinett’s Easter Egg hidden in Adventure for the Atari 2600; the purported “first ever video game Easter Egg”. This Egg had already been pushed off the top spot back in 2017, but a new challenger has also entered the arena, having been discovered last week by retro enthusiast RT-55J and posted on SelectButton.
Having gone through several games for the Fairchild Channel F – a ROM cartridge–based console from 1976 – and viewing them as raw images using YY-CHR, RT-55J found some graphics in the code for Spitfire that looked a little intriguing, so set about examining where exactly they fit into the game.
The events that followed were then explained by the author:
“The first thing the game does when turned on is ask you the timeless question: “G?” In response to this question, you are supposed to hit one of the 4 numbered buttons on the console itself to select a game mode. The modes are listed in the game’s instruction manual (this is a common (but not universal) design pattern for Channel F games). In the case of Spitfire, pressing “1” starts a 2-player game and pressing “2” starts a 1-player game against the CPU. Pressing “4” does nothing.
“Pressing “3” also appears to do nothing, but it actually does something (invisibly). It jumps to a piece of code where you can enter a special passcode. The passcode is that weird-looking pattern at the end of the ROM. If you fail, you get sent back to the G? menu (also invisibly).
“The passcode itself is 343242124133231432142314322132342334111223324443. (I have been unable to find any meaning to this sequence.) For those of you not counting at home, that’s 48 button presses, not counting the initial “3” from earlier.”
This passcode led to the uncovering of a formerly-unseen Easter Egg in Spitfire, “Done By Michael K Glass”.
RT-55J noted that Halo 2600 writer Ed Fries had previously found an Easter Egg in Atari’s Starship 1, which would have been accessible on 13th August, 1977, but after some research suggested that Spitfire was released later on 31st December, 1977, a newspaper ad for the game as part of the Channel F’s package was unearthed, and which seems to conclusively reveal that it existed on 15th April, 1977, seemingly making Spitfire home to the first ever video game Easter Egg.
A person claiming to be Michael K Glass’s son joined the thread over the weekend, claiming that his father had passed away in 2005 and therefore he was unable to confirm if his dad was indeed the person who created the Spitfire Easter Egg, but that he was a “brilliant programmer” who developed games for Atari and “other systems” back in the 70s and 80s.
Since this is the internet, we’ll have to take this contribution with a grain of salt for now, but it would be terrific if the original Egg creator’s son had managed to find an online celebration of his work.
Wireframe #19 is out now