Created By: Leaufai on July 29, 2013 Last Edited By: Leaufai on July 30, 2013
Troped

The Workhorse

A type of vehicle, weapon or other type of equipment that, while old, is so reliable that it's kept in service for decades. Very prevalent in scifi.

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A Workhorse is a type of vehicle, weapon or other type of equipment, that is so reliable or cost-effective that it's kept in service for decades, outlasting other more flashy and advanced types. While the Workhorse might receive some modifications and upgrades during its lifetime, it is never as advanced as its newer cousins.

Examples

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40K Universe is filled with long-service vehicles and tech. Some maintenance is required, but most gear used by the Imperium of Man dates back decades if not thousands of years. These can range anywhere from regular bolter firearms to power fists, imperial star ships and Dreadnought chassis, which in turn house some of the oldest living members of the Space Marine chapters.

Film

  • Star Wars
    • The Imperial-class Star Destroyer was introduced two decades before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and served for decades after. A more advanced variant, the Imperial II-class, even saw service in the Second Galactic Civil War, forty years after its introduction during the First Galactic Civil War.

Television

  • Star Trek:
    • The Miranda-class frigate is another one, entering service at least as early as Khan Noonien Singh's reappearance and serving at least as late as the Dominion War.
    • The Excelsior-class starship was introduced during the 2280s. Its design was so versatile that it was still in service during the 2370s, nearly a century later. Many Excelsior-class ships filled the Federation ranks during the Dominion War.
    • The Klingon Bird of Prey was introduced during the same decade as the Excelsior-class and it too served during the Dominion War of the 2370s.
    • The K't'inga-class Klingon Battlecruiser had roughly the same operational length as the Bird of Prey, even being used alongside newer ships in the Dominion War, over 100 years since they entered service.

Real-life

  • The Soyuz rocket and capsule design were first introduced in 1966 and both are still in active service. The Soyuz rocket design has flown more than 1700 times, making it the most used space launcher in history. The Soyuz rocket itself is a direct descendant of the rocket that launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite.
  • The AK-47, the most popular assault rifle of all time, has been around since 1949 and is still in use with several dozen countries. Around 75 million AK-47s have been built.
  • As the name implies, the Colt M1911 was introduced in 1911. While it's been phased out as the US Military's standard issue pistol, it's still in use with the FBI, the US Marine Corps and about two dozen other militaries.
  • The B-52 Stratofortress was introduced as one of the first bombers made by the United State following World War II, entering service in 1952. Not only is it in service today, it's expected to stay in service (with upgrades) into the 2040s.
  • The M2 Browning .50 cal machine gun has been designed in the 1920s and is still being used as the M2 HBAR (Heavy Barrel) in the U.S. Armed Forces, almost 100 (!) years after it was first introduced, and there are still no plans for a replacement.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • July 29, 2013
    fulltimeD
    The K't'inga-class Klingon Battlecruiser had roughly the same operational length as the Bird of Prey, even being used alongside newer ships in the Dominion War, over 100 years since they entered service.
  • July 29, 2013
    TiggersAreGreat
    Revolution: The setting features the use of horses, carts, and muskets. Justified Trope, because a worldwide blackout rendered everything electrical useless, and 15 years have passed since that happened, in which time everyone turned to non-electrical means instead.
  • July 29, 2013
    StarSword
    Star Trek:
  • July 29, 2013
    Leaufai
    Tabletop Games

    • Warhammer 40k Universe is filled with long-service vehicles and tech. Some maintenance is required, but most gear used by the Imperium of Man dates back decades if not thousands of years. These can range anywhere from regular bolter firearms to power fists, imperial star ships and Dreadnought chassis, which in turn house some of the oldest living members of the Space Marine chapters.
  • July 29, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Another RL example:

    The M2 Browning .50 cal machine gun has been designed in the 1920s and is still being used as the M2 HBAR (Heavy Barrel) in the U.S. Armed Forces, almost 100 (!) years after it was first introduced, and there are still no plans for a replacement.
  • July 29, 2013
    Larkmarn
    These tend to be described as reliable and/or versatile, their ability to fill in multiple roles being a justification for their longevity.

    • Firefly class ships in Firefly are described as this, being an old enough model that Shepherd Book rode on them when he was a kid. While Serenity gets plenty of What A Piece Of Junk moments, she also gets a few "Fireflies can last forever with the right care" moments.

    • The B-52 Stratofortress was introduced as one of the first bombers made by the United State following World War II, entering service in 1952. Not only is it in service today, it's expected to stay in service (with upgrades) into the 2040s.
  • July 29, 2013
    DAN004
    Compare Good Old Robot. Subtrope of Older Is Better.
  • July 29, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Supernatural: Dean's 1967 Impala - 45 years old and going strong. When Dean is trapped in the past he runs into his father and encourages him to buy it instead of a VW bus. "This is the car of a lifetime. Trust me, thing's still gonna be badass when it's 40."
  • July 29, 2013
    AgProv
    Real Life:

    The Renault FT-17 tank was first introduced in 1917 and in its time was a world beater: light, fast (by WW 1 standards) and one of the first tanks to feature a fully rotating turret. In between the wars it was exported worldwide and pirated/licence-built in many nations: end-users included Japan, Italy, the USSR, the USA and many others. It soldiered on in WW 2, used by Italy, France, Japan and the USSR. Even Nazi Germany used captured models for internal police duties. There are reports of this tank being seen in front-line combat in former French and Belgian colonies in Africa as late as the 1960's. Which gives it a 50-year combat history.

    Similarly, the German Panzer Mk IV, first issued in 1938, can still be seen in the Golan Heights, in the form of dug-in pillboxes on both the Syrian and Israeli sides. The Syrians were given tanks captured from Germany by the Red Army as part of Russian military aid. They were still being used as front-line gun tanks in the 1967 war, where they came up against an old enemy: WW 2-era Sherman tanks supplied to Israel by the Americans, up-gunned and up-armoured to Israeli standards. If some Pnz IV's are still partly operational today, albeit as immobile static pillboxes, this gives this tank a combat life of 75 years..... and the Egyptian Army was still using modified Soviet T-34's and SU assault guns as late as the early 1980's.

    Also, the Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle, introduced to the British Army just before WW 1, is still in limited use today as a specialist sniper weapon, although it is being phased out in favour of purpose-built modern sniper rifles capable of killing at 2.5 miles (as proven in Afghanistan). Its stablemate, the Bren light machine gun, was still in operational use with some units, mainly reservists, as late as the 1990's.

    Many armies and paramilitary units around the world still use the Lee-Enfield, mainly in former British colonies. Indian police are still issued with this weapon, even though it was demonstrated to be inadequate in a major fire-fight with Islamic terrorists armed with more modern automatic rifles. While still one of the most accurate rifles in the world (witness its continued use as a sniper weapon) a bolt-action rifle cannot compete in terms of weight of firepower against an automatic.
  • July 29, 2013
    henke37
    Name any computer standard, any at all. Many are tens of years old, if not more.
  • July 29, 2013
    jatay3
    The Beowulf Class free-trader(trading ships which follow the captains guess at profitablity rather then a fixed route) in Traveller is the workhorse compared to other free-traders. In areas where stars are spread thinner, the Empress Marvara takes it's place. However, the real workhorses of trade are the giant multithousand ton bulk carriers. These are most likely to appear as NP Cs as a Beowulfs and Marvaras have a small crew which corresponds roughly to the small groups on an RPG session. Moreover the Beowulf class appears in Traveller's Catch Phrase("This is Free Trader Beowulf, etc"). Or more briefly, Beowulfs would be the workhorse of small carriers but not of the shipping industry in general.
  • July 29, 2013
    DAN004
    Not to be confused with Automaton Horses.
  • July 29, 2013
    KeyofEden
    RL example

    • Most modern power plants are effectively steam engines which drive turbines rather than trains. Some power plants, particularly fission reactors, are replacing water with molten salts or metals, but the premise is unchanged.
  • July 29, 2013
    funcrew
    FILM Aliens: In the intro, one of the space marines shows his buddy an ancient 12-gauge pump shotgun. He says, "My grandpa gave this to me... for close encounters." Later, he uses the shotgun to blow an alien's head off that is blocking closure of the doors of their vehicle.
  • July 30, 2013
    Melkior
    Once the sponsor gets off his butt and launches it, this could be a subtrope to Absurdly Dedicated Worker. Also Automaton Horses is a specific subtrope of this trope.
  • July 30, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ^ I... don't think this would be related to either of those.
  • July 30, 2013
    Chabal2
    Possibly in a nod to this trope, the Warhammer 40 K weapons known as "heavy stubbers" are produced by the billion, see service across the galaxy with no attempt at replacement or upgrading, and are for all intents and purposes M2 Brownings. Unchanged after 40 millenia of constant use in an age where laser weapons, full-auto handheld rocket launchers and reliable plasma weapons are the norm.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ld6z1zzgvjukwkf1mw4twrs8&trope=TheWorkhorse