Happy 40th-anniversary Breakout! That’s right, 40 years ago this week, Breakout was released to the public (April 13, 1976). If you’re old enough to remember the classic Atari game Breakout, it’s probably an “Oh, crap I’m getting really old” moment. And if you have no idea what Breakout is or why it’s important to both the history of modern computing and Apple Computer, then you’ll enjoy reading this blog post about Google’s Atari Breakout Easter Egg.
In 1975, Nolan Bushnell, a game designer at Atari‘s Kee Games, was tasked with turning the popular Pong game concept into a single player game. Project manager Al Alcorn assigned Steve Jobs to design a game prototype. Jobs promised to complete a prototype within 4 days. But Jobs didn’t have any programming or engineering knowledge. So Jobs he convinced his friend Steve Wozniak to create the Breakout prototype for him. The only problem was Wozniak was employed full time at Hewlett-Packard. So every day after working his day job, he would go to Atari and work all night with Jobs on the project. After 4 grueling days/nights, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs delivered the prototype for Breakout. This was the first project that the two friends worked on and would pave the way for their future collaborations and co-founding of Apple Computer.
Steve Wozniak‘s work on Breakout inspired his design for the Apple II computer. Instead of building core functionality using hardware, the way he had done in the past for arcade games like Breakout, Wozniak tried using just software. Wozniak was able to successfully use the programming language BASIC to create Little Brick Out, a software clone of Breakout. Steve Wozniak told Byte Magazine in October 2013 that “it was the most satisfying day of my life when I demonstrated Breakout — totally written in BASIC. It seemed like a huge step to me. After designing hardware arcade games, I knew that being able to program them in BASIC was going to change the world.”
Google’s Atari Breakout Easter Egg
As a homage to Breakout, Google created an Easter Egg hidden within Google’s Image Search. To access the Easter Egg, just do a Google Image search for “Atari Breakout.” Your web browser will be instantly transformed into the classic arcade Breakout complete with colored bricks and sound effects.
The only difference between the original and Google’s version is the colored bricks. In Google’s version, the colored bricks are “screen grabs” your image search results.
To play, just use the directional arrows on your keypad to move left or right or your mouse. After you clear a level, a random image search will refresh your screen with bricks.
Atari has continuously updated Breakout the past 40 years. You can find versions of Breakout on practically every gaming platform from the web, Mac, PC, console, Android, and iOS. Various links are below if you are interested. Enjoy your classic gaming experience and please share your high score below in the comments!