Aliens, Area 51 & the Newton
Mime-Version: 1.0 (NeXT Mail 3.3 v118.2)
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 96 21:57:32 -0700
Subject: Aliens, Area 51 & the Newton
Forwarded-by: Dan Tenenbaum <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded-by: Julian Jiggins
<Picture>So you must be wondering about that Newton Easter Egg? Here's
the original email from one of the Newton team members who seems to want
to be anonymous. Here's a clue: Do a search on the cryptography software
called "Stego." I've got a hunch that a certain Extropian had a little
to do with this. If you can ID the source of this email, let us know on
The Big Board
The email follows:
"There's an Easter egg in the 2.0 Newton (MessagePad 120) which was
"censored" by, yes, the CIA.
Back in '94, one of the Newton software types made a trek to the (very)
small town of Rachel, Nevada, located at the edge of a secret government
airbase. The base, called "Area 51," is thought by UFO-enthusiasts to be
filled with alien technology which the government is in the process of
reverse engineering. Meanwhile, the government denies the very existence
of the base, in spite of widespread media coverage ("Larry King Live
from Area 51", etc).
We figured it'd be funny to put a reference to Area 51 in the Newton --
especially given the substantial overlap between conspiracy buffs and
computer nerds. In the "Time Zones" application (including a world map)
we put an entry for Area 51 in its correct location. Later, we added a
twist -- if the user picks Area 51 from the map, the icons in the
datebook application take on an alien theme. Normally, meetings are
represented by an icon of two people face-to-face, events are
represented by a flag, etc. When Area 51 has been chosen, the icon for a
meeting is a person facing an alien, the icon for an event is a flying
saucer, a to-do task is represented by a robot, and so on.
Okay, cute enough. Now cut to August 1995, when the 2.0 ROM has been
declared final, seed units have been in customers' hands for a little
while, and the release is just about ready to go. One of the seed units,
it turns out, was sent to a cryptographer working for the CIA. When he
found Area 51 listed at the correct latitude/longitude, he complained to
Apple, demanding the removal of the Easter egg and threatening to have
his superiors take the issue to Spindler if necessary. In the end,
Newton management caved in to the demand and decided to pull the joke
out of the system.
But the ROM was already done -- so the feature was hidden by a software
patch ("System Update") -- but this part of the patch can itself be
removed, and "Area 51" returned to its rightful glory. Here's how to get
the Easter egg back:
1) Open the Extras drawer. 2) Switch the folder of the Extras drawer to
"Storage". 3) Tap on the icon "Time Zones" and press the "Delete"
button. Warning -- any cities you've added to your Newton will be lost.
4) Switch the folder of the extras drawer back to "Unfiled icons." 5)
Tap on "Time Zones."
You'll find that Area 51 is on the map -- just tap near Las Vegas and
choose Area 51 from the popup. Now look at the icons in Dates. (To purge
the aliens from your PDA, open the back and press reset).
Check in again later this week for more bits and bytes from me and the
© 1996 Peter Langston