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Google’s April Fools prank: an 8-bit Google Maps "upgrade" (VIDEO)

Google gave the internet an early April Fools Day prank today, releasing an “upgrade” for Google Maps that takes users to an 8-bit version of maps of the world.

Shortly after the “upgraded” version went live, Reddit users posted world landmarks and historic sites that could be viewed on the maps, reported Mashable. The Parthenon, Area 51 and Mount Everest (with a Yeti or hiker on top, of course) were some of the most popular.

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But if you’re planning on giving the new and improved maps a try, watch out. Google warns (jokingly): “Your system may not meet the requirements for 8-bit computations.”

And in true Google tradition, the pixelated 8-bit maps aren’t just for show, according to PC Mag. You can still use Google Maps to perform its normal functions while in the “upgraded” version. Even driving directions are still available.

But it’s Google itself that sheds real light on the reason for the 8-bit Google Maps. Software engineer Tatsuo Nomura wrote about the decision to create the “upgrade” on Google’s Lat Long blog:

“In our pursuit of new digital frontiers, we realized that we may have left behind a large number of users who couldn’t access Google Maps on their classic hardware. Surprisingly, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was unsupported, despite its tremendous popularity with over 60 million units sold worldwide.

Our engineering team in Japan understood the importance of maps on retro game systems. With the power of Google’s immense data centers, and support from Nintendo and Square Enix, we were able to overcome the technical and design hurdles of developing 8-bit maps.”

And, of course, there’s a video introduction for those who want an overview of the new 8-bit system:

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