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Easter Egg In This Apple II Game Found After 33 Years

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http://motherboard.vice.com/read/it-took-33-years-for-someone-to-find-the-easter-egg-in-this-apple-ii-game-gumball?utm_content=buffer9e9fe&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Gumball, a game released in 1983 for the Apple II and other early PCs, was never all that popular. For 33 years, it held a secret that was discovered this week by anonymous crackers who not only hacked their way through incredibly advanced copyright protection, but also became the first people to discover an Easter Egg hidden by the game’s creator, Robert A. Cook. Best of all? Cook congratulated them Friday for their work.

For the last few years, the cracker known as 4a.m. has been systematically cracking the DRM on old Apple II games and uploading them to the Internet Archive. Because almost all of the games are completely out of print, all-but-impossible to find, and run only on old computers, 4a.m. is looked at as more of a game preservation hero than a pirate.

Thus far, he’s cracked 683 games and told me over Twitter DM that most games that came out in the early 1980s can be trivially cracked with automated utilities. Gumball was different.

“Copyright protection developer Roland Gustafsson was legendary at Apple II copy protection. Roland was in a class by himself,” 4a.m. told me. “To give you a sense of how extraordinary it was, consider that this is my 683rd crack, and this write-up was almost twice as long as my previous longest.”

But the DRM wasn’t the only extraordinary thing about the game. As he was cracking the game with his sometimes partner (who goes by “qkumba,”) he noticed a cipher.

“I stumbled on a site that had a vague reference to the initial step in revealing the egg. I told qkumba to try it, and he said it came back with these messages on screen after each level,” 4a.m. said. “I recognized it as a simple substitution cipher and put it into an online cipher solver I found through a quick Google search.”

The game puts you in charge of a gumball factory worker who progresses to become foreman, supervisor, manager, and vice president of the factory—if you hit “ctrl+z” during the cutscenes between levels of the game, you get different codes of the cipher. Solved, the cipher reveals this code:

ENTER THREE

LETTER CODE

WHEN

YOU RETIRE

If you hit ctrl+z again during “retirement,” which is the end of the game, there’s one final code: “DOUBLE HELIX.” 4a.m. and qkumba entered “DNA” at the end of the game and got this screen:

1465601407221731.png

As far as 4a.m. knows, this is the first time anyone has ever solved the cipher or found this Easter egg. When he tweeted about it, Cook himself thought the same:

As I mentioned, 4a.m. has become a bit of a folk hero in the Apple II community, which is still going strong (read more about the community and its annual “KansasFest” festival each year here). He says he got the copy of Gumball on loan from a friend who was a former developer that worked with Broderbund. [Update:This copy of Gumball apparently came from a shoebox in famous game designer Jordan Mechner's garage.]

“I’ve never seen a copy of Gumball for sale on eBay or anywhere,” 4a.m. told me. “It really is quite rare.”

And now you can play it—and find its secret—for free online.

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http://www.techworm.net/2016/06/easter-egg-apple-ii-game-found-33-years.html

 

Hacker Finds Easter Egg In Apple II Game That Was Hidden For 33 Years

Do you know that Gumball, a game that was released in 1983 for the Apple II and other early PCs, was never all that popular? However, this week a secret that was kept hidden for 33 years was discovered by anonymous hacker who not only hacked his way through extremely advanced copyright protection, but also became the first people to notice an Easter Egg concealed by the game’s creator, Robert A. Cook. What was more incredible that Cook congratulated them for their work on Friday.

The hacker known as 4a.m. for the last few years has been methodically cracking the DRM on old Apple II games and uploading them to the Internet Archive. 4a.m. is looked at as more of a game preservation hero than a bandit, since most of the games are entirely out of print, all-but-impossible to find, and run only on old computers.

He told Motherboard that he has cracked 683 games until now and several games that came out in the early 1980s can be insignificantly cracked with automated utilities. However, Gumball was different.

“Copyright protection developer Roland Gustafsson was legendary at Apple II copy protection. Roland was in a class by himself,” 4a.m. told Motherboard. “To give you a sense of how extraordinary it was, consider that this is my 683rd crack, and this write-up was almost twice as long as my previous longest.”

However, the DRM was not the only astonishing thing about the game. He noticed a cipher while he was cracking the game with his sometimes partner (who goes by “qkumba”).

 

“I stumbled on a site that had a vague reference to the initial step in revealing the egg. I told qkumba to try it, and he said it came back with these messages on screen after each level,” 4a.m. said. “I recognized it as a simple substitution cipher and put it into an online cipher solver I found through a quick Google search.”

The game makes you in charge of a gumball factory worker who evolves to become foreman, supervisor, manager, and vice president of the factory—if you hit “ctrl+z” during the cutscenes between levels of the game, you get different codes of the cipher. Solved, the cipher discloses this code:

ENTER THREE

LETTER CODE

WHEN

YOU RETIRE

During “retirement,” which is the end of the game, if you hit ctrl+z again there’s one final code: “DOUBLE HELIX.” 4a.m. and qkumba entered “DNA” at the end of the game and got this screen:

This is the first time anyone has ever solved the cipher or found this Easter egg, according to 4a.m. Cook also thought the same thing, when he 4a.m about it:

4a.m. has become a bit of a folk hero in the Apple II community, which is still going strong. He says he got the copy of Gumball on loan from a friend who was a former developer that worked with Broderbund. Apparently, this copy of Gumball came from a shoebox in famous game designer Jordan Mechner’s garage.

“I’ve never seen a copy of Gumball for sale on eBay or anywhere,” 4a.m. told Motherboard. “It really is quite rare.”

You can find the game here.

Edited by Arenafoot

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Agree.  Really cool in may respects -- the easter egg itself, and the archiving of all this software. 

The archiving is amazing.   I feel the same way about ROMs.   This is a part of history that deserves to be preserved like any other.  I'm thankful we live in an age of technology to where we can prevent something from happening like it did with many early films. 

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There's some excellent discussion (and a link to a talk given at the most recent Game Developers' Conference) about classic game preservation in general and how game companies have historically failed to embrace emulation over at Metafilter.  The comparison to how many early films have been totally lost gets made, and the whole thing complements the current discussion about the just-announced NES Classic Edition, too.

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