Humans are often praised for their high intelligence compared to any other animals. However, this is only the second best superpower humans possess. Even more important and providing humans with an advantage over almost any other animals of the plain was the ability... to walk! On two legs! And keep walking for hours on end! Many animals are a lot faster than humans but also tire much faster. Humans can travel over very long distances with relatively short amounts of rest and their ability to carry water with them extended this even more. To capture a horse alive, you just had to follow them until they were too exhausted to take a single more step. Of course, intelligence is no small help too: Even the small segment of animals with more efficient energy expenditure (mostly birds) are far outclassed as soon as a human gets on a bicycle. Which is unbelievably energy-efficient, using more than 85% of the energy applied to the pedals. The amount of energy needed to go 10-15 MPH (15-25 KMH), is the same sort of energy needed to walk.
One of the few other animals with a similar ability to travel over long distances is the trusty dog. The beginning of a wonderful partnership.
Kangaroos can travel at high speed over long distances by hopping, which recovers most of the energy used in each leap by use of natural spring-like structures in the animal's legs. This does cost them maneuverability, however.
Really, many things on the animal kingdom are this. For example, for many birds like swans and doves, just beating their wings is enough of a defense weapon, the former being able to break human bones with well place strokes.
We should reemphasize also that the walking and intelligence are not unrelated; humans' permanent ("obligate" in biolo-speak) bipedalism, besides probably helping with the endurance aspect, also freed up the forelimbs, allowing us to start carrying things. Carrying things eventually led to making things to carry—tools. Tool use and intelligence became a mutually-reinforcing cycle: "We use crude tools to fashion better tools, and then our better tools to fashion more precise tools, and so on;" with each step the things the tools allow us to do makes intelligence an ever-more-important factor in fitness; and with each step the intelligence allowed us to improve on the tools we had.
Also more generally, bipedalism has always been a great evolutionary move for land animals that made it; humans simply benefited the most because they had hands with broad, flat nails (from our descent from tree-dwelling primates that therefore used their hands to grasp branches) rather than claws. However, the kangaroos and the dinosaurs (all of whom were descended from bipeds; the four-legged herbivores like the sauropods and ceratopsians returned to quadrupedal stances after they got too fat) are/were (well, still are: birds are everywhere, and they are dinosaurs) giant successes. Walking on two legs gives an animal improved manipulation ability even if they don't have human-style opposable thumbs; bipedalism allows for improved field of vision, as it raises the head; it allows for better defense/combat; and it has other advantages as well.
In the case of the dinosaur lineage that led to birds, bipedalism allowed their forelimbs to gradually evolve into functional airfoils, and they did so by assisting in climbing steep slopes rather than for gliding, according to one fairly well supported theory.
Another uniquely human trait is our ability to throw things with a reasonable balance of distance, accuracy, and power. It often gets overlooked because it's so basic an ability to us that we amuse ourselves by skipping rocks, shooting paper balls at garbage cans, or tossing balls at milk bottles in order to win large stuffed animals. And yet that simple ability is something that absolutely no other animal on the entire planet, including our closest relatives, can do, or ever did before our own ancestors. Just one of the many unique benefits of opposable thumbs and arms designed to throw things.
A 10 year old child can throw a baseball at about 40-50 mph. An athletic adult can throw a baseball somewhere in between 70mph to over 100mph. An adult chimpanzee can only throw something at around 20mph. Considering that kinetic energy increases with the square of velocity, a 10 year old child puts 4-7 times as much energy into a throw as a chimpanzee and and adult puts 11-30 times as much energy into one.
Shields. Rocks, pieces of wood, animal hide, a convenient wall, and metal shields are damn useful. Even in the modern day shields still find use in riot work and even in tactical entry (although they can't be expected to stop much more than pistol rounds). It functions well with armor and strap shields can be used with any one handed weapon. If you need a smaller one to have an open hand, you can use a buckler. Someone trained with a shield can easily defeat someone without one. Or with one, really. Oh, and countless examples have proven that handheld shields can make good weapons too.
The "Wash" method of shuffling cards. It's not pretty, it's slower than other techniques, looks decidedly amatuerish and is the natural shuffling technique of people who can't otherwise shuffle cards (including small children), but when it comes right down to it, spreading the cards around on the table with the palms of your hands is simply the best way to achieve truly random results, so-much-so that professional dealers will typically "Wash" a brand-new deck of cards (which will, of course, start-off ordered by suit and by number) in order to properly randomize them before flashier and faster but less random shuffling techniques such as the Riffle take over.
Healthy food. While eating a variety of foods and spices will probably be the best way to get all your nutrients, plain food can keep you reasonably healthy (providing you don't leave out any important food group.)
Regular, comfortable clothes. Spend a few months rehearsing/acting in a corset, hoop-skirt and high heels if you don't believe me.
Anyone who works in a professional environment would agree. One of the greatest joys in an adult's daily life is getting home after a long day at work, stripping off the rigid work clothes one has to wear in order to convey the requisite "professional" appearance (and the accompanying work SHOES), and getting into nice, comfortable, cottony sweats, pajamas, or similar, and soft socks and/or house slippers.
The humble spear. Basically the next step of weapons development after inventing the knife (or sharpened rock), and has been in use for thousands of years by almost every single culture that has ever existed. It has equipped entire armies, and even now exists in the form of a bayonet attachment for guns.
The humble short sword and shield of the Roman legions. Compared to the massive swords and axes of their opponents, these seemed sadly undersized but, combined with Roman tactics, it easily carried the day in thousands of engagements. There's a reason it's known as "the sword that conquered the world".
The roman shovel, even more boring, but even more practical as the Tool that conquered the world. The Roman legions were trained even more rigorously with their shovels than with their swords. Why? With their shovels, they could construct earthworks around their camps, making them much harder to assault while at rest. They could dig latrines for sanitation. They could build roads so that the legions that would follow them could arrive faster. They could dig underneath walls during sieges, then collapse the tunnels, causing the walls to weaken and fall. You can also improvise a shovel as a polearmor a club. The average roman soldier would use, over a lifetime, his shovel nearly a thousand times more than his sword. After all, you could only use a sword to fight, but you can use a shovel for ANYTHING.
To this very day, many armies train their soldiers in the use of shovels (or Entrenching Tools, shortened to E-tools) as weapons. Specific examples include the Green Berets, who are trained in using their E-Tools as hacking and stabbing weapons, and the Spetsnaz who are trained in how to throw them like hatchets. The Spetsnaz also quickly learn how to use them to cook; apparently, the Spetnaz entrenching tool makes for a good frying pan.
Discipline: sure, being a huge fellow with a large sword that can shout loud is impressive. Sure, being the maverick hero who doesn't answer to anyone and save the day by going against everyone's expectations looks cool. But in the end, these expectations exist because following orders in a disciplined fashion is just damned efficient.
How about the bow and arrow? The first truly effective projectile weapon (after the primitive sling). Used and improved upon for thousands of years and only finally outclassed by gunpowder weapons.
In fact, the English longbow was arguably the most effective weapon on the battlefield and definitely more effective than guns/cannons for years after their appearance. It simply required LOTS more training (about a lifetime's worth) than a gun or even crossbow.
The training is the reason that gunpowder weapons replaced bows and crossbows on the battlefield. You could train a recruit to use the early smooth-bore black powder guns acceptably in a few weeks, but it would take at least 10 years to get a longbowman up to standard. Crossbows were more difficult to learn than early guns, but much easier than longbows.
During the feudal era of Japan, arrows took the lives of far more soldiers than any other type of weapon, roughly 70% of the casualties of any major battle, even after the introduction of firearms into the Japanese arsenal. Why? Japan never used metal armor during this time period, the most advanced armors were instead made of lacquered wood, meaning that against a steel-headed arrow coming down from above, they had roughly the same deflective power as tissue paper. Yeah, katanas are cool and all, but they're not much use against a weapon that can kill you before you come within 50 ft of your attacker.
While most Japanese armor was typically made of interwoven bandings of lacquered leather and iron, this isn't much of an improvement: iron is a fairly brittle metal, and against steel arrows, is not very useful protection, and neither is leather. Ever notice that while Japanese swords and swordsmiths get a lot of ink, getting mentioned in all manner of myth and legend, there is hardly any mention of legendary armors, or armorers? While japanese armor could block a katana (while very sharp, the katana is also rather brittle and quickly dulls in combat, given that, in order to achieve such a sharp blade, it has to be very thin), and even most blunt weapons, a spear thrust or an arrow would go through it almost effortlessly.
Um, there was a reason that leather armor was seen as the viable, more flexible alternative to steel and chain during the High Middle Ages. The reason why you never hear about "legendary armorers" in Japan(and what kind of legendary armorers were there in Europe who weren't also swordsmiths, anyway?) is because leatherwork was exclusively the profession of the eta class(the Japanese equivalent to the Pariahs of the Indian caste system) due to it being viewed as an "unclean" profession. As for the supposed lack of steel, later designs of Japanese o-yoroi armor, specifically those made around the end of the Sengoku Era, incorporated steel extensively into their banding systems. They weren't as flexible as the iron-and-leather armors of years past, but they were still significantly lighter and more flexible than many European designs.
There are significant inaccuracies in each of the above statements about Japanese armor and archery, although some specific statements are correct. This article will help dispel many misconceptions. http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_jpn_armour.html First, metal armor was used in Japan from a very early period. The Tanko style armors of the Kofun period ca. 5th century were mainly composed of iron. The lamellar o-yori armor of the Heian period or ca. 12th century is an iron lamellar design that was specifically designed to protect against arrows and did the job very well. The overlapping lacquered iron scales held together by silk laces created an effect of extra thickness, which made direct penetration by a spear or arrowhead reasonably unlikely. Also, sword-smithing and armor making were separate careers done by different people. The blade, handle, and sword fittings were each made by workshops that specialized in those things, and the parts of armor were made by various specialists. In Europe, armorers were also usually a class of professionals distinct from sword smiths. The degree of specialization in manufacture in both Europe and Japan was very high. Lastly, there were indeed famous armorers in both Japan and Europe, although in Japan swordsmiths were generally the most famous compared to blade polishers or armor makers.
The primary reason for the bow being so incredibly effective in fuedal Japan was primarily due to one simple fact: Shields were practically unheard of. The idea of hiding behind a shield to deflect attacks was, by Bushido code, considered unmanly, and cowardly. This was partly due to the samurai code being about personal glory, or a memorable death, rather than being about ensuring your own survival and that of your comrades. Meanwhile, in Sparta, a shield was vital for their heavy infantry, since without it, they would get chewed up by enemy archers.
While the samurai's adherence to bushido is debatable (like the chivalry of Western knights, it was more of an ideal than something to get killed for), shields weren't practical in Japan. To protect a wooden shield from rotting or splitting under missile fire, Western soldiers used either leather or metal to keep the body intact. Metal was hard to come by in feudal Japan, and leather was considered ritually impure.
By the way—that "primitive" sling? A weapon of terror. Ammo is basically infinite, you can use either specially-made shots or anything small and hard. The Romans dreaded sling-masters because they could kill armored soldiers through concussions. Reloading is extremely quick and trained sling wielders only needed one swing to get to full power. The slingshot is actually a step backwards in lethality. The Spanish armies included slingers until the 16th century - they could easily kill an unarmoured Moslem horseman at distance. Slings were considered so deadly there was a time where their use could be considered a war crime.
The deceased Norm Borlaug was quite possibly the exemplar of this trope in Real Life. He saved about 10 times more people from death than died in World War II. He spent decades interbreeding plants in a process even he admits damn near drove him insane with tedium. However, the result was the Green Revolution, which increased crop yields to such an extent as to save more than a billion people from dying of starvation.
The Hawker Hurricane. Tube-steel body and wooden wings, with the whole thing covered in canvas. A bit slow and unmanouverable for the bad, but it'd take hundreds of rounds easily, and often survived because the canvas wasn't tough enough to trigger explosive rounds. Also, the Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber, underpowered, underarmed, and wouldn't look out of place in WW 1, yet 20 of these claimed 1 battleship sunk and 2 damaged at Taranto.
The mighty Bismarck. Sank HMS Hood in only a few minutes with nearly every hand aboard. One of the most high tech, powerful naval vessels around. Brought down by a torpedo launched from a Swordfish.
Swordfishes were later fitted with radar and used for anti-submarine warfare. Once that happened, the North Atlantic wasn't safe for any German ship or submarine.
Although the Swordfish's range was rather limited, leaving a big gap in the middle of the North Atlantic.
It was realised the Swordfish's obsolescence gave it two strengths in aerial combat: it was so slow that a modern combat fighter could only keep it within firing range for a fraction of a second, before the relative speeds of the two aircraft forced the faster one to overshoot. The far greater wing area of a biplane makes it more manoevrable; the Swordfish could perform prodigies of aerobatics that made the job of a combat monoplane fighter that much more difficult. In one air combat in the Aegean during the Balkan campaign, a single Swordfish caused three Italian fighters to overshoot at high speed and crash into the sea. Three kills without firing a shot.
The Soviet Polikarpov Po-2 (U-2). Born as a wooden training biplane it was slow and as basic as a plane could be made, but its low cost, reliability and ease of maintenance made it a valuable aircraft for the Soviet army in WW 2. It couldn't tackle direct combat with other aircraft, of course, but it was useful in a variety of support roles: light freighter, recon spotter, liaison transport, even as a night bomber. Its ability to take off and land in fields and unpaved roads increased its versatility and helped make it the second most-produced aircraft in history, a record it maintains to this day.
The Grumman F4F Wildcat and Brewster F2A Buffalo also deserve honerable mention. The Wildcat couldn't beat a Mitsubishi A6M Zero in a dogfight, but with proper tactics was tough enough to fight them to a standstill. Unlike the Allied fighters that outclassed their Japanese counterparts, an F4F could operate from an escort carrier. The F2A was less capable the the F4F and, the 44 that the Finns got their hands on were the backbone of the Finnish Air Force until they got Messerschmitt Bf109s. The Finnish Buffalos shot down roughly twice as many Soviet aircraft than the Finns lost during the entire war.
The old Chinook transport helicopters are easily discernable by their unique shape with two large rotors and no tail, but are otherwise not much to look at. However they have a very large storage compartment and can even lift field artillery right to their employment location, while also being able to operate at altitudes where most other helicopters can no longer generate enough lift to keep rising. In addition, when escorted by Apache combat helicopters, the Chinooks have to slow down as the Apaches can't keep up. It's actually surprising that it's an American design and not made by Russia.
Speaking of Russian helicopter designs, there is the Mi-8. It's an ugly thing to be sure, with a rail-thin tail and a huge bulbous body. But it is also nearly endlessly customizable, carries twenty fully-armed combat troops and can take a beating. It's been in service with the Russian military for over fifty years, and while the Ka-60 was intended to replace it, it's looking like the "Hip" is going to be around for quite a while longer.
Funniest fact with the T-34 is the poor quality control due to parts being produced at hundreds of factories with varying standards, which exacerbated the fair share of problems the unpolished design had as is. As a result, Soviet tank corps had to deal with steering and braking levers which stuck and could only be released with a hammer, rubberless treads, poor transmission design derived from an abandoned American project (Which still, however, proved to be more reliable than elaborate layered disk treads of Panthers and Tigers). Most T-34s lacked radios. Compared to any Pz-IV or Panther it was a mule against a thoroughbred. But it could still pack the same firepower or even greater, hold its ground with thick sloped armor and most important, it could be churned out by tens of thousands. You can forget any faults when there are a few hundreds of themcharging at you, guns blazing.
It also came as standard with a 76 mm main gun (later upgraded to 85mm), an aluminium engine block, and tracks that didn't bog down so badly in rough Russian terrain.
The Germans eventually DID make their own knock-off of the T-34 in the form of the Panther Tank. Unfortunately, the Panther got off to a bad start with the early production units suffering from mechanical breakdown due to the rush to get them out on the eastern front. But as soon as the problems were ironed out, the Panther proved itself on the battlefield, much to the detriment of the Allies and Soviets.
Many modellers and wargamers - and military historians - are obsessed with the glamour of the Panther, Tiger and King Tiger. Yet even in 1944 and 1945, the most numerous tanks in the German inventory were the pedestrian and unglamorous workhorses - the Pnz IV (27,000 built) and the StüG III assault gun, (12,000 built), a derivative of the earlier Panzer III. Only 500 King tigers were built.
The British Universal Carrier, a small armored vehicle that was so ubiquitous that it could be used as an IFV, a field tractor, an artillery platform, a reconnaissance vehicle, a flame tank, a tank destroyer, and a minesweeper/layer. It was also incredibly simple to make and operate, easy to repair, and able to carry a squad of British Tommies into action at high speed. In fact, it was so practical that the British built 113,000 of them, which makes it a serious contender for the title of "Most Produced Armored Vehicle in History", depending on just how many T55s have been builtnote Soviet book-keeping was rather worse than the British, so no-one knows, though the highest end estimates are "over 100,000", which might edge out the UC depending on how much "over" 100,000 the true number is. True to the "boring" aspect, it is almost unknown.
The Sherman also fit this category. Against a Tiger or a Panther one on one a Sherman would get its turret handed to it. But the allies used its superior speed and production to overwhelm the enemy in large groups. While they shot at one or two Shermans the rest got behind and started blasting away at the weaker backside.
That was until the British got hold of a few and shoehorned an AT gun into them. The 'Firefly' Shermans were less practical vs. everything but tanks afterwards, but they could take on Tigers and Panthers at almost even odds, front on.
In any case tanks aren't mainly for fighting other tanks as if they were battleships. Tanks are for digging a hole through the enemy lines, and getting through and destroying supply lines. Do the math. A good tank is only worth two or three poor tanks at best. It is worth any amount of trucks. That is what people forget when they compare tigers to shermans; they are thinking of heroic duels. But having more and faster tanks means they can dominate the roads while the Tigers simply run out of gas. In other words the real use of tanks is if not boring but practical, at least possibly more boring and definitely more practical then having great battles between tigers and shermans as if shermans were meant to fight tigers in the first place.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that the "equipment ... most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the 2 1/2 ton truck, and the C-47 airplane. Curiously enough, none of these is designed for combat." The point being that the preparations prior to battle are just as important as actually fighting them. Even though the Germans' best weapons were technologically far better than that of the Americans, Brits, and arguably the Soviets, they 1) couldn't get enough of them to the front, and 2) couldn't keep them fueled and maintained for long enough for them to be useful.
There is a school of thought that says the C-47 cargo plane was the single most important vehicle that helped win the war for the allies. The civilian version of the C-47, the Douglas DC-3, was very successful in its own right. Several hundred of them are still flying today in active commercial service around the world, simply because nobody ever really designed an aircraft better suited to rugged conditions. The common saying among pilots is that "the only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3."
While the U.S. provided the Soviet Union with a number of tanks, bazookas and planes as part of the lend-lease act, many Soviet commanders were most grateful for the thousands of Jeeps that came with the deal since the Soviet union's main method of having its infantry keep up with the tanks was riding them (and you can only fit so many guys on top of a T-34 before the first AT shell blows them to pieces). Tens of thousands local copies of the Jeep would be made during and after the war and were much beloved by their owners. The other most important things the U.S. shipped to Russia - railroad track, telegraph lines, radio sets, and spam (seriously - most of Russia's food-producing regions had been overrun).
It was similar story in Britain, although they opted for an adapted design rather than a copy. The result? The Land Rover.
Also, another vehicle that proved vital to Allied victory were the thousands of trucks the US possessed, giving them and their allies a serious logistical advantage over Germany, which still heavily relied on horse drawn carts to carry supplies. To put things in perspective, the Soviets received more trucks from Lend-Lease than all of the rest of Europe had at the time. At the start of the Battle of the Bulge, Eisenhower had enough trucks at his disposal to carry two entire divisions of infantry from France to Belgium in a single day, allowing them to quickly reinforce the front lines and hold off the Germans. No army since or after has managed such a strategic redeployment so quickly.
The P51 Mustang. Though a wonderful plane design in many other ways, it's most important feature was this trope all the way - it's incredible range (achieved through a combination of a large internal fuel space, an efficient engine, and drop tanks). No fighter had been able to travel as far as the P51 could before, and bombers could now be escorted all the way to their target and back. Before, German fighters would wait at the point that the fighter escort would have to turn around, and jump the bombers. The P51 was so effective that some air forces still contained them as late as the early 1980's.
The Allies in General. Canada alone built more trucks than Germany, Italy, and Japan COMBINED. WWII is the epitome of battles and a war being won by industry and logistics, rather than tactics and technology.
Also, Canada's contribution to WWII in general. While they fought with distinction in many places, and were responsible for one of the five beaches on D-Day (two Brit, two US, one Canuck), their most important contributions to the war were industrial (trucks), training (aircrews), and raw materials and foodstuffs.
Julius Caesar once said an army marches on its stomach. Napoleon similarly said "The outcome of the battle is incidental to the decisive question of supply." He lost his campaign in Egypt, for instance, because the British Navy destroyed the French fleet that was providing Napoleon's army with supplies. The supplies on hand allowed him to operate for a time, but he left before things inevitably went south on him.
It was Napoleon's insistence on stocked supply lines that led to the invention of one of the most Boring but Practical aspects of modern life: canned food. (Connectionsexplains—it takes about 20 minutes to get there, but it's worth it!).
"Amateurs study tactics. Veterans study strategy. Professionals study logistics."
One other not for combat vehicle that proved instrumental was the Higgins Boat, cheap (most of it was made of wood) and effective, in the region of 20,000 were eventually produced.
Late in WWII the US stopped painting their aircraft. Why? Several reasons: The Americans were building aircraft faster than they could be shot down; The Axis couldn't keep up with the losses the Allies were inflicting; radar made camoflage useless; and the Americans didn't care if they were intercepted.
Also, paint added a lot of extra weight to an aircraft, so getting rid of it would increase its speed and fuel efficiency.
The D-day stripes painted on aircraft? It's also this trope because it reduced the likelihood of being shot down by friendly ground fire.
In sea warfare mines can be described as this.
All mines can be described like this. They're easy and cheap to make, need no maintenance once deployed, will last for decades, don't depend on either computers or humans aiming them and can terrify whole countries into inaction. Their main problems are that they don't identify friend from foe, and that they're too good - retaining all their lethality after the war is over. Sure enough, getting rid of them is a complex and expensive proposition.
Bruce Lee loved this trope up to the point where he developed his own fighting style based entirely around it called Jeet Kun Do (way of the intercepting fist). However, in practice, everything he did off-screen ended up falling under Awesome yet Practical, anyway.
Lee developed his ideas after observing the stop hit of fencing, which can best be described as follows: when your opponent winds up for something big, stick your sword in him. The rules are a bit more technical.
Regular, ordinary cars. They lack the ruggedness of an SUV or pickup or the power and sleekness of a sports car, but are more efficient with gasoline, are usually the cheapest new cars you can find, and they won't make your insurance rates sky rocket. Newer such cars also come with various safety features that will raise your chances of surviving an accident more than a sports car will, as sports cars sacrifice safety features and other luxuries in order to achieve optimum performance. Unfortunately, some people will hate you for choosing practicality over style...
This is Toyota through and through, not the best in any field, except maybe and probably reliability.
On that note: Older cars amongst regular cars are generally cheaper and still have a good amount of efficiency, even if they have over 100,000 miles on the engine. All it really takes to maintain this car is a decent understanding of mechanics and keeping an eye on your car's fluids.
On that note, even the ordinary pick-up truck qualifies. While some you have your "crucks" and your "Oversized pickups for fashion and compensation", the majority of them are massed produced utility vehicles designed take a decent amount of cargo and one or two people and move them from one place to another. The basic design of the pick-up truck hasn't changed in over half a century. It's safer then many other vehicles in most types of common collisions because Sir Issac Newton is the deadliest SOB on the road. It's so damn utilitarian that if an ordinary pick-up truck is properly maintained and driven normally you can even get more mileage and years of usage out of a good truck then a car and have average to better than average gas mileage.
The Sturmey Archer AW internal gear hub: Originally designed in the 1930s as a mix of parts from their other hubs to provide a low-cost seller, the hub became the standard gear system for bicycles up until the 10 speed fad of 1970s. Unbelievable reliability has kept it in production for over seventy-five years.
Walking. The simplest and most reliable way to close a short distance. Your own two feet can work in any weather, can't be stolen (easily), costs nothing, doesn't need (much) maintenance, can take short cuts cars and bikes can't, never have to worry about running someone over, needs no garage to store, helps you get fit and still work reasonably well if you're drunk.
The basis of Collegiate wrestling. Most common takedowns? High Crotches or Double Legs (Because you can't go wrong with basically spear tackling a guy and trying to throw him off to the side.) First taught and commonly used Escape? The stand-up. Pin? Half nelson. All of these moves are some of the first taught to new wrestlers and seasons.
The jerry can (or jerrican). Its simplicity betrays a sophisticated nature. It was designed to be operable without pump or funnels, and the multiple handles mean it can be easily carried together. And that 'X' mark you see on the side? That's not just for show. It reinforces the sides, and it allows the content to expand without warping the container. It's one of the first German technologies adopted by the British in World War II. Even now, the jerry can design has been used in more civilian goods, like liquid detergent.
The AK-47 rifle is the most widely used rifle in the world, it ain't flashy but it can be left in a puddle of mud for months and still be usable afterwords.
Topped by the even older SKS and Sten, weapons which can and were built in people's sheds.
Somewhat coupled with the M3 "Grease Gun", made by General Motors (yes, that General Motors).
Also the M-1911. It is often times called an American masterpiece of firearm design, and was only replaced by the American Army after Vietnam. With very few to no changes the design is still popular today among police officers and civilians, at least in the country of origin. It's also used in the Marines (See the MEU(SOC) Pistol) and by many American Special Forces groups, who prefer it to the M9 for the .45's excellent stopping power and the gun's world-class reliability. A near-100 year old gun is still the beloved favorite of soldiers generally considered to be at the cutting edge of modern warfare.
This trope applies to a whole lot of guns. There may be incredibly complex and detailed Fabrique Nationale pistols, but really a Colt .45 still does the same job it did 100 years ago. There are bullpup auto shotguns which only have an advantage of using more ammo more quickly, and there are assault rifles that are almost sophisticated enough to look like a HUD from Halo, but as mentioned above, the AK-47 still does the job.
Most assault rifles fall under this class. They aren't as big and powerfull as sniper rifles, as small as pistols, as as dakka...y as machine guns, or as cheap as submachine guns. But they can mow down a group of hostiles, and you can stow most in a backpack. Although since the AK 47 and M16, they tend to fall more into Simple Yet Awesome (or even Awesome yet Practical), being lightweight, powerful, and reliable, such as the H&K G36 or the FN SCAR-L
Glock pistols fit this. A very plain looking black pistol, sometimes ridiculed by old timers as a "plastic gun," it's nevertheless one of the most reliable firearms in the world, easily on par with the AK-47's famed reliability and tolerance of abuse and neglect. And to top it off, it has very simple mechanics, lacks a traditional safety, is very simple to clean, and costs about half what most 1911 clones or high end revolvers cost. There's a reason why nearly every police department in the US has adopted this as standard issue.
Revolvers in general. They don't carry as much ammo or look as flashy as automatics, but they're compact, deadly, and almost impossible to jam.
Sadly, they are also often prized by criminal elements because they leave no cartridge behind for investigators. Crooks who just held up a convenience store will not spend several minutes policing up their brass.
While we're still on the subject of firearms, how about the lowly .22 Long Rifle cartridge? It's rimfire, meaning it's low-pressure and awfully weak compared to other ammunition, and thus is not recommended for striking down anything larger than a rabbit. Then again, the proven design is older than any human alive, has less shock than a pellet rifle, and is so ubiquitous that you can buy hundreds of rounds for a few bucks. It's what competitors use in the Olympics. And yes, it can kill someone.
Also, being a "weak" rimfire, it escapes most restrictions on what types of guns you can buy in urban America, meaning you can legally possess an "assault weapon" even in gun-phobic states like California, as long as it is chambered for a .22LR
During World War II the Lee-Enfield was certainly this. While all the nations used bolt-action rifles to varying extent, Britian was the only one to not pursue a semi-automatic one at all. The rifle was accurate, had ten shots compared to the KAR 98's five and most importantly was extremely reliable. In the hands of a skilled marksman, it veers into Awesome yet Practical territory as a well-trained rifleman can fire up to twenty aimed shots in about a minute. In fact, the current world record for aimed bolt-action fire was set in 1914 by a British Army instructor, who managed to squeeze out thirty eight aimed shots in under a minute, all of which hit a 24-inch target at 300 yards.
The British, in the run-up to World War One, placed enormous value on infantry rate-of-fire, because this A: was what had smashed Napoleon, and B: was the best tactic against armies of tribesmen. Similarly, they used small-caliber, horse-drawn, fast firing small artillery pieces. Other armies did not. This is why, before Britain raised its conscript army, the British Expeditionary Force (of regulars) was able to hold off German formations ten or twenty times its numbers. A famous instance was when a German conscript attack, headed by a company of elite Prussian regulars, attacked a British battalion a tenth of its numbers in a forest. A shell-shocked Prussian prisoner and the British commander had this exchange.
Prussian (*understandably still nervous at being kept essentially on the front line): But sir, where is your second line?
Briton: We seem to have misplaced it - Sergeant! Where is the second line?
Sergeant: Don't 'ave 'un sir. Don't need 'un sir.
How about ridiculously commonplace 12 gauge pump action shotgun? Reliable, Accurate, relatively lightweight, Conserves ammo while still being rather fast-shooting. Most models are the build-a-bear workshop of guns- you can pick any type of stock, any capacity(through extenders), any barrel length, and any sighting arrangement. Not to mention the fact that the ammo comes in dozens and dozens of variations, from Jack of All Stats buckshot to more specialized ammunition like slugs, flechettes, and even crazy things like Dragon's Breath. All of this is for less than a quality handgun.
The 12 gauge pump action shotgun is the most powerful shotgun available currently, fires fairly fast by shotgun standards being pump action, and requires very little aim. Sounds cool/interesting/awesome to me. A smaller cartridge shotgun would be almost as effective at fending off humans, fire faster, be cheaper, have cheaper ammo, be easier to fire and safer to fire.
No real point in stepping down to a 20 gauge, the next down of the three common sizes (12, 20, and .410 bore), unless you are a smaller shooter who physically has difficulty controlling a 12 gauge. The guns are almost always the same price and 12 gauge shells are the same or cheaper price, with more variety, and are more widely available. Rate of fire is as close as makes no difference. The smallest, a .410 bore, is too underpowered (though just like a .22 rimfire, this can be desceptive), and nowhere near as common as its two bigger brothers. Unless weight is a huge issue (e.g. a survival rifle), or you are just learning, the .410 is a no go as well. Even if you have difficulty with the recoil of a 12 gauge, you can simply use "lighter" loads.
Shotguns in general were particularly devastating in World War I, where trench warfare made them very useful once you got past the enemy's wall of dakka and needed to clear his trench. The Americans knew this well, and used the tactic so effectively that the Germans sought to have shotguns banned as a violation of the laws of war. (The complaining didn't last long, since the Germans were already collapsing by the time US forces arrived in Europe).
Heck, you can put guns in general under this trope. Sure, a lot of them have complex features with a lot of parts, but they all function around the same simple principle: using a controlled explosion for accelerating a chunk of metal to a speed where it can hurt someone or something.
The reason why guns replaced bows and other weapons that are flashier considered more "honorable" is the simple fact it takes years to train a person how to become an expert swordsman or archer. It takes weeks to train a man to point and shoot a musket.
The M2HB Machine Gun: developed toward the end of World War One, it has remained one of the most reliable machine guns (still in use today) for its sheer simplicity to maintain in the field due to such basic design and few parts.
A strange fact about the StG 44, the first purpose-built assault rifle to go into general production and use, was that Hitler thought it was ugly and ordered it not to be produced for the army. They defied his order and went ahead with production anyway because they knew they had something good even though it didn't look nice.
In WWI, particularly the early part of the war, the British 18-pounder field gun with shrapnel shells. This was the infantry killer. British artillery officers were trained to accurately judge range by eye, and compute the shots quickly in their heads. The shells were 23 pounds total (the 18-pounder name comes from the weight of the projectile portion of the shell), meaning any man in good condition could easily and quickly handle them. The gun was small and light for its caliber, making it quick and easy to maneuver for its relatively small crew, and it fired quickly. The combined effect was a small battery of these could lay a deadly blanket of shrapnel on top of an advancing infantry attack, then pack up and be gone before the more powerful but slower to act German guns could retaliate.
True castles, as compared to palaces or houses "Inspired By" castle architecture. Being built for defense and protection means that they're usually cold, dark, and not very nice to look at. But hey, it withstands a siege really well!
The Medieval city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia, successfully stood the fire of the modern artillery by the Serbian besieging troops for almost six months in the Croatian War of Independence 1992. Not only was the city not conquered then, but it has never been conquered in its whole history.
British Fourteenth Army ran into a similar problem in the reconquest of Burma in 1945. The walled city of Yangon had to be besieged, forcing a throwback to mediaeval siege tactics, to win it back from the Japanese. Its thousand year old walls could only be breached by bringing up some of the heaviest guns possessed by the Royal Artillery - weapons designed to throw a shell nearly twenty miles - and have them firing point-blank at the wall for several days until they forced a breach. Which then had to be stormed by assault infantry, much as Henry V stormed Calais in 1414...
Trenches. Bad guys have guns? Big guns? Artillery? Dig a ditch and use it for cover. Foxholes are an even simpler version, literally just being a big hole you dig up and hide in. You can even put a smaller deeper hole in the middle of it in case the bad guys chuck a grenade at you. Just kick the grenade into the hole and your chances of surviving just went up considerably.
The cargo container has radically transformed shipping over the last 200 years. Instead of moving dozens of boxes or barrels one at a time, you just put them into a single cargo container and move that. Standardize the size of cargo containers and you can have trucks, ships, and traincars specifically designed to carry them, and infrastructure to transfer them from one to another. Simple, boring, and so useful that it is difficult to imagine doing it another way.
Pencils and paper. Incredibly simple, lightweight, and almost 100% reliable in all conditions as long as it's not wet. And a lot cheaper than those i- and e- items.
An anecdote about the space race says that while the Americans were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a high-tech pressurized pen that could write in Zero-G, the Russians simply shrugged their shoulders and said "Meh, we have pencils."
Except wood is a massive fire hazard (cough, Apollo 1, cough), and the graphite dust messes up electronics and moving stuff. Since it is space, it just floats around until it sticks to something. The Russians did eventually start using pens.
Of course, this is simply an anecdote: in reality, the space pen was the private pet project of a pen manufacturer, and received no government funding for R&D (he eventually sold the pens to the government, of course). Both sides used pencils at first, but then the Soviets switched to grease pencils (wax core, wrapped in paper, a bit like a hard crayon) on plastic slates, and the Americans switched to felt-tipped pens (i.e. markers), which do not rely on gravity. Also, both sides eventually adopted the "space pen."
A codex i.e. leafs of paper bound together. These thoroughly tromped scrolls which damaged the paper with curvature, were hard to navigate since they needed to be rolled, and couldn't have sections replaced or repaired. Although it may or may not be about to be replaced by e-readers, for the last few thousand years there has been no more economical and efficient means of containing information.
The comparison to e-readers is particularly appropriate... the book may not be electronic or have an internet connection, but it never runs out of batteries, doesn't have problems with funny formats or DRM, doesn't break when dropped, doesn't cost $200 to replace, and if your friend borrows a book, you can still read your other books. E-readers have a lot of advantages (and, indeed, many e-reader critics seem to gloss over how much space is required for, and how friggin' heavy even a dozen books can be—to say nothing of the fact that with an e-reader, you don't have to deal with the Contemptible Cover), but books definitely fit this trope.
Related: There was a tongue-in-cheek science fiction story (possibly by Isaac Asimov). In a distant future, all books and libraries have long disappeared being replaced by microfilms due to their better storage capacity. One character pointed out the shortcomings of microfilms such as the need for a relatively expensive hightech equipment to read it, equipment that can broke and must be replace at a certain cost, etc; not to mention that you need a constant source of electrical power. Then someone came up with a brilliant idea: what if we take each frame of a certain microfilm, magnified it and print it on a sheet of white paper, lets call it a page; then we put each page on top of each other and bound them together then put some covers on it for protection... et voila! we (re)invented the book.
To quote Carl Sagan: "For the price of a modest meal you can get the history of Rome".
Rice. Not counting flavored, spiced, salted, egg, or with a curry/sauce. Just plain rice. For its size it is incredibly rich in nutrition and energy.
They happen to be an excellent flavor buffer for a lot of saucy foods. That or they just go good with saucy foods (or with sauce in general).
How practical is it, you ask? Literally half of the entire world's population gets two-thirds of their daily calories from rice. It is the #1 most consumed food on Earth and has been for centuries, possibly even millenia (depending on when humans first started shifting from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies).
Noodles. Just like rice, they go well with a whole host of sauces or seasonings. Anyone for spaghetti and meatballs?
Potatoes, as well. They don't look like much, but they did save Europe from continous famine for quite some time.
Potatoes also grow in a lot of places where cereals won't. This allowed massive population expansion in countries like Ireland where a lot of land isn't suitable for cereals but potatoes like it just fine. (Until you hit the problems of monoculture agriculture in a pre-chemical environment...)
Tap water. Doesn't look very fancy and tastes pretty bland. But it's far less expensive than juice (if not outright free at many eating establishments), far healthier than alcohol or soft drinks, and is far better at keeping you hydrated. And is readily available at home whenever you want it.
And if you live somewhere where there is no reliable source of clean water, the old fashioned beer takes that place. Since it gets boiled during production, it's usually much cleaner than any unfiltered water. Calories and carbs in tasty, drinkable, preserved form. Staff of life, potable water, and recreation all in one.
Tea and coffee also serve(d) the same purpose, although they have neither calories nor carbs in quantity unless you add sugar. In fact, if you're drinking good enough coffee, you don't even need condiments to make it taste good.
In the same vein, boiled water. Boiling water clears away most (but not all) of the bad stuff in any local sources by killing it through extreme heat. It can cook food for you while making sure that (provided you drink the resulting broth) very little of the nutrients are lost. And all you need for it is to make a campfire and gather some water.
The vibrate option on cellphones. Sure, it doesn't let you show off your personalized ringtone that everyone is dying to hear, but it's very useful in noisy environments and, in places that demand reduced noise levels such as libraries and inside smaller stores, it'll notify you of a call or new message without pissing off everybody around you.
Not only that, but if you put the cellphone on the right surface, it can be suitably loud enough to get your attention.
And you can stage cell phone races with your friends!
The Zippo cigarette lighter. An exceedingly simple design that succeeds largely because its simplicity means that it will rarely ever fail. As long as you have a handful of flints and maybe a replacement wick, it'll serve you for years. You can feed the Zippo its specially formulated fluid, camp stove fuel, gasoline, moonshine, practically anything, and it'll still burn. A Ronson might become unusable due to the head or threading of the fuel compartment stripping out; on a Zippo, you just pull out the inner body from the main case. There's a reason the brand has been sold, largely unchanged, since 1933. The company turned 80 years old in 2012 and has manufactured over 500 MILLION lighters.
For all the focus most writers and the general public place on bold high-risk operations, the majority of useful intelligence has been and probably will continue to be gathered through open sources. To quote General Anthony Charles Zinni, USMC (Ret.), former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command (CINCENT): "80% of what I needed to know as CINCENT I got from open sources rather than classified reporting. And within the remaining 20%, if I knew what to look for, I found another 16%. At the end of it all, classified intelligence provided me, at best, with 4% of my command knowledge."
This is true also for civilian/technological espionage. While KGB might've used jamesbondian spies to steal highly classified industrial information, the bulk of tech data soviets were recieving from the west was retrieved by an army of simple office workers who read everyday every single scientific and technical magazine, publication or book available on the "capitalist" market.
It even works with negative information - prior to and during WWII, nuclear physicists around the world could tell that many governments were researching atomic bombs because their colleagues had stopped publishing papers (i.e., their research had become classified).
One popular tactic to gauge how high an intelligence agency's alert level is is to take a quick glance at their parking lot and see how many cars are parked there.
Boring old tactile keyboards over cooler, more "advanced" touch screen keyboards. Why? Because you can navigate a tactile keyboard solely by feel while keeping an eye on the display. Touch screens are, well, flat and more time goes into looking at finger placement than would on a tactile keyboard.
In fact, some mechanical keyboards built over 20 years ago still work with modern equipment, and are favored by modern typists because they provide excellent tactile feedback, are impervious to water, and never break. Find one single other 20 year old peripheral that still works without modification or adapters on your new computer.
While we're on it, boring old PCs over flashy tablets, for similar reasons. Marketing for certain tablets can go on and on about how it's the "post-PC" era, but their relative cheapness, mass producability, and tactile input means that they'll likely stick around for a long time.
Don't forget computing power. Even a basic laptop will outperform a tablet, to say nothing of a high-end gaming desktop.
Plus, just try writing a term paper, essay or novel with a tablet sometime.note Granted, the current Constitution of Hungary was first drafted on an iPad, but that's an exceptional circumstance: it was a lot of legislators passing the thing around during and between legislative sessions, so the tablet was probably the best device. Yes, you can buy a keyboard for your tablet, but at that point you just have a laptop that costs more and does less than a regular one.
Until the day comes that someone creates something that can replace the tactile input of a PC, we really won't be in the post-PC era for awhile.
There have also been cases where people have still typed on tactile computers with damaged monitors. If the monitor of your touch screen is damaged, you're fucked.
The Mouse. Compare the speed an efficiency of the mouse versus trackballs, touchpads, Joysticks, Wii Motes, or touchscreens, and the mouse will win 100% of the time outside of specialized video games. The ability to stop on command, move it around freely, and have clear predictability make it the dominant form of pixel selection input for the forseeable future.
A more specific example would be the wired mouse. Yes, wireless mice look a little cooler by default due to being wireless, but wired mice are much less prone to breaking (due to, of course, being wired), and eventually save on AA batteries over time.
Microsoft PowerPoint and its clones allow for fancy presentations involving colorful backgrounds and exciting text effects and slide transitions. However, the best way to get your point across tends to be a simple, plain background with few (if any) text and transitonal effects and tasteful use of images and clipart, rather than something out of a typical MySpace page. Unfortunately, many students up to high school (and in many cases, even in university or even after schooling) don't get the hint...
For hobby-grade r/c boats, constructing the hull out of wood rather than fiberglass or carbon fiber. Wood does not carry the same cachet of a hull made of high-tech composites, and are often sold in kit form, requiring you to build it yourself (Glass hulls are almost always sold ready to accept their hardware.) However, wood is cheap, and, if built correctly, just as strong as fiberglass (though not carbon fiber, although its use is largely limited to large scale boats.)
For gas r/c boats, the humble Homelite and Zenoah engines. Converted Homelites (they are typically used for yard equipment) powered the first gas r/c boats, while Zenoah released the first dedicated marine engine, the G23. Its successor, the G 260 PUM, is the most popular engine in the hobby. Stock, they will reliably power most hulls at a respectable speed. When modified by a skilled engine builder, the G260 can chuck out about 6hp (increased displacement and/or aftermarket top ends can further increase that,) up from a claimed 3.2hp, and can push the fastest hulls up to 100 mph, depending on setup, hull, and conditions. The Zenoah is so ubiquitous, that every other brand of gas r/c engine is designed to fit in the same footprint, and parts commonality is, well, common. The only realistic challenger to the Zenoahs crown are the RCMK engines, which are sold for not much more than a stock G260, but can develop 5hp, in addition to far better after-sale support.
Any and all utilitarian IT standards. ASCII text, f'rinstance, doesn't come with fonts, or nifty accents, but every Goddamn computer in the world can read it. Dial-up internet access is slow and inconvenient, but everybody who has a phone can use it for low cost.
The humble .csv (comma separated value) file. It is a plain text file, with rows of data, and each value separated by a comma. Doesn't have fancy formatting, tabs, or other genuinely useful tools that an Excel file can have, but is loved by IT Admins and programmers everywhere for how easy it is to have a script read. In addition, there are a variety of programs specifically designed for editing .csv's, for those who don't like working with plaintext, and spreadsheet applications like Excel and OpenOffice Calc have .csv support.
RS232 serial communication. Very slow, but understood by pretty much anything that runs on a microprocessor of any kind.
For that matter, parallel port communication. Doesn't even need a voltage translator (it uses 5V) or a serial-to-parallel converter. Just connect straight to your microcontroller pins.
Application Programming in general uses this trope. While you can make all sorts of obfuscated C or do fancy loops and stacked subs, the vast majority of work will be simple mathematical and string operations, basic SQL calls (>95% of which are simple select, update, insert, and delete statements), and for or while loops. In fact, going exotic or esoteric makes your code harder to read, harder to maintain, more prone to bugs, typically much slower, and more likely to fail in the next operating system upgrade. See this article on The Daily WTF.
The knife. Sure, it's probably mankind's oldest tool, but it has that title for a reason. It's a tool you can use to cut, as well as make new tools with. It is such an effective weapon that it is the only remaining pre-gunpowder era weapon that still sees consistent use with the military. In fact, its utility is only limited by the materials used to make it and the amount of force that can be applied to it.
Really, a knife is this in spades. It almost falls into Awesome yet Practical territory (or at least Simple Yet Awesome) when you take into account the sheer versatility of a good knife. It has literally countless uses, even around the average home (Cutting open packaging, use as an impromptu screwdriver or hammer with the butt, use in place of scissors, and that's saying nothing of its culinary applications), and if you ever ask a survivalist what three things to take into any survival type situation, they'll list off "Knife, fire or way to make fire, and clean water" in that order. If you're stuck in the woods with just a knife (or a hatchet), with a little thought you have it made—a knife can net you all the tools you need to make fire, get food, and get the resources to make clean, drinkable water. Saying nothing of its self defense applications, a knife is probably the single most versatile tool ever created.
Skis and the slightly more awesome dog sled for moving across snow. One of the reasons Amundsen won the race to the South Pole (and, you know, survived) was the use of these two simple methods of transport. Scott on the other hand wanted to use high tech mechanical crawlers that soon broke down due to the extreme conditions. There have been claims that Scott and his men didn't even know how to ski, usually with the implication that they would have survived had they known.
On the topic of medicine: modest exercise, a good diet, rest, avoiding alcohol in excess, tobacco altogether, buckling your seat belt, reading the directions of every medication you take, sanitation and hygiene. This sounds as sexy as saw dust and yet if followed rigorously by a population would dramatically reduce the burden of disease. Even the half-assed implementation in the modern world has lengthened life expectancy by many years.
Courier and Courier New as well. Clean fixed-width fonts used by many programmers and those who work with documents where positions of characters matter greatly.
Likewise, Helvetica and Arial. Stylish and easy to read.
Verdana is also a common and effective typeface for Net text.
This site uses Trebuchet.
The humble sandwich. It makes any foods taste good together in a simple, no-silverware package that can often be an entire meal that fits in your pocket. It can be made for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is almost always one of the healthiest things you can eat.
Medieval alchemists spent a great deal of time looking for a "universal solvent", capable of, well, dissolving anything. It took a very long time before anyone realized that you'd have trouble finding a more versatile solvent than plain old water.
In North America another example is the 4-4-0. It wasn't as flashy or fast as later engines but it handled rough terrain well and was very simple mechanically, making repairs easy. It is also (at least for Americans) the most recognizable design of steam locomotive.
The Hungarian 424 "Buffalo" class 4-8-0 engines served from 1924 to 1984. The Buffaloes were popular because they were extremely simple engines, cheap to build, able to pull nearly any train, and very easy to repair or upgrade. They became the largest locomotive class in Hungary, and at least six of the 500+ Buffaloes survive.
The British Black Five served right up until the final days of steam in August 1968. Over 800 were built, for anything from top-link expresses to local pick-up goods trains, and 18 survive in preservation.
The German class 52 "war locomotive". Its immediate predecessor, the class 50, a comparatively lightweight 2-10-0, was introduced shortly before World War II. During the war itself, the Reichsbahn required insane amounts of steam locomotives capable of pulling whatever trains on whatever (standard gauge) tracks and made of materials that didn't have to be imported. The class 50 was stripped and simplified so much that it was possible to build more than 3,000 locomotives in three years. When the 50 had been simplified to the max, it became the 52, an almost absolutely no-frills austerity locomotive of which more than 6,000 were built in less than three years—an average of about six a day. Originally, they were designed to operate no longer than five years. But their utter simplicity made them so robust that they would survive the next several decades in some places. Poland, for example, used unreconstructed 52s labeled Ty2 and Ty42 in regular services until the early 1990s and still has two operational Ty2, and the Soviet Union still had hundreds of former 52s with only few modifications on stand-by as a strategical reserve in East Prussia when it was dissolved in 1992.
Diesel shunting locomotives. One of the best examples would be the Köfnote Technically, not all of them were Köfs, the exact naming depended on the engine and the drivetrain; also, the Deutsche Bundesbahn acquired a larger and more powerful Köf class in the 60s which has got almost nothing to do with these. One of the least remarkable German locomotives. It came up in the early 30s as a small shunter with an internal combustion engine (some had gasoline engines, most had diesels), and although easily ignored, they were a common sight on big and small yards and stations for decades. In fact, when the Bundesbahn began to phase them out in the 80s and 90s (the Deutsche Bahn AG put the last one out of service in 1999), there were plenty of buyers for these small, cheap, simple and reliable machines, and countless ones are operational still today.
Ground-based Anti-Aircraft systems are pretty boring compared to sleek and sophisticated jet fighters going missile-to-missile, but planes are expensive to manufacture and pilots are expensive to train and difficult to replace, especially the best ones. A well-utilized Surface-To-Air missile network and anti-aircraft artillery is a very cost-effective way to establish air dominance, as both the Vietnam War and the Yom Kippur War proved. This is primarily the reason why stealth aircraft are becoming popular, because many nations are shrinking their Air Forces and widening the use of their ground-to-air systems.
The Infantry. As noted by Robert Heinlein, while technology may evolve to include incredibly dangerous tanks, bombs, aircraft carriers, missiles, nuclear weapons, and everything else that can conceivably kill a thousand people inside a nanosecond, there has only ever been one branch of Armed Forces remarkable in its consistency; a man, trained or untrained, between fourteen and fifty years of age, and a weapon in his hand. This man, or in recent times this woman, has endured the scorching jungles of Tenochtitlan, and the unbearable hell of Stalingrad. When a Tank rolls across his path, he puts a bit of fuel in a bottle, sets a light, and throws it underneath. When a plane flies overhead, he finds a ridge and hides under it. When poison gas lands near him, he pisses on his handkerchief and covers his mouth. He can fight in damn near any conditions, run on, in comparison to other forms of warfare, miniscule amounts of fuel, cross any terrain, in time, and defeat any foe given enough of him. He is the Duckfoot, the Mehmet, the Tommy, the average infantry soldier. He is the most boring arm of any Armed Force, to the point that many of its members are forced to be there. But, boy, is he the most practical
"You can bomb it, you can strafe it, you can cover it with poison, you can turn it into glass, but you don't own it unless your infantry's on it and the other guy's isn't."
"Aerial bombardment can obliterate, but only infantry can occupy." — a Finnish Army officer, Operation Allied Force (1999), Kosovo.
The Navy too. Oh sure, we've gone from oars to sails to steam-engines to IC engines to (in some cases) nuclear power, but a floating hull capable of carrying armed men has been pretty much a constant theme for a very long time.
This is one of the reasons why Western martial arts have been downplayed or ignored in most media compared to Eastern martial arts. The latter is known for being exotic, with often thematic naming of forms and styles and some level of mysticism fused with the styles themselves—making them excellent for flashy media depictions. European martial arts, however, had more straightforward names of both schools and techniques, and as such don't seem quite as impressive-sounding for media depictions.
Some Eastern Martial Arts get the same treatment as well. About ten or fifteen years ago, people were more likely to have heard of Karate and Kung-Fu (which are often used as umbrella terms for a variety of Japanese and Chinese Martial Arts) than Judo or Muay Thai. However, with the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts growing over the years, the later two are becoming more well known. Ironically, their popularity in MMA has to do with the fact that they largely ditch the flashy posturing for practicality.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is probably the single best example of this trope in the martial arts world, as it is extremely effective and extremely boring to the vast majority of people. Those who don't train don't really understand the complex positional battles or the attacks, counters, etc. being used; so while one combatant may be dangerously close to getting their arm broken or being choked unconscious, most of the audience sits there wondering when the action is going to start. Watch a match or two on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.
The medical dressing. In use for thousands of years, incredibly straightforward to apply, easily capable of saving wounded people from various horrible deaths, cheap to make, quickly obtained from clothing or other nearby items, it's perhaps one of the most enduring elements of medical technology ever. Now it exists in thousands of different variants, from the humble Band-Aid to Awesome yet Practical complex and fancy dressings intended for severe trauma victims, but it certainly seems like it's not going anywhere soon.
Soviet/Russian military clothing is an example. This was especially apparent in World War II where the rougher-looking, more utilitarian gear of the Soviets was contrasted with the snazzy Hugo Boss-made uniforms of the Nazis. Soviet winter clothing was considerably warmer during winter than German clothing, even their winter gear, and it was common for German troops to loot such clothing from slain or captured Soviets or to tailor their own copies◊. This even extends to today as attempts to phase out the old greatcoat in the military with newer more body-fitting modern winter gear was stymied by the fact that the new gear just wasn't that good during the really cold spots, resulting in cases of hypothermia and frostbite.
They were also so thick, they could be considered a form of low-grade body armor. The WW 2-era Commando knife's seal of quality was its capability to pierce a Soviet-issue greatcoat. U.S troops in Korea also reported that their M1 carbine's .30 Carbine round could not reliably penetrate the thick winter greatcoats of Chinese troops which were identical to those used by the Soviets.
The elaborate Ultra operation by which the British managed to break many of the German Enigma codes and the Magic operation by which the Americans managed to break various high-grade Japanese codes are all well known. What received a lot less attention was the Germans breaking the British merchant marine codes. That was a rather simpler matter, but nevertheless brought the Western allies close to losing the Battle of the Atlantic in 1942.
Despite having an arsenal of high-tech weaponry, the ability to call down airstrikes at the ready, the very latest in military vehicle technology and the best equipment available to a soldier, U.S Special Operations forces in the early part of the Afghan war found the best way to get around in isolated, mountainous country was the same one that the Afghans had used for centuries; the horse.
Mules are generally prefered. Indeed it's now considered so important for operations in mountainous regions that the Marines' Mountain Warfare Training Center runs an 11-day course on Animal packing.
This is one interpretation of the drumming style of Ringo Starr. Some Beatles fans find his drumming tedious, uninteresting and bland. Others feel that this is his greatest strength - when theotherthree band members were pulling in different styles and directions, he was always able to adapt to a reasonable level, no matter what style they were playing in. John Lennon in particular would only work with Ringo for a long time after the break-up of the band because he was able to give Lennon exactly what he asked for.
Those niggling behind-the-scenes clerical tasks you either don't know or care about or might not want to come within a century of? Office workers are those little jars of oil that keep their department running like clockwork. Think of them as real-life Worker Units.
Maintenance workers are almost the exact same thing, except that they take care of the grounds on which we earn our living.
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft are often derided as being shitty, outdated spacecraft compared to NASA's capsules and the space shuttle. The space shuttle has since been retired, and no real replacement has yet been developed for production. There's also the Progress, an unmanned version used as transport craft. The first Soyuz capsule went up in 1967. They are still being used to this day - ironically, also by NASA astronauts due to the aforementioned lack of a shuttle replacement.
Similarly, the R-7 rocket family, which was originally desiigned as an ICBM and was not good at it. As a space launch vehicle, however, it was excellent and is often touted as a fine example of "If it ain't broke, don'tfixt it." Still in service today, and all manned Soviet/Russian missions were sent to space by this very rocket.
It is questionable if Soyuz can be called outdated. Well, the basic construction has been quite similar since beginning, but the avionics etc. have been revised many times. With their Kurs navigation subsystem, Soyuz and Progress spacecraft can automatically rendezvous and dock to space stations. Could be possibly considered Simple Yet Awesome (or even Awesome yet Practical).
Command line interfaces. Beloved by programmers and techie types, they can be a lifesaver when trying to do things designers of GUIs never intended. They also allow servers to run "headless," without a keyboard and monitor and accessed remotely.
The sailboat. Cheap to use - it takes its energy to from the wind, and its range is limited only by its storage of food and potable water. The Bermuda rig allows to sail into almost any wind direction except straight into headwind, but you can always tack. Even a small sailboat (as small as 6 m overall length) can be used for a transoceanic voyage.
Map and magnetic compass. Most of all, they do not need electricity nor special gadgets to use.
The French Nail. In the early days of World War One when trench warfare was the name of the game. Unfortunately military intelligence and supply hadn't yet caught up to the actual battlefield conditions and were supplying long rifles and sword-like bayonets to the troops that were far too cumbersome to use. So what did the French do for trench raiding weaponry? They stole barb wire posts from the German lines and wrought them into the form of crude stabbing implements that were much more compact and maneuverable. After it was deployed against them the Germans took a cue from the French and did the same with their own equipment.
Taking down a castle is hard work, and almost impossible without either an extreme numeric advantage, lot's of equipment, and help from the inside. Unless you surrounded the castle, killed anyone who tried to bring in supplies, and wait till the defenders surrender or starve.
Sieges in general can be considered this for ancient and medieval warfare in general. Open battles were extremely risky affairs that could lead to huge losses on both sides, and were often only willingly carried out if one side greatly held the advantage. A siege, on the other hand, was a comparatively simple waiting game that if done successfully, would lead to a surrendered enemy army to be held as hostages, a captured enemy territory, and minimal losses on the attacker's side.
The Trebuchet and Catapult lobbing stones at a castle wall while still pretty impressive looking, is far less glamorous and "Epic" than simply sending men with ladders at the castle or a battering ram. Yet despite this, it's safer, and when you either need to take the castle quickly or retreat, far more effective than simply running in.
Much of the ex-Soviet, now Russian, automobile industry embodies this trope. Rough roads and climate conditions don't play well with modern vehicles that haven't been explicitly built to withstand them, and those that have are usually far too expensive for a land with a long history of chronic monetary scarcity. As a result, the typical Soviet/Russian car up until a few years ago relied on dated designs and uncomplicated, robust and cheap componentry, but paid the price with low performance, low efficiency and ghastly safety standards. Even the half-hearted attempts of the Soviet Age to implement the Western luxuries like automatic transmissions failed when repairs and maintenance would have been prohibitively expensive. This has slowly been changing, with many cities seeing more and more imported cars of recent design, but it's been a slow process - the Lada Riva, based on the seventies-era Fiat 124, has only been discontinued sometime between 2010 and 2012. And if you go to places where the cold and warm seasons are rather classified as "lethally freezing" and "slightly survivable", you can bet you'll still be seeing a lot more Lada Nivas than Range Rovers.
The B-52 has been the US Air Force's frontline heavy bomber since the 1950's, despite the fact that it's not nearly as fast as the supersonic B-1B or as stealthy as the B-2 bombers. What it does have is a robust airframe and a really REALLY big bomb bay with the capability of carrying literally every bomb or missile the USAF has. It regularly outperforms its more advanced cousins with the added bonus of being much cheaper to maintain. The design is so good that the USAF plans to keep it in service until 2045, which would make the B-52 airframe over 90 years old by the time it's retired, a feat unmatched by any other aircraft.
Except the Soviet/Russian Tu-14. Came into service a year after the B-52, and expected to serve until the same time as the B-52. Even better, the thing is still propellor-driven!
Britain's de Havilland Mosquito bomber. It wasn't as glamorous or well armed as the all-metal Spitfire and couldn't carry as many bombs as the Lancaster (4,000lb vs. 22,000lb), but it was both cheap (being made almost entirely from wood and only needing a relatively simple de Havilland Gipsy Twelve engine) and easy to build (since its airframes could be put together in a short space of time and didn't need specialised machinery). This translated into it being extremely fast with a low radar profile, making it perfect for hit and run tactics (it could essentially fly in, drop its payload and disappear into the clouds before enemy bombers had a chance to scramble - including a precision strike which knocked German radio broadcasts off the air in the middle of a speech by Hermann Göring celebrating the Nazi party's 10th anniversary since coming to power), 4 times more efficient (based on the cost:damage done ration) than a Lancaster bomber and despite being one of the most numerous aircraft produced it ended up with the lowest loss rates of any aircraft in WWII.
Simply living within your means, not buying anything too extravagant, and boring ol' responsible financial management. Sure, you may not be able to "keep up with the Joneses" on the latest flashiest toys, but those become pretty insignificant when compared to not having to take out a 3rd mortgage or having enough money in the bank for when life decides to take a piss on you.
One of the reasons why airliners crash so rarely is that the flight crew goes through a printed checklist before takeoff. Early in The New Tens, the World Health Organisation trialled a similar checklist for surgery. It resulted in an average drop of one third in deaths and major complications, and is being widely adopted. It takes up one side of A4 or US letter paper.
"If something looks stupid but it works, then it's NOT stupid." ~ One of the additional rules on Murphy's Law
Carbon, hands down, is the most essential and widely used element in existence. Not only does it give rise to carbon-based life but it is also the most needed element for maintaining modern civilization.
Without Carbon, there would be no filters for making water safe enough for drinking.
Without Carbon, there would be no filters for the gas masks needed to protect against chemical and biological weapons.
Without Carbon, there would be no filters for Air-Conditioning units to keep out dust and other microbial contaminants.
Without Carbon, NOTHING would be clean. Which means no toothpaste, no computer chips, no flour...
Major League Baseball manager Joe Torre once described Mariano Rivera's pitching as this during the New York Yankees dynasty years in the mid-to-late 90s. However, he done so in a positive light, making it clear that as a manager, you want your top pitchers, especially closers, to be boring and effective so you can rely on their performance each time out. Mariano Rivera going down in history as likely the greatest closer of all time, shows how effective he's been during his career.
The San Antonio Spurs are often described as this. After a disastrous 1996-97 season in which general manager Gregg Popovich decided to take over as coach, the team drafted Tim Duncan and became consistent in both personnel (along with Popovich and Duncan, players like David Robinson, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker never left) and results (15 consecutive playoffs). The players are humble and soft-spoken, and have an effective and not-eye catching play (in 2007-08, the Spurs' 56 win season that lead to the 2nd result in the West had the third-lowest scoring average, 95.4 points per game) that gave the Spurs 4 titles.
The New England Patriots had this reputation during their championship years. They were generally a low-key, hard-working team with an efficient, but hardly explosive offense (unlike say the Indianapolis Colts) and a strong highly-effecive defense that was nonetheless not nearly as bone-crushingly violent as the Ravens. Their coach Bill Belichick further enforced this trope with his dour, stoic personality. They won 3 championships in 4 seasons.
Barbed wire. It's cheaper and takes less effort to set up than conventional fencing, allowing you to fence off large tracts of land quickly. Unlike a hedgerow, it's also fairly low-maintenance. You can also run an electric current through it for extra insurance. Guns might get all the credit for "winning" the Wild West, but it was barbed wire that tamed it.
Professional subtitles, especially for Anime. Fans decry them as lazy, especially compared to the fancy "karaoke subs" used by many Fan Subbers. But as industry professionals point out, they're not supposed to be fancy — they're supposed to be legible, and the "boring" yellow-on-black, sans serif subtitles are by and large the easiest to read.
Most people with Rapunzel Hair swear by the two basics: Braids and/or buns, which keep hair contained, tangle-free, and out of the way. Since they usually wear their hair like that every day, it's boring for the people who don't have Rapunzel Hair and expected to see long, flowing locks.
SpaceX has made a 'space-pencil' like development in building its rockets. Instead of building them vertical as many agencies do, they build them horizontal, erecting them only on the launch pad, saving huge costs on facilities (don't need a VAB, a long shed will do), transport (a big truck, but nothing like the crawler-transporter) and construction (essentially the whole length of the rocket can be accessed at any time). It helps that they also use ball-joint connections between the stages rather than explosive bolts, because the ball-joings don't need to be removed every time there's a fault caused non-launch, they just lie the rocket down again and wheel it back to the facility.
The Spartans had three advantages over the hoplites of the rest of Greece. Their physical training is the most famous, but the truly decisive ones were the discipline to turn their phalanx (meaning they could suddenly change direction and charge an enemy phalanx on the side, if the terrain allowed it) and knowing how to use their decorative swords. The latter carried the day at Plataea: the Persians had figured they could effectively disable the hoplites by grabbing their spears and use their own swords and were defeating the Tegean force this way, but when the Spartans reacted to the trick by simply drawing their swords the Persians found themselves at point one.
Tugboats. Small, hardy craft designed to help maneuver bigger ships around in the confined spaces of a harbor. They could also be used to move cargo around by having them tow barges around (very handy for loading and unloading a large vessel in shallow water). During the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor, Navy tugboats were hard at work fighting fires, towing ships free of their moorings (either to get them out of harms way, such as the Vestal being pulled away from the burning wreck of the Arizona, or to clear lines of fire for ships docked next to each other). When the battleship Nevada was severely damaged while making a run to the sea, she needed to be beached quickly to avoid blocking the harbor entrance. The Tugboat USS Hoga helped to shove the crippled and burning dreadnought into the shallows and continued to help Nevada's crew fight fires (with the additional help of the seaplane tender USS Avocet). The Hoga would spend the next several days fighting fires in the harbor and assisting with Damage Control.
Freddie Francis, Academy Award winning cinematographer (winning his first in 1960 for Sons And Lovers and his next in 1989 for Glory) and having a long career, from starting as a cinematographer in the 50s and 60s, to directing for Hammer and returning in the 80s (he shot two movies for David Lynch, both The Elepehant Man and his last movie The Straight Story when he was 81) famously said:
"There are three types of photography: good photography, bad photography, and the right photography. The right photography is what tells the story best."