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Coded Geek Message Seen on Satya Nadella’s Bookshelf

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It has been nearly 20 years since a visibly sweaty Steve Ballmer took the stage at a Microsoft conference to scream his support for “developers, developers, developers!” Microsoft still knows the value of a vibrant developer community, but it’s a little less direct in its praise. Current CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the company’s first-ever online-only Build conference, and there was a neat little Easter egg for developers in the background. 

The annual Build conference is aimed at developers using Microsoft technologies like Windows and Azure. It’s the perfect time for the company to show how much it cares about its development community, but the days of executives running across the stage and chanting as they pump their fists are over. It only worked in 2000 because that whole display was very on-brand for Ballmer — Satya Nadella is a more reserved guy who shows his admiration with cleverly coded signs. 

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Nadella gave a speech on the Build 2020 video stream, standing in front of a shelf of knickknacks. Amongst the statues, photos, and whatnot was a small sign reading “RGV2cw.” It seemed like nonsense, but why would someone make the sign unless it had some meaning. It didn’t take long for Microsoft’s army of developers to figure it out. The sign reads “devs” in base 64. 

Base 64 can carry data in binary formats on platforms that only support text content. It’s particularly common on the web where it can encode image files and other binary data in text containers like HTML and CSS. And of course, you can encode any bit of text you want in base 64. 

It’s not an effective way to relay a message, but it’s one that’s sure to catch the attention of developers. We’d still prefer a perspiring executive running across the stage, yelling at the top of his lungs, but we can understand why Nadella might not want to do that.

Do you think Microsoft has regained its geek cred? Let us know in the comments.

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