Ghosts In The ROM: Hacking Into A 25 Year Old Macintosh Easter Egg

Ghosts In The ROM: Hacking Into A 25 Year Old Macintosh Easter Egg

An old-as-the-hills Easter Egg has been rediscovered by New York based hacker collective NYC Resistor: hidden pictures of the Macintosh team from 1986 hidden in the Mac SE’s system ROM. The Easter Egg has been known about forever — references to it on the Internet go back to at least 1999 — but more interesting than the Easter Egg itself is how NYC Resistor discovered for themselves how it was done: by good, old fashioned hacking.

Finding an old Mac SE on the side of the street, NYC Resistor dragged the machine back to their workshop. Knowing about the Easter Egg from forum posts online (the Easter Egg can easily be triggered and displayed on any Mac SE), NYC Resistor set to work uncovering where it was stored on the hardware, then dissecting how it was done:

Reports of the easter egg said that it could be found by jumping to address 0x41D89A. I was able to boot the ROMs in Mini vMac and confirm that these were indeed the secret images that had already been discovered. That could have been the end of it, but we wanted to know how they were stored and displayed, and to be able to look for any other surprises stored in the ROM, so further investigation was required.

If you’re technically inclined, it’s a great read, not just about the ingenuity of our modern day hackers, but what the hackers of yesteryear were doing to “sign their work” on millions of Macs around the world.

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About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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