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CoCo3 Easter Egg

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The Color Computer 3 contained an easter egg.

The Egg

CoCo3 Easter Egg.png
The above picture can be displayed on every Color Computer 3 ever made. But the instructions on how to bring it up were kept secret. That is what makes it an Easter Egg. To see the picture hold down the Control and Alternate keys on the CoCo's keyboard and press the reset button on the back right of the Color Computer. This puts the CoCo into a special mode where the only thing it can do is display this picture. A nitfy side effect of this easter egg is now there is an easy way to to generate a cold restart of the machine. Pressing the reset button again will produce the standard Color Computer 3 power on sequence.

Tandy Contemplates a "CoCo 3"

In 1985, the design and development of the Color Computer 3 began in earnest.

Tandy Contracts Microware

During the design of the Color Computer 3 hardware, Tandy commissioned Microware to extend the internal BASIC interpreter with new commands and functions. This proved to be somewhat problematic, since the BASIC ROM code was licensed from Microsoft. While there is no concrete knowledge of why Microsoft wasn't tasked with revamping their BASIC interpreter to support the features of the new Color Computer 3, there's conjecture that:

  • Microsoft was too busy and important at that time to do any work for the Color Computer 3
  • Tandy and Microsoft may not have been able to agree on a price
  • Since Microware was doing OS-9 Level Two for Tandy anyway, there may have been a deal cut for Microware to do the BASIC interpreter as well

  • Irrespective of the reasoning, in the end Microware was tasked to write code patches which would extend Color BASIC to support the new features of the CoCo 3. This approach of "patching" would prevent any perceived licensing violations between Tandy and Microsoft.
    The three people pictured in the Easter Egg are Mark Hawkins, Todd Earles and Tim Harris. They were Microware employees who worked on the additional functionality of the internal BASIC interpreter.
    Were they the only ones? Why were they included in the picture? Did they work on OS-9 Level 2?

    Tandy's Shock

    Frank Durda IV writes:

    Microware demanded and grudgingly got an 8K ROM budget, then they used 2K for the ordered improvements and almost 6K for the photo. Tandy hardware and R&D management were really, really irritated with Microware over this once it was discovered, as they could have put a cheaper 2K ROM in instead and gotten the wanted fixes. (In those days, the difference in price between the 8K masked ROM and 2K masked ROM was significant.)

    You don't know how many internal projects got put under the microscope by hardware management after that stunt, looking for what we now call "Easter Eggs" and as part of the witch hunt, killing what hardware management was calling "trivial" or unapproved functionality. A lot of good things died as a result of that stunt. It probably helped doom the Deluxe CoCo project too.

    There is a single 32K ROM in the Color Computer 3. So the space needed to filled with something. *Grin*
    Also, the Deluxe CoCo project was cancelled before the CoCo 3 project started so I think it is impossible to draw his final conclusion.

    Q&A at Pennfest 2000

    Mark Hawkins attended the Pennfest Color Computer Festival in the year 2000. During a question and answer session Mark answered qeustions regarding the Easter Egg.
    Include transcript.

    Special Discovery