Eggs. That's what it's all about. Eggs. How many people remember 'Egg freckles'? What about 'Easter eggs' - how many people know what this means outside its 'normal' meaning. Egg freckles is the phrase used by Garry Trudeau - he of Doonesbury fame - when he did a series of cartoons on the first personal digital assistant, or PDA. Although Trudeau has claimed that he never intended the strip to refer to Apple's original MessagePad, the Newton, that is considered by most people to be a rather lame defence. Anyway, it was funny, even if it was at Apple's expense. In the strip in question, one of Doonesbury's yuppies is showing off his new toy, a PDA that recognises handwriting. He writes a perfectly normal English phrase on the screen and the PDA returns with 'Egg freckles'. For a very long time, egg freckles was the phrase used to exemplify the less-than-perfect ability of the Newton to recognise handwriting. The other egg mentioned above, the Easter egg, is one that belongs to programmers, not the Easter Bunny. The psychology of the Easter egg almost certainly will be lost on those who have never had to spend the hours it takes to produce a professional piece of software. The user is rarely rapturous about software successes, but make one mistake, allow one bug to go unfixed and you are vilified for life. In many ways, this is as it should be. The professional programmer should be happy that people have found problems with his code. It will be better next time. Nevertheless, all those hours that go into making applications often seem unrecognised when blunt criticism is all you have to show for your time. Many programmers, therefore, 'sign' their work. This means they put little things inside the code that become the silicon version of 'Kilroy was here'. On an older model of the Mac, it was possible to hold down three or four keys while the machine booted and a photograph of the team that created that model would appear on the screen. This is known as an Easter egg. When the last version of the Newton OS came out, it had a special Easter egg. If you typed in 'egg freckles', highlighted it and then tapped on Assist, a Doonesbury cartoon would appear on the screen (quite legally, I should add). Apple, it seemed, has a sense of humour. Has it still got one, even now? Possibly. The egg freckles Easter egg has gone the way of most such eggs - eaten or discarded. It is no more. There are a few others that survive and maybe there are some nobody has found yet (they are meant to be hidden, remember?). There are few eggs - of either the bunny type or the befreckled type - in the latest version of the Newton computer operating system. This no doubt represents the 'serious' attitude that is now the norm at Apple. The new MessagePads are selling quite well, according to some sources, so that should please the serious gang at Apple. With the new eMate 1000 - the adult version of the made-for-kiddies eMate 300 - soon to be launched, Apple could well be in a good position with its PDAs. If they were to sell this division now, as some have rumoured, then the only egg left would be that on Apple's face.