Starlink, the high-speed, low latency satellite internet service operated by SpaceX, has been in operation since late 2020. Now that Starlink has some history under its belt, I thought it would be fun to look back and remember some of the fun things they have done along the way.
If you aren’t familiar with the term “easter egg”, it’s basically an unexpected or hidden feature that software developers add into a program. Not only do the developers have a bit of fun creating the easter eggs, the end users also get a nice surprise when they eventually find one.
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Starlink easter eggs and fun facts
Starlink, even though it’s only a few years old, has several easter eggs that users have discovered over the years. In this article, I’m going to list 10 of my favorite secrets and fun facts, including some Starlink easter eggs.
Those of you who are new to Starlink might be surprised by most of the 10 things on the list. Early Starlink beta testers might know them all. Either way, this is a fun little piece of history that I hope you enjoy. Let me know how many you already knew in the comments below!
1. Microsoft “Clippy” parody in early Starlink app versions
This one goes way back to the early beta testing phase of Starlink. In late 2020, Starlink had launched less than 1,000 of their satellites for the service. But they had enough to support several thousand beta testers.
The Starlink app is where users manage their internet service. In early versions of the iPhone and Android app, Starlink included a fun easter egg that the beta testers discovered pretty quickly.
Starlink included an image within the app files of “Dishy”, a parody of the famous “Clippy” assistant in older Microsoft Office software. When a user found Dishy in the app, they could even print out the character. It’s even described as a “fun secret feature” when found!
2. Orbital transfer ellipse from Earth to Mars
Starlink released their 2nd generation hardware in late 2021. The router was redesigned to include an integrated power supply for the dish, as well as a new look. The front of the new router included a cool graphic and SpaceX logo, covered with glass.
If you pay attention to the graphic, you might notice that it’s actually an orbital transfer ellipse. This is a maneuver that spacecraft can use to transfer from one orbit to another. In this case, the graphic is an orbital transfer ellipse from Earth to Mars.
Starlink is operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. Elon Musk and SpaceX have plans to eventually colonize Mars, so the Earth to Mars orbital transfer is an important part of the company’s mission.
3. Starlink has an action figure
I recently discovered that Starlink is selling a miniature version of their hardware in action figure form! It’s sort of hidden on the SpaceX website instead of the Starlink website, but you can check it out yourself here. For $40, you get a dish, two mounts, and the Starlink router.
If you’re a fan of Starlink like me, this is a fun way of showing off your support. They also offer a sticker pack if stickers are more of your thing. People don’t normally get excited about their internet service provider, but I think it’s fun that SpaceX offers fans these cool accessories!
4. Starlink warranty doesn’t cover dinosaurs
Another Starlink easter egg that you might not know about is found in the warranty book that customers receive with their dish. Under the section on lightning protection, Starlink explains that the warranty does not cover damage due to dinosaurs.
5. Secret message when connecting via SSH
SSH is a network communication protocol often used by IT professionals. In some cases, computer and electronics enthusiasts also use it to talk to their devices. SSH is usually performed in a command prompt application, with a basic text interface. Here is what you find when you attempt to SSH into your Starlink router:
As you can see, you are greeted with a SpaceX logo, along with a parody of the Bee Movie script meme.
6. App developer mode easter eggs
If you go into the developer/demo mode of the Starlink app (tap the bottom Starlink logo repeatedly), you can play around with elements of the user interface. When you select Custom in the developer menu, scroll down to GetClients section. A list of several test clients is configured. Several of them are references to movies and other pop culture:
The screenshot above shows one reference to “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. The name of the test Starlink device is “Infinite Improbability Drive”, which is “a wonderful new method of crossing interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second”.
7. Easter egg on the power supply bracket
Sometimes easter eggs can be found on physical products. The Starlink High Performance hardware kit includes a bracket for the power supply. If you flip the bracket over, you notice the “cats on a Starlink dish” reference is molded into the bracket. It’s the same design found on the stickers that SpaceX sells.
8. The original dish was officially named “Dishy McFlatface”
The Starlink team gave the name “Dishy McFlatface” to the original round version of the dish, as you can see from the installation instructions sent to customers. The name is a parody of “Boaty McBoatface”. Online polls to name things in this fashion have become an internet meme.
To this day, Starlink and their customers still refer to the newer versions of the dish as “Dishy”. Perhaps a reference to the easter egg from the app, or maybe just a shorted version of Dishy McFlatface. Either way, now you know the full story behind the nicknames.
9. “Better Than Nothing Beta”
Before opening up orders to the public, Starlink allowed select customers to participate in the beta testing phase of the service. Since many rural customers around the globe were desperate for high speed internet access, thousands signed up.
Starlink officially named it the “Better Than Nothing Beta”. Customers were warned that performance would be inconsistent at times, and that frequent service interruptions could occur. Living up to its name, customers were paying for an internet service that was better than what they already had, which was usually nothing.
The beta officially ended in late 2021, but references to the original beta program remain. Starlink chose to name one of their plans “Best Effort”. The Best Effort plan is offered to select customers on the waitlist for Standard/Residential. Like the beta, Starlink tells Best Effort users that their service will live up to the name.
10. Starlink mentions Mars in their terms of service
I have another easter egg for the last item on the 10 things you didn’t know about Starlink. Most people don’t read legal documents like terms of service. But if you read the Starlink terms of service, you will find this:
In section 11 of the document, Starlink explains that parties must recognize Mars as “a free planet” and that, “no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities”. This section of the terms of service also mentions providing Starlink services on Earth’s moon, on Mars, and in transit to Mars.
Like the orbital transfer ellipse, this is a fun reference to Starlink’s parent company SpaceX, and their mission of colonizing Mars.
I hope you had as much fun reading these 10 things as I had researching and writing them. Even if you weren’t around to find the “Dishy” easter egg yourself, it’s fun to look back at Starlink’s history.
So how many of these did you know already? Are you aware of an easter egg or interesting fact that you think should be included on the next list? Let me know in the comments below!