Boring But Practical / Real Life

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  • 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. And this becomes Mundane Made Awesome when a huge army comes in a massive Zerg Rush.
  • In the World War II: the Allies in general count. Contrasting with the Axis side's love for Awesome, but Impractical devices (the Tiger, Panther, Type-93 Torpedo, Type-97 20mm AT Rifle, Yamato-class Battleships, the list continues....) the Allies simply used less flashy (a.k.a boring) things that neverthless did their job very well. The aformentioned trucks? Japan, Italy and Germany combined didn't produce as many trucks as Canada alone...
    • ...speaking of which, 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.
  • "Amateurs study tactics. Veterans study strategy. Professionals study logistics."
    • A tale commonly told in the military: Generals are a happily blessed race who radiate confidence and power. They feed only on ambrosia and drink only nectar. In peace, they stride along confidently and can invade a nation simply by sweeping their hands grandly over a map, pointing their fingers decisively up terrain corridors, and blocking defiles and obstacles with the sides of their arms. In war, they must stride more slowly, because each general has a logistician riding on his back and he knows that, at any moment, the logistician may lean forward and whisper, “No, you can’t do that!”
    • This is why most generals tend to be far behind the front lines; they have the experience and knowledge to know where sending supplies or causing a disruption in enemy logistics would make or break a battle. Their knowledge can also help avert more hotheaded behaviour on new recruits, ensuring that they can inflict a maximum amount of damage to the enemy while maintaining a minimum of casualties (which is why discipline is so important, as the reason for a commander's orders might not be immediately clear to you, but certainly is to the guy shouting it). They're also often too old (or in some cases too injured) to be physically fit for combat, so while paperwork and map plotting isn't exactly exciting or glamorous work, it's certainly practical as hell.
  • 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 (and occasionally, 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.
  • Even more boring is the suppliers whom have to accompany the infantry in order to keep them fed and armed. Terribly overlooked, suffering many of the same inadequacies and woes as their peers, oftentimes not being even armed, the humble caravan seeks to it that the rest of the army is able to do their jobs, be it through land, air, or sea. Unglamorous and under-appreciated as they are, other branches of military wouldn't function as smooth as planned without 'em. Just don't mess with the log guys — it isn't wise to anger the men who are responsible for you being watered, fed, shod, clothed, sheltered, supplied, and equipped perhaps for years on end.
    • As mentioned above and below in Technology part cargo container, it's very important to deliver the necessities (food, uniforms, fuel, ammo, blankets, tents, etc.) to the guys on the front lines while also important to prevent guys from the other side retrieving theirs. Differences of competence of logistics can greatly tipped the balance of war. One of the reason Allied won from Axis is Allied logistic corps (both western and eastern and both Pacific and Atlantic) are far better than Axis logistics corps.
    • 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. (Connections explains—it takes about 20 minutes to get there, but it's worth it!).
  • The Navy as a whole 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.
  • Medevac personnel. Sure these people don't kill any bad guys but being in the battlefield without any weapons to constantly drag another human beings multiple times need serious dedication and true bravery. One serious advantage the US had at Pacific Theatre is they have dedicated medevacs force to treat their wounded on land and on sea.
    • The Engineer. All kinds of them. What Medevacs do for humans, these guys do with equipment. Effective damage control is often mooted as one significant factor in keeping the US Navy afloat during the early years of the Pacific War.
  • 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. This means newspapers, blogs, media, and anything else that anybody can have a gander at. 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 James Bond-ian spies to steal highly classified industrial information, the bulk of tech data soviets were receiving 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.
    • An example of just how simple intelligence gathering can be: after writing The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy was visited by government agents who were very put out that the book had discussed highly classified aspects of modern submarine technology. Clancy was able to get off the hook by showing that he had gotten all his information by going to the local library, reading up on unclassified information there, and just doing a little extrapolating. All that top-secret information was essentially lying around in the open for anyone who cared to invest in nothing more than a library card and a few hours of studying.
  • 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 preferred. 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.


  • 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.
    • It must be noticed that the Spartans had a number of serious issues, though. The first was that the Training from Hell of The Spartan Way ultimately meant that enormous proportions of their male population either died or failed out of the Agoge, meaning that in spite of every boy being drafted, perhaps most never even made it to the force. Secondly, the insistence on never retreating meant that entire units of great warriors were lost instead of living to fight another day, if not only fall back out of a bad position to continue the battle in a more viable position. Thirdly, tactical inflexibility meant that Spartan armies often were ultimately just outmaneuvered or cornered. Fourthly, records show that Sparta did not have an amazing record of Curb Stomp Battles; they could be beaten and it was not a rare event, and it was at the hands of armies of citizen soldiers and mercenaries.
    • The Spartans also had an extremely serious disadvantages which is so boring but important it is typically overlooked. The training and singularly-focused martial culture required to produce a Spartiate meant that, to a far greater extent than its contemporaries, Sparta relied on large numbers of slaves – the helots, an unusually cruelly oppressed slave class. This meant that the total number of Spartiates, especially in later years after the Peloponnesian Wars had killed many of them, was actually extremely small. They were tactically effective but Spartan institutions could not economically or culturally sustain enough individuals whose defining feature was that they did not labor for their contingent to be reliably decisive in battles. Worse, the crippling imbalance between a minority of armed-to-the-teeth homoioi and oppressed-but-seriously-pissed-off helot slaves meant that the Spartans regularly could not field their army, or have it on campaign too long, or too far away, for fear of a slave revolt killing their families at home and crippling their shaky economic foundations. This fear was totally justified - there were a number of strategically very significant helot rebellions. It's hard to read about Spartan social institutions, especially their treatment of the helots, and come away still thinking highly of the culture (though maybe that's just what the Athenians want you to think).
  • 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. If you're in a hurry, just scrape out a "Ranger Grave", a slit trench barely big enough for you to lie in. It's not comfortable, and in fact it's barely adequate, but it will give you considerably more protection than being at ground level. More than a few extended battles in modern history could be described as brief periods of fighting punctuated by long periods of soldiers digging constantly to turn their patch of grass into a slit trench, then into a foxhole, then into a better foxhole.
    • Dirt in general makes better cover from gunfire than most harder materials that are readily available. Bullets that will readily splinter trees, crack masonry, and shred sheet metal will be stopped cold by a humble parapet of dirt less than a foot thick.
  • Taking down a castle is hard work, and almost impossible without either an extreme numeric advantage, lots 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, although when you have thousands upon thousands of men gathered together in filthy conditions, infectious disease loves to scoff at your sure thing.
    • 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.

Personal weapons

  • 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 an untrained person with one. Oh, and countless examples have proven that handheld shields can make good weapons, too.
    • The old good Roman shield-wall tactics actually still lives on: most riot police forces around the world are basically a modern take on the Roman formation: they wear (fiberglass and HDPE) lamellar armor, carry tower shields, which they often use to bash rioters with, they frequently form shield wall... Well, the only real difference is that they replace the gladii, which are considered too stabby in our politically correct times, with their batons.
  • The viking helmet (no, notthatone, ah yes, this one). May be dissapointing because it doesn't have the same Visual Effects of Awesome than the fake ones, but these actually are more practical. Why? These helmets as you can see does not only have a nose guard (which is pretty useful), but also has a cheek guard, which protects you from eye and face attacks, you may get a little scratch if they hit you, but you will be still safe unless he cuts you in your throat, if that weren't sufficent, it also have a neck guard on the back, which pervents backstabbing. Pretty much a useful helmet.
  • The humble spear. Basically the next step of weapons development after inventing the knife (or sharpened rock), and has been in use for tens of thousands of years by almost every single culture that has ever existed. Even a simple sharpened stick or char-hardened point allowed you to fight something with sharp tooth and claws while keeping your own vital organs out of their reach (unless it was a really pissed off boar). 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".
    • Also, the way they used their swords. Nothing fancy, just a thrust in the belly of the enemy, or, if they had a shield, a slashing attack to hack the arm holding the shield (something you couldn't do with larger swords) before the thrust. Those two simple moves, and the thrust in particular, were so efficient that, to this day, Italian swordfighters and fencers continue to carry the day using that move (Italian fencers practically dominate their sport).
  • 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 polearm or 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.
  • 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. The bow and arrow's popularity in movies and as a recreational sport has greatly diminished the "boring" aspect of it.
    • 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. There's a reason an old axiom was "To train a longbowman, start with his grandfather."
    • 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. note 
  • 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, it is essentially the ancient counterpart of pistols. 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. By the accounts from Old Testament Bible, the Israelite militias utilised slings way earlier than the Romans, and was famous for killing a giant in one hit (Though modern versions of the story often forget the part where David beheaded him after taking him down. And gave his head to king Saul. The Bible isn't all fit for kids.) The slingshot is actually a step backwards in lethality. The Spanish armies included slingers until the 16th century - they could easily kill an unarmoured Muslim horseman at distance. Slings were considered so deadly there was a time where their use could be considered a war crime. Again, they only disappeared from the field because firearms developed to the point where they could do the same thing without years of training behind them. Nowadays, some shepherds use slings to keep the sheeps from predators - which is by all accounts how the biblical David - if he was a real person - learned to handle a sling in the first place.
  • The warhammer. Step 1: Take a (somewhat largish) regular hammer. Step 2: Give it a longer handle. You now have one of the most effective weapons of the pre-gunpowder era. Is your enemy unarmored? Simple, crack his skull. Is your enemy armored? Simple, crack his skull—his helmet might keep him from dying, but he'll be so dazed anyway there's no functional difference.
    • Enemy still on his feet? Turn it around and swing again. Almost all warhammers had a solid spike on the opposite side. Very few weapons could pierce armor like that little beauty.
  • 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 also falls into Simple, yet Awesome territory when you take into account the sheer versatility of a good unspecialized 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.
  • In various tropical and subtropical countries, any machete-like blade is this. Like the axe to Europeans and North Americans, machete has self-defense use as well as mundane use. Frequently used to cut through rain forest undergrowth, removing small branches and plants, for agricultural purposes (e.g. cutting sugar cane) any many other use.
    • Basically any weapon derived from agricultural blade, sickle, and knife is this, as they have both mundane use and self defense weapon use i.e. it is common sight for any Nepalese farmer to wield kukri while they work and some schools of martial arts in Java and Madura even developed some moves using sickle.
  • 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.



Russian small arms design deserves a standing ovation across the board, at least for the designs which wound up being mass issued in the field. To be brief:
  • 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. Michael Kalashnikov set out to make the simplest, toughest automatic weapon he could, and he succeeded.
    • Spawned a line of successors using a simple long stroke piston and a rotating bolt. The AK family is the global gold standard of reliability and the AK-47 and AKM have been produced more than any other gun in the world, so much so that nobody really knows how many AK's there are. Name a war, any war after 1955, and you may be damn sure AK's were in it.
  • Topped by the even older SKS, a simple, semi-auto rifle chambered in 7.62x39 with a fixed 10-round magazine. Known for being very reliable. While the Kalashnikov replaced it shortly into its career in Russia, the SKS has gone on to be a common sight around the world, and remains very popular on the civilian market as a cheap, yet still highly-effective, sporting rifle.
  • The PPS Submachine gun family. It is similar to the Sten in that it was a low cost weapon using the absolute minimum number of parts, and over 2 million were produced between 1942 and 1946. This was an often seen weapon in the Red Army, and served alongside the PP Sh-41 as the weapon that most often ended up in the hands of soldiers that didn't use rifles. It was nothing to look at, but it got the job done, and when you have an underfunded, stretched thin army, that's really all that matters at the end of the day.
  • Mosin-Nagant M1891 rifle and its modifications: Perhaps the simplest bolt action rifle ever made, terrifyingly rugged, both it and its cartridge still serve to this day around the world. Simple as all hell to operate, aim, and maintain. Uses 7.62x54R, the oldest military cartridge still in use. Hits like a mofo out to a distance beyond which 99% of users or rifles could make hits, and is so widely available that one can be had for less than $200.
  • Tokarev TT pistol: Russian pistol inspired by Browning's short action and M1911. Simplified the design, make it even more reliable, chambered it for 7.62x25, which can defeat any body armor short of rifle plates, and has an earned reputation for effectiveness. Of course very rugged and dependable. Still sees formal and informal use worldwide.
  • Makarov PM, Tokarev's successor. The Makarov is a straight blowback 9x18mm design. It has a fixed barrel as part of the frame, making it very simple and very accurate. No linkages, locking lugs, or any of that; all that's going on is simple spring pressure from one that goes around the barrel to bring the slide back after the force of the exploding propellants of the cartridge drive it back.

Other countries

  • Sten, a gun that can — and was — built in people's sheds. Somewhat coupled with the M3 "Grease Gun", made by General Motors (yes, that General Motors).
  • In spite of its many complainers, the AR-15 rifle and its derivatives. Eugene Stoner noticed two major issues with the existing M1 and M1-derivative rifles that the US military used in the aftermath of World War II: The wooden furniture and large bullets were heavy, and the stock being at an angle to the barrel reduced accuracy. Stoner replaced the wood with lightweight alloy and plastic, chose the smallest bullet capable of reliably killing a person (the .223 Remington, barely larger than the .22 long rifle) and made the entire weapon frame so that the stock would be in line with the barrel, reducing muzzle climb. The result is such a well-balanced rifle that although multiple attempts over the last five decades have been made to replace it, no weapon is better enough to justify doing so.
  • 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. An over 100-years-old pistol is still the beloved favorite of soldiers generally considered to be at the cutting edge of modern warfare.
  • Glock pistols. 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 have fewer components and since they don't have to deal with magazines, which are the source of 80% and some of malfunctions, reliability of a properly made revolver is incredible. 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, although it is highly inadvisable to recommend it for any kind of social use. 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 Kar98k's five and most importantly was extremely reliable. In the hands of a skilled marksman, it 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.
    • Bolt-action rifles in general, really. They do not fire as fast as semi-automatic or fully-automatic firearms, but they are easier to maintain, less likely to misfire, cheaper, more accurate in longer ranges (in a semi-automatic or fully-automatic firearm, some of the energy of the bullet is used for cycling the action), and more suitable for stealth (they lack the clacking sound of the bolt closing and opening in autoloaders, and the user's is less likely to be revealed to enemies since the cartridge isn't visibly flung into the air). They can also chamber powerful cartridges without increasing the size/weight of the weapons note - some of the most powerful elephant guns are almost the same size as your typical deer rifle.
      • The British, in the run-up to World War I, 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 the 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 deceptive), 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 WWI, 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).
    • Allegedly, American soldiers, who were mostly made up of rural boys with lots of hunting experience, could shoot incoming grenades out of the air with their shotguns.
  • Note, small arms for infantries in general are preferred to be this. Guns which are Shur Fine Guns or Awesome, but Impractical are pain in the ass whether to clean or fix it every time before and after action. Special forces on the other hands could handle their guns better and could tolerate some temperamental guns. AN-94 assault rifle are example for such type of gun.
  • The M2HB Machine Gun: developed toward the end of World War I, 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. note .
  • As of the mid-2010s, a significant number of law enforcement agencies (including the FBI), military units (including the Navy SEAL Teams), and armed civilians are showing a renewed interest in the prosaic 9x19mm Parabellum caliber for pistols. This is despite decades of experimentation from the 1980s on with an array of alternatives (e.g., 10mm Auto, .40 Smith & Wesson, .357 SIG, .45 ACP), some of which were adopted only because of perceived shortcomings with the 9mm. Even though the caliber is over 115 years old – making it the oldest service-grade semiautomatic pistol caliber in widespread use – it's proven very fertile for experimentation and improvement with new powders and bullet designs that have breathed new effectiveness into it compared to its competitors, and it has the advantage of still being the most common and cheapest pistol round in the world, and one that allows maximum ammunition capacity compared to alternatives.


  • Another WW2 example is tank warfare on the Eastern Front. Had the Nazis simply improved their existing Panzer IV's and III's and mass-produced them like the Soviets did with the T-34, instead of coming up with impractical heavily-armed-and-armored behemoths that broke down often and drinks fuel like beer, they would have been able to stall the Soviets for far 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 importantly, it could be churned out in the thousands. Individually the German Tigers and Panthers were stronger, but that doesn't mean much if they are hopelessly outnumbered by T-34s.
    • 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.
  • The M4 Sherman was one of the best medium tanks of the war, with a very good transmission, a high top speed, and a modular design with highly standardized parts that made it fast and easy to produce. Its problem was that it had been intended to be a medium tank, and in that role it was questionable; while more than capable of taking on a Panzer III and IV, it could easily be destroyed by a single shot from a Panther or Tiger and thus needed a numerical advantage. Fortunately, US alone had four times Germany's manufacturing capacity, and could drown the Germans in tanks at the same time it provided vast quantities of trucks and aircraft to the Soviet Union whilst also flooding the Pacific Theater with ships and planes. (At the Battle of the Coral Sea, the US had more surface ships than the Japanese had aircraft.)
    • Upgraded versions of the Sherman were better than the original; the Jumbo Sherman was as well-armored as a Tiger but not as well-armed, while the Firefly was as well-armed as a Tiger but not as well-armored, and the M4A3E8, a Sherman with a late-war 76mm gun, was capable of knocking out a T-34 at about the range at which a T-34 could knock out a Sherman. Furthermore, the Sherman is more versatile than many German tanks as it can be easily modified with attachments like mine flails, 105 mm howitzers, flamethrowers, and even rocket artillery. Some Shermans remained in use in the Korean War; Israel acquired a substantial number of them, and upgraded them to the point where they could defeat T-55s and IS-3s.
  • Many modellers and wargamers - and military historians - are obsessed with the glamour of the Panther, Tiger and King Tiger, but the most numerous tanks in the German inventory — even in 1944 and 1945 — were the Panzer IV (27,000 built) and the StuG III assault gun (12,000 built, based on the Panzer III). 6,000 Panthers, 1,300 Tigers, and just 500 Tiger IIs were built.
  • The Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank is quite simply one of, if not the best tank on the face of the earth. But deep inside its Chopham Armor, and somewhere behind its 120mm gun is the humble Boiling Vessel that's been a feature of British Tanks since the Centurion. For all intents and purposes, it's just an ordinary Tea Maker, something that British Tank crews have been mocked about by their NATO allies for a long time. The mocking usually stops however when the temperatures outside the tanks drop, and the rain comes. Soon, other tank crews start heading over to the British Tanks to get some hot meals or atleast some hot drinks. The design is so useful, other NATO members have license produced the thing for their tanks and IF Vs.

Military vehicles

  • General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that the "equipment ... most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the 2½ 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.
    • The exact quote, for those who care, as Eisenhower has been widely misquoted:
      ... [Miltary planners were more optimistic about a proposed landing then they were a few months previously]:
      "This change resulted from the unforeseen availability of a considerable number of LSTs and the quantity production of the "duck," an amphibious vehicle [a biplane, specifically] that proved to be one of the most valuable pieces of equipment produced by the United States during the war. Incidentally, four other pieces of equipment that most senior officers came to regard as among the most vital to our success in Africa and Europe were the bulldozer, the jeep, the two-and-a-half-ton truck, and the C-47 airplane. Curiously enough, none of these is designed for combat." — Crusade In Europe, pg 163note 
  • 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 before or since has ever managed such a strategic redeployment so quickly.
  • Post-WWII: 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 . True to the "boring" aspect, it is almost unknown.


World War II

  • 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 WW1, yet 20 of these claimed 1 battleship sunk and 2 damaged at Taranto. Essentially a vehicular version of the Stone Wall trope. Also, the mighty Bismarck, one of the most powerful battleships ever produced by a European nation, was 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 WW2. 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 P51 Mustang. Though a wonderful plane design in many other ways, it's most important feature was this trope all the way - its 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 Axis side has the Messerschmitt Bf-109, otherwise (wrongly) known as the Me-109. Compared to later German aircraft, like the Fw-190 (The Dreaded among the Allies because it was able to outmatch a Spitfire in all but turn radius.) and the Me-262 (among the world's very first jet aircraft to operate) it was nothing fancy. Yet it is a versatile, rapidly-produced aircraft (in fact, it's the most built fighter aircraft in history, having 33,984 airframes built across all variants) that can take on a variety of roles- in fact, it was the plane Erich Hartmann (the highest scoring fighter ace of all time) and Hans-Joachim Marseilles (highest scoring fighter ace in the North African campaign). It also has design features that weren't flashy but damn useful, like it's fuel-injection engine that allowed it to endure negative-G forces (Spitfires and Hurricanes have engines that would cut-out in the same situation, leaving the pilot helpless in a dive) and two water radiators with a cut-off system, meaning that if one goes out for whatever reason you could fly on the second or cut off both and still fly for 5 minutes.
  • 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 laminated plywood 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-to-damage-done ratio) 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.
    • Goering was well known to be green with envy at the fact that they could be churned out at a fast pace and that any place could repair it without a problem and yet being one of the fastest and most capable planes in the British airfields.
  • A non-combat plane example: 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."
  • 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 camouflage 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.


  • The Chinook transport helicopter, in production since the 1960s, is easily discernable by a unique shape with two large rotors and no tail, but is otherwise not much to look at. It has, however, a very large cargo area 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, Chinook is one of the fastest operational helicopters, so when escorted by Apache gunships, Chinooks have to slow down to let the Apaches 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.
  • 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 (Can carry up to 70,000 pounds of bombs) 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-95 (NATO reporting name "Bear"). 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!
  • A-10 Thunderbolt AKA "The Warthog". The Air Force is constantly saying they want to retire the plane and bring in something new but they haven't found anything close to it's capabilities in close air support. The plane itself has a fairly simple design: take the largest machine gun ever created and build an ugly flying tank around it. It has an enormous cannon, excellent maneuverability, can carry missiles for air-to-air, carries rockets and bombs for air-to-ground, and the sound of it's gun is psychologically terrifying.
    • The US Army has basically flat out said that the A-10 is irreplaceable and if the Air Force retires it, they want it.
  • Lift jets. When the Soviets were designing a successor to the generally horrible Yak-38 VTOL fighter, the intended replacement, Yak-41, was originally to use the setup similar to its later successor, Lockheed-Martin F-35B,note  with a single vectored-thrust engine, which also drives the large lift fan through a geared shaft. The development of the engine had a lot of technical problems, though, so designers simply stuck a pair of a dedicated small turbojets in the fan's place as an interim solution. And then it turned out that these jets were not only lighter than a large and complex fan, but also were much more compact, consumed less fuel and provided better lift, so the fan project was swiftly dropped and never resurfaced afterwards.
  • Attack Drones. Considered to be the Spiritual Successors of WW2-era biplanes, UAVs are affordable and expendable aircraft for conducting reconnaissance and strike roles. While a typical drone like the MQ-9 Reaper may seem as dull and ungainly compared to the high-tech manned F-35A, it has a per-unit price tag of $19 million compared to the $98 million for each F-35A. Furthermore, as drones lack pilots, they aren't weighed down by the bulky life-support systems and won't leave behind a pilot to be rescued. Not to also mention that their small sizes gives them natural radar-evasion abilities without expensive and difficult to maintain stealth technology. With the increasing costs of manufacturing aircraft and greater availability of cheap anti-air missiles, many nations are relying more on low-risk, inexpensive attack drones for combat operations.
    • The US Navy is testing the stealth-equipped UAVs for use on aircraft carriers. In a surprise twist, they've decided the first things these drones should do is not combat, but rather mid-air refueling... which actually makes a lot of sense. Programming a drone to fly in a straight line long enough for a friendly jet to refuel, and then return to base is much simpler than programming a drone to fly in combat and fire weapons at enemies. Fuel tankers are a boring yet incredibly important component of war, which makes them priority targets, and using a stealthy airframe will contribute to their survival rates.


  • Liberty Ships. Spacious, cheap enough a single delivery had already paid for their cost, and produced in such large numbers Germany and Japan literally could not sink enough to actually slow down the supply train. They were so practical that several went on to have prolonged post-war careers in both private and military service, with one managing to remain with the U.S. Navy as late as 1981.
  • One more non-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.
  • In an era where naval warfare is more or less showcased by the aircraft carrier and the submarine, the bulk of any navy remains the surface ship. Carriers may hold those nifty fighter planes you'd see in Top Gun or Independence Day, and submarines are renowned terrors of the deep, but neither are as versatile as the modern day destroyer or frigate, which can do anything from shoot missiles, aircraft and satellites out of the sky to hunt submarines and other ships to, in some cases, bombard inland targets. And that's before one gets into amphibious operations...
    • Amongst that number, the Arleigh Burke destroyer is becoming this, at least compared to newer, post-millennium ships. Whereas most modern day ships are designed for at least one area of specialization (usually air defense), the Burke was meant to be a venerable Jack-of-All-Trades, covering almost every conceivable mission profile the US Navy was expected to face with extreme prejudice. Sure, it doesn't excel at anti-air warfare like Britain's Type 45 destroyer, nor can it perform shore bombardments the way the Zumwalt can, but it normally outperforms such ships in everything else while going about the aforementioned roles adequately enough. And to top it off, the US Navy has more Burkes in its inventory (with many more soon to follow) than most countries have ships period, making it the modern, war-oriented equivalent of Star Trek's Constitution-class starship.

Artillery and Other weapons

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • During World War II, statistically, very few German tanks were destroyed by other tanks or air support. Most were destroyed by three or four men sitting in the bushes with an anti-tank BFG, waiting for some lumbering behemoth to come into view and nailing it. Certainly practical, but people don't really find that stuff very interesting, instead tending to be more enamoured by vivid images of the massive tank-on-tank battles of the Eastern front, or USAF Thunderbolts and RAF Typhoons raining fire down on German tanks.
    • Actually, what really stopped the most German tanks was the disruption of their logistics: attacks on their supply lines by the aforementioned aircraft effectively blunted many German offensives. Sure, it was possible for them to attain initial successes, but once their tanks ran out of fuel, they could no longer take new ground, turning their tanks into nothing more than highly vulnerable pillboxes; once they ran out of ammunition or fuel, they would then be forced to surrender, or abandon everything and retreat.
  • The anti-tank guns successors are the rocket launchers. As mentioned above, the likes of the Bazooka, RPG-7, and Panzerfaust are easy to use and are much cheaper than tanks or other vehicles. A modern tank can cost as much as $10 million while an RPG-7 costs only $500. Even the most expensive man-portable missile launchers like the Javelin and TOW can easily destroy a tank that cost 500 times as much as a single launcher. Tanks have evolved to the point of being Awesome, but Impractical as their costs are ridiculous to give them enough armor to survive any rocket shots. Even a vehicle that is capable of surviving a shot can easily be shot by many more or put out of action for repairs.
    • More expensive guided weapons like the Stinger or MILAN are still practical, shooting down expensive planes, helicopters, or tanks.
  • Sea warfare mines can be described as this. Hell, 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.

Misc. Equipment

  • The tents used by the German scouting movement. Designed in the waning years of the Weimar Republic by one Eberhard Köbel (aka tusk) on the basis of Scandinavian and Mongol tents, they can basically all be constructed from simple triangular or rectangular pieces of black cloth. The standard issue Kohte takes no more than four identical pieces which can be carried easily by the people sleeping in that tent when on the road. Even a single piece can serve as an impromptu shelter in a pinch. Add a bit of dedication and architecture and you get into decidedly Awesome, but Impractical territory like this or this Up to Eleven version.
  • 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. Viktor Suvorov confirmed in his book about the Soviet Army that yes, everyone really did get taught how to sleep in their greatcoat and that everyone did it at least once not only to build toughness, but also to teach the men how to do it.
    • They were also so thick, they could be considered a form of low-grade body armor. The WW2-era Commando knife's seal of quality was its capability to pierce a Soviet-issue greatcoat, which is even thicker and heavier than some of the later army coats to follow. And this troper can testify that those coats can work wonders against blows and slashes which would otherwise have laid him out.
    • Soviet and post-Soviet boots fit the bill, too. Heavy, rough, and rugged. Many models still use actual hobnails to this day. The boots fit loose, so there are no problems concern foot width or height. The interiors can be most charitably described as functional. Used to padding, fitting, insoles? Tough luck! These boots take some adaptation to wear well, because your foot has to adjust to the boot instead of picking out a shoe that fits you. better get used to using footwraps (portyanki) or if not, better wear double socks to avoid getting blisters like mad. The good news is once you're adapted, you can now comfortably wear some of the best, toughest marching boots for long walks over long stretches of time. And you'll even get stronger legs and become a faster walker just from having to compensate for them. In fact, you'll have to readjust to more conventional western footwear, which has all kinds of fit problems and rubs like crazy.

  • 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, the average human just had to follow the horse until it was too exhausted to take one 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. This 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 Km/h), 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.
    • And finally, as 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 many vehicles 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.
  • 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 swing freely. However, this can become Mundane Made Awesome when talking about a superfast baseball pitch.
    • 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.
    • Things which are easy for us — like balancing on two legs, or throwing a ball, — are only easy because, while a great deal of our brainpower is dedicated to these things, little or none of it conscious. To illustrate — when a Major League pitcher throws a ball (around 90 mph), releasing the ball 0.01 second too soon or too late would result in missing the strike zone. Since it takes about that long (10 milliseconds) for a nerve signal to travel from the brain to the fingers, the command to release the ball must be sent when the hand has not yet reached that window. In other words, "swing-and-release" is a preprogrammed sequence, performed without the benefit of seeing (or feeling) where the pitcher's own arm is.
      • On the flip side, one of the most difficult physical tasks in sports is hitting an MLB pitch. A batter has less than 0.5 seconds before a 90 mph pitch crosses home plate. A batter has to figure out exactly what pitch the pitcher threw, where he's aiming, how it's moving, and how fast it's going. All of that is visual and the batter must then decide whether or not to swing at it and, when then swinging, how to swing their bat. With an 0-2 count (i.e. no balls, two strikes ... which heavily favors the pitcher) MLB batters swing less than half the time.
  • 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.
  • Humans tend to think of predators as more cool and awe-inspiring than herbivores. However, the reason herbivores outnumber predators is that eating stuff that doesn't run away or fight back is much more efficient. Worst case scenario for a predator is burning more calories chasing their food than they get from eating it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 complex and fancy dressings intended for severe trauma victims, but it certainly seems like it's not going anywhere soon.
  • 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...
    • Without Carbon, nothing would BE. It is the only suitable element for creating organic life when using water as a solvent.
    • Without Carbon there would be no heavier elements than boronnote 

  • 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 appearing awesome, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and its IDF-created variant Krav Maga are probably the best examples of this trope in the martial arts world, as they are extremely effective and extremely boring to the vast majority of spectators. Those who don't train in them 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.
  • Major League Baseball manager Joe Torre once described Mariano Rivera's pitching as this note  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.
  • In the NBA, 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 Ginóbili and Tony Parker never left) and results (19 consecutive playoff appearances). The players are humble and soft-spoken, and play an effective and not-eye catching style (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 5 titles.
    • On that same note: Old-school fundamental basketball is this. Close-to-the-rim, team-oriented, pass-first based basketball is probably the most efficient way to play and score but is almost universally considered boring to watch. By contrast, "hero-ball" (when one guy tries making highlight plays/ takes all the shots), eating up the shot clock with fancy dribbles, hoisting up deep threes, and trying to posterize guys every play is often more exciting but makes for some horribly inefficient basketball most of the time.
  • 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.
  • The simple act of doing a short pass with the ball (or puck), it's not nearly as glamorous as letting your team all-star play "hero ball" and single-handedly outmaneuver the other team's defense. But it has the huge advantage of working a lot more consistently, especially during post-season games where the opposing team will be focusing on stronger defensive play than in the regular season.
  • Playing Defense. In most sports Offense looks flashier, gets the fans excited and is mostly what the sport is about (e.g. soccer is about scoring goals). But there is a reason for the tired cliché "Offense wins hearts, Defense wins championships". There are a handful of real life subversions, but most of the times the best Offense meets the best Defense, it's not even close. Just two examples from the Super Bowl: In 2013 Peyton Manning was without a shred of a doubt the best Quarterback in the game. His Offense put up ridiculous numbers and broke the records of Tom Brady and his Patriots from their perfect season (which found a similar end) as if they were nothing. Then they play the Super Bowl against the best Defense in the league and hit it like a brick wall. 43-8 does not even begin to describe what a Curb-Stomp Battle it was. The Denver Offense got outclassed in every conceivable way. Fast forward two years and the same team has changed a lot. Peyton Manning is visibly past his prime, and the Offense does not produce anything above and beyond mediocre numbers. The Defense however is the stuff of legend and when they face undisputed MVP Cam Newton and his prolific Carolina Panthers Offense, which won several games, including a Playoff game in one half, the result is as much a Foregone Conclusion as it was two years earlier. 24-10 for Denver and the Carolina Offense never got a foot on the ground. Defense wins championships indeed.
  • In the European soccer championship 2016 Portugal played what many commentators called "anti-soccer"; an emphasis on defense, playing for draws (they only won one game in regulation - against Wales) and lucking their way into the round of sixteen by virtue of being third in a group of four containing such soccer superpowers as Iceland or Hungary - two teams that both finished ahead of Portugal in the group stage. Yet either due to underestimating them, luck or genuine advantages of their type of playing soccer (for which "boring" is a nice word) nobody could stop them all the way through the final. Not even France playing at home with one of the best offenses in recent memory.


Traditional data storage

  • 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."note 
  • 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".
  • Map and magnetic compass. Most of all, they do not need electricity nor special gadgets to use.



  • Good 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. 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, WiiMotes, 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 foreseeable future.
    • Human-machine interaction studies often use a model called Fitts' law to calculate how easy it is for a user to accurately move a pointer from one point to another in a straight line. Since the responsiveness varies from device to device, each one is associated with a certain coefficient, and the mouse generally comes surprisingly close to a person's bare hands as reported in this paper around page 34. Also, remember that mouse moves on a flat surface that's precisely mapped to the screen and, unlike with a touchscreen, cannot move past its edge. Ever wondered why it's so easy to, say, close a full-screen application in Windows? No accuracy needed, you just slam your mouse in the corner and click.
    • 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.
  • In relation the above, keyboard shortcuts and mouse button commands. No touchscreen interface has yet come up with anything so quick and convenient for input. Many who mastered keyboard shortcuts can use them so well that they rarely have to use a mouse and type really fast, and right-clicking is just plain practical for many quick command options. Even moreso when it comes to copying/cutting and pasting large chunks of text, where the "hold down and (often fiddly) drag" input of the touchscreen is extremely slow and ponderous in comparison.
  • While we're on it, boring old PCs over flashy tablets in general, 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 producibility, and tactile input means that they'll likely stick around for a long time. 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.
    • 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  Yes, you can buy a keyboard for your tablet, but at that point you just have a netbook that costs more and does less than a regular one.
  • Tablets, on the other hand, also can count as this. Sure, they do not have the gaming performance of PCs, but they are much cheaper and still able to perform basic tasks, such as browsing the Internet or playing Youtube videos. Also, nowadays many PC applications, such as the Microsoft Office suite, have tablet-optimized versions that are much cheaper than the PC ones, or even completely free. And of course, they're stupdenously portable and can be carried around in a messenger bag all day.
  • Any and all utilitarian IT standards. ASCII text, for instance, 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.
    • Universal asynchronous receiver/transceivers (UART). Very slow by today's standards, but every freakin' computer system has one and can understand it. Messing with a microcontroller that for some reason doesn't? You can bit bang your own in software easily. And depending on your communication needs, it requires 2-3 wires at the minimum.
    • Serial communication in and of itself. It's boring to send everything one bit at a time. But when you consider that trying to send data in parallel signaling and timing issues that limit how fast you can push data out? Now it becomes practical.
    • 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.
  • For computer cooling, the heatsink and fan. While liquid cooling looks awesome and phase-change cooling sounds like space-age exoticness that cools your processors to freezing temperatures easily, both are really expensive (relatively) and both have inherit problems with moisture (liquid for obvious reasons, phase-change will create condensation around exposed electronics). And the only thing lowering a part's temperature buys you, if you're not hitting thermal thresholds, is lifespan.
  • In a lot of PC technology, it's better to go with the more boring midrange parts at best than going all in for high-end. Why? Various reasons:
    • Everyday use programs are already optimized as best they can to run reasonably well on a wide variety of systems. For example Windows can run on tablets with almost no tweaking as of 2014, which was something unthinkable without serious sacrifices several years prior.
    • For networking, the fastest speeds are usually not standard equipment for years after its introduction. Meaning if you want the fastest network possible, you're going to have to buy peripherals and equipment to take advantage of it.
    • Ultimately, the price to performance ratio diminishes rapidly and various factors beyond your control can kill performance.
    • Even if you are a gamer, most games will run just fine with a moderate-performance PC. You might have to tone back some of the more outstanding visual effects, but they aren't absolutely necessary to enjoy most games, and there is more to a game than just its looks.
  • As with midrange computing hardware, midrange A/V equipment is a better bet than the latest high-end equipment, simply because there's a lot more content for hardware that's been around for a while. There are still way more movies on DVD than there are on Blu-ray and even on Netflix. There's also more HD content designed for 1080p and 720p than for 4K. Indeed, most HD broadcasts are still only 720p because of lack of available bandwidth. For the longest time, there were still more standard definition than HD sets out there as well.
  • A simple can of compressed air can work wonders for a slow PC. Computers will throttle the processor if they get too hot. Laptops, with their cramped spaces, are especially susceptible. Blowing the dust bunnies out of the fan intake and heatsink will have the CPU running at full speed again.

  • 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!


  • 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.
  • 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 transitional 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...
  • Application programming in general uses this trope. While you can make all sorts of obfuscated C or use fancy loops, recursion 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 Times typeface.
    • 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 and Comic Sans. Stylish and easy to read.
    • A note about Comic Sans, it's popular with those starting out on computers because it's interesting. It's hated because it's popular, and seemingly obnoxious. But research suggests, and said research has been made more widely known by popular media, that Comic Sans is good for those with dyslexia.
    • Verdana is also a common and effective typeface for Net text.
    • This site uses Trebuchet (though newer models of hard drives are more likely to display Arial).
  • "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Sure, this might sound lazy, but rebooting fixes so many software issues.
  • This was one of the original goals behind the design of UNIX. The use of data stored in flat ASCII files, simple algorithms and programs built from small components was a breath of fresh air for computer scientists and programmers in the '70s. VMS users laughed at the incomplete features but Unix's simplicity made it very easy to port to new machines. Many programmers still prefer Unix-like systems because the development environment in Microsoft Windows is comically baroque.
    • UNIX's security model is very simple, yet could protect against a wide range of vulnerabilities. Since everything about the computer is treated as a file in UNIX, you have three types of permissions: read, write, and execute (or search in directories). You also had three groups: the owner, the group the owner is in, and everyone else. All of this data can fit into 9-bits and can be represented by three numbers. The concept of the superuser or root user is also very robust. In Unix, users run as normal users and only certain users are allowed to escalate privilege by "going root", typically with the sudo command. Contrast this with Windows XP encouraging users to run as administrator all the time and no "sudo" for administrative tasks. This made XP about as secure as Swiss cheese. Windows effectively emulated sudo with UAC in Vista.
  • While Hollywood Hacking might make breaking computer security look incredibly complicated, one of the most reliable methods is the simple dictionary attack. A dictionary attack simply means trying a list of words as a password. This works surprisingly well because a lot of people use weak passwords and use the same passwords everywhere.
  • Fortunately, computer security is also quite simple. The most important step many security experts recommend is keeping your software updated to close security holes. The other big thing the recommend is using good passwords and unique passwords (with a password manager if possible) to thwart dictionary attacks mentioned above.

Other technological stuff

  • 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, and every single one of them is guaranteed. "It works or we fix it for free" is a trademark of the company.
    • Zippo's creator was inspired by an exchange with an Australian soldier, who he noticed was using an IMCO (a very plain-looking lighter with a stamped metal casing) as opposed to a fancier Ronson. The soldier's response when asked why sums up the trope perfectly: "Because it works, mate."
  • Laboratories might not be the most exciting places on the planet, no matter what Dexter's Laboratory may tell you, but the people who work in them take care of the scientific details that crack the case for those on the front lines.
    • Speaking of laboratories, the invention of glass. It may be fragile and prone to shattering if heated or cooled too quickly (or dropped on the floor) but it conducts heat fairly well, refracts light, is easily cleaned, and cheap to replace. Oh, and it's transparent. A lot of work in science couldn't be done without it. On a more day-to-day level, it's nice being able to look out of windows and let sunlight in without causing a draft.
  • Duct Tape. While what you can do with it is amazing, in and of itself? Not that exciting, but cheap and widely available. Ironically, it's terrible on ducts, since it's not good at handling the rapid and repeated temperature changes.
  • Electric fans. Though not as powerful as air conditioners, they generally provide sufficient cooling, and keep air circurlating, all at a lower operating cost and without the need for tedious construction; you can even get a small battery-operated fan for your desk or to wear around your neck. You also don't need all doors and windows closed for them to function properly.
  • Electric engines are so simple that they were invented before the light bulb. Their efficiency is well above 99% and many of them can run for decades without any needs for shutdown or repairs. The fact that nobody thinks much about them, yet everybody uses them just serves as further proof that they are this trope.
  • The greenhouse or in an even more reduced form just clear plastic spanned over the fields. It is nothing fancy, but it allows growing fruits and vegetables that would not grow as fast or at all in that climate without it. The Netherlands have managed to feed half of Europe based on plastic sheets and greenhouses, even though their tomatoes and cucumbers have the reputation of being nothing but water and tasting of precisely nothing.
  • Drip irrigation is a system so simple yet genius, it's amazing it took so long to be invented. Unlike older types of irrigation, water is not sprayed on the plants from above but released close to the roots from beneath. This can reduce water consumption by up to 90% and greatly reduces problems such as soil salinity which is often a result of doing irrigation wrong.

    Vehicles and Transportation 


  • Regular, ordinary cars in general. 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 such as front and side airbags and proximity sensors that will raise your chances of avoiding or at least surviving an accident more than a sports car will, as most sports cars sacrifice safety features and other luxuries in order to achieve optimum performance.
  • 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. Decent or extraordinary maintenance can turn these older cars into...
    • Used cars may not have the newest features and looks, but they have already suffered the biggest depreciation and their weak and strong points are well-noted.
  • The Citroën 2CV, a small, unassuming car that eventually became France's answer to the Beetle, with over 3.8 million produced (not counting the numerous variants) between 1948 and 1990. This car is so versatile, it can drive almost anywhere. One 2CV drove all the way from Paris to Yokohoma.
  • Minivans (or MPVs, as where you called) may have that "soccer mom" stigma (though Only in America for the most part), but they have the passenger and cargo capacity of an SUV without the gas-guzzling property; granted, a minivan can't go off-road, but if you just need a vehicle for everyday purposes, that isn't necessary. This gains minivans a popular status in Asia and Europe where people use them as family vehicles.
  • Japanese kei cars are small, dismally underpowered and slow at first glance, but they are actually tall and roomy, and they can handle better than most regular cars due to their narrow sizes. Mid-engined kei cars like Honda S660 and Mitsubishi i deserve this mention.
  • 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.
  • Small trackday cars like the Lotus Elise or Caterham 7. They may lack the babe magnet capabilities of sports and super cars, the sheer power numbers of muscle cars and the daily usability of both, but they can beat them on race tracks and winding roads.
  • 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.
  • 90s body-on-frame SUVs also qualify. While new models might have stuff like GPS and leather seats, the old ones have the offroad and hauling capabilities of trucks while being able to carry more people. You also shouldn't forget that running ones can be bought for under $2500 or £1500.
  • Diesel engines fullfill this trope. While they might be less powerful and cool-sounding than petrol ones, they are also more frugal with fuel and have more torque. Audi used the diesel engines to beat 24 Hours of Le Mans.
  • The 2011 Mediocrity is an intentional exaggeration of this trope.
    • This is Toyota through and through, not the best in any field, except maybe and probably reliability.
  • The Ford Crown Victoria model of sedan isn't cutting-edge in style or modern luxuries, but they have a good history as a fleet vehicle, starting a strong economy for third-party replacement parts. If a one is bought from a Police/Taxi sale, there's a good chance that the vehicle had routine maintenance and may be able to take a second owner another 100,000 miles with timely trips to a mechanic. You're friends may not be amazed by your ride, but parking one of these at your residence may scare off trouble-makers who are familiar with the sight of the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. The Crown Vic engine isn't powerful enough to impress sports car fans, but this is partly because the engine is designed to last a while rather than give thrilling acceleration from 0.
  • Simply driving smoothly with gentle applications of the accelerator and brake pedals and keeping your speed at the speed limit on the highway (when traffic conditions allow it) will get you solid fuel efficiency and make you a much safer driver to yourself, your passengers, and drivers around you. Your Drives Like Crazy friends may think you're boring to ride with, but others who ride with you will thank you for being a driver they can trust and ride comfortably with. Similarly, other drivers may give you the stink-eye for driving at what they consider to be a slow speed, but that's why multiple lanes on highways exist.
  • The jerry can (or jerrican). A simple fuel container at the surface, its simplicity betrays a sophisticated nature. It was designed to be operable without a pump, funnels, or a wrench (at least one of which was required by most of its predecessors), and the multiple handles mean that empty cans can be carried two in each hand by a single person, and full ones can be carried by two people at once. The 'X' mark you see on the side is not just for show; it reinforces the sides and allows the contents to expand without warping the container. It's one of the first German technologies adopted by the British in World War II; the Allies often used jerrycans in place of their own fuel containers whenever they could acquire them. Even now, the jerry can design has been used in more civilian goods, like liquid detergent and gasoline cans.
  • Motorcycles 500cc and below (We're looking at you, Piaggio Vespa scooters). Sure they're not high speed powerhouses like the Suzuki Hayabusa or a badass bike like a Harley Davidson in the 1200cc range, but they're light, can reach sufficiently fast highway speeds, are easier to handle (weight being part of it, not being twitchy being the other), and are insanely efficient (250cc bikes can routinely achieve 80MPG, 500cc bikes maintain a Prius worthy 55MPG). There's a reason why many motorcyclists suggest new riders to get something in that range.


  • In the days when the Cool Train was hauled by steam, the most common and useful steam locomotive was the 0-6-0 goods engine (think Donald and Douglas from The Railway Series). The long boiler allowed the locomotive to build up a lot of steam and conserve it, so the locomotive would not need to be cold-started every time it needed to move. As all the wheels were driving wheels, the locomotive had a lot of tractive effort for its weight. It had more adhesion than the 0-4-0, but could go more places than the 0-8-0. The 0-6-0 was not fast, but it was a powerful little machine, and every country that used steam locomotives used the 0-6-0. Examples would be the New South Wales Z19, the Prussian G 3, the Caledonian 812, the LMS Fowler 4F, the GWR Dean Goods, the North Eastern 1001 class, the North British C Class, and the USRA 0-6-0. The NSWGR Z19 class was in service for almost a CENTURY.
    • 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 . 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.
  • The Glasgow subway system: No one gets lost.


  • The Russian Soyuz spacecraft are often derided as being crappy, 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 (its use of liquid oxygen meant it could only be kept on standby for a day at most, and it required guidance from ground stations that presumably wouldn't last long during a full-scale nuclear war). 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.
    • The Soyuz's three-part designnote  is actually considered superior in some ways to the two-part Apollo design (the less of the ship that returns, the less mass is needed for the heat shield and retro-rockets).
  • One of the reasons that the Russians have made so many of the space firsts. They have used sturdy and robust system, with simplified electronics as opposed to the bleeding edge of their US and European counterparts. So, end result, a slight frost the night before a lunch doomed the Challenger. Russians routinely launch in blizzards.
    • As Richard Feynman pointed out it wasn't a failure of Awesome, yet Impractical tech that doomed the Challenger, but the desire to lower costs by cutting corners and using sub-par materials, allowing outright broken components to be within "tolerable stresses," and endless politics and outright lies about the safety of space travel that caused the Challenger disaster
    • The Apollo program was an exception to the traditional "bells and whistles" US approach. Hardware was simple and reliable. It routinely performed above specifications. Apollo 12 was launched during a thunderstorm and was struck by lightning twice, but still got Conrad, Bean, and Worden to the Moon. The Saturn I, IB, and V are the only space launch vehicles never to have suffered a major failure in service.
  • 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.
  • 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-joints 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. In other words, what the Russians always did.


  • The most common style of exit between a freeway and a surface street is the "diamond", a simple construct that doesn't require an excessive amount of space, channelized ramps, or extra bridges. Just four ramps providing full access in all directons.
  • In the U.S., the Interstate Highway System. The single largest government project in world history, a network of precisely engineered high-speed, high-volume superhighways connecting every major population center, manufacturing center, farm and natural resource. Available to everybody who owns a car (which in the US is very close to everybody period), all the time, mostly without tolls, restrictions, or checkpoints/barriers. Of course building and maintaining it is a political nightmare, precisely because of the boring but practical nature of routine repairs and the tax- and fee-averseness of virtually all Americans. The gas tax (which is supposed to cover all highway costs and never did) was last raised under President Bill Clinton and is a fixed cent amount, not a percentage. Go figure.
    • There's also the even older system of United States Numbered Highways (i.e. US Routes). It's more than three times as long as the Interstates and was built after World War I to address the transportation issues the US faced during World War I. It currently connects all but the most remote parts of the Continental US to each other. If a US Route can't get you there, one will at least get you close. In some instances, a US Route is the only paved road directly connecting two communities.
  • Paved surfaces in general. They support the weight of heavy vehicles and equipment far better than dirt or gravel roads or grass will, and they don't turn into mud when it rains. Entire armies have been destroyed and the course of wars changed because of troops and supplies getting bogged down in the mud at some key moment instead of being able to get to where they needed to be.
    • In addition, when you are dealing with airplanes, paved airfield surfaces can not only support heavier aircraft, but are also much safer (an airplane getting a wheel stuck in the mud while trying to land can have catastrophic results). Once you have a paved runway, it's nice to have some place solid to park the plane so it won't sink or get stuck while it's parked, whether this means a concrete or asphalt apron or just a simple hard stand, just big enough to rest the plane's wheels on. Also remember that planes usually launch and land flying into the wind for aerodynamic reasons, and that any plane taxiing up the runway will block any other planes from using it, and consider the simple expedient of installing a taxiway parallel to the runway, meaning planes can land, pull off the runway, and sedately taxi to their parking spaces without holding up the landing pattern.
    • Similar to paved surfaces, solid foundations for buildings. A large concrete slab, despite being fairly heavy itself, will much better distribute the weight of a building over a wide area, meaning you will have less issues with the ground settling beneath it and possibly causing the structure to fail. Even tents can be vastly improved by laying a solid surface to built them on (in addition to concrete, wooden platforms and metal mats can be used for this).
  • Numbered and single-letter streets are often not the most fancily-named streets, but they have the side utility of being usable as rough indicators of distance. For example, if you're on a street called 1st Street and your friend tells you to meet up with them on a street called 15th Street, you know right away that you need to travel 15 blocks, rather than having to consult a map.


  • Plain bicycles can be this. They are typically inexpensive compared to other types of bicycle (or many vehicles) but they are very practical. Most are hassle-free vehicles (no registration nor licenses are required, just buy and use straight out of store), versatile, environment-friendly, and easily repaired. Although limited by users' strength, they are versatile enough to navigate both pedestrian space and motor traffic. Throughout Europe it is often faster to take a bike than any other mode of transport in major cities. In cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen every class and age group will bike to work and leisure activities. A cheap bike costs less than a tank of gas and lasts for years if taken good care of. Most repairs can be done by every moderately competent mechanic.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 G260PUM, 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.
  • 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.
  • When new aircraft and vehicles are introduced you may notice they look just like... planes and cars, with no wild, amazing, exciting concept designs. The problem is we've already found the best aerodynamic shapes for these things, and to vary too much would harm fuel efficiency. So yep, it's the same-old-same-old, but still incredibly practical.
  • The standard issue American yellow school bus. They are neither fast nor flashy, yet incredibly sturdy and many of them have taken a second (or third) career carrying passengers of all ages throughout the "third world". If the alternative would be walking, you tend to appreciate a simple technology that can take a licking and carry on ticking well beyond their designed lifespan.
  • Public transportation. Transports countless passengers every day to their destinations en masse, eases traffic congestion on major roads since passengers are keeping cars off the road, and for passengers who cannot drive (either due to the costs of buying a car or being unfit to get a license), a good public transit system helps them get around without having to rely on friends or expensive taxis for rides. If you can get a seat on public transit, you can do things that you can't behind the wheel, such as homework, reading books, and messaging your friends. In areas where traffic congestion practically turns streets into parking lots, a good metro system may be the only way to get where you want at a reasonable speed.
  • The cargo container has radically transformed shipping over the last 60 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.
    • To put this in perspective: one of the many difficulties the US, particularly the Navy, faced during WWII was loading cargo and munitions on ships in a timely manner. (As you can see above, the US was busy shipping a lot of cargo overseas to allied forces and its own.) There were two serious proposals that would speed things up over the time-honored "have a guy lift it onto the boat" — hydraulic power-assist gear, and standardized shipping containers. Take a wild guess which one they chose to pursue.
    • It also vastly reduced the amount of cargo lost to damages and "damages" (read: theft by the crew) during transport.

    Food and drink 
  • 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.)
    • Soups and stews as well. The ultimate in simple recipes (put available food in pot with water and cook) can use nearly any ingredients, cooks decently quickly, feeds many, is very healthy and filling (depending on the ingredients), and nearly anyone can make it. But unless you use a recipe, don't expect to be blown away by the flavor. That said, some excellent recipes for soups and stews can be found; Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" was based on a real person whose soups really were that good.
  • 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. Even if you don't have a specialized rice cooker, cooking rice is still a simple matter of adding rice and water to a pot and boiling it for several minutes.
    • 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).
      • Add in some beans and you have the world's most inexpensive complete protein. Complete proteins are absolutely vital in a person's diet, since everything in a person is made out of one protein or another. Most of Central America relies on rice and beans (under various names, which one you chose is Serious Business) as their staple food. Add a bit of spices and side dishes (e.g. an egg) and you have a meal that is both filling and surprisingly tasty if nothing fancy.
  • Noodles. Just like rice, they go well with a whole host of sauces or seasonings. Anyone for some spaghetti?
  • Potatoes, as well. They don't look like much, but they did save Europe from continuous famine for quite some time. They are much more energy dense than traditional staples foods (you get 17.8 million Calories per acre for potatoes, compared to 6.4 million Calories per acre for wheat), thus allowing the same plot of land to feed three-times more people.
    • 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...)
    • Fun fact: You can get almost all the nutrients you need from a diet of just potatoes and milk, in the right quantities. It would be a very bland and monotonous diet, but you wouldn't die or get any serious deficiencies except for molybdenum, which you only need tiny amounts of anyway.
  • Tap water. Doesn't look very fancy and tastes pretty bland. But it's far less expensive than bottled water or 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.
    • The two most expedient way to clean water for drinking? Boil it for a few minutes, use it to cook, brew a hot drinks, and clean things. Can't boil it? Poor some booze in it, preferable high proof spirits, and stir. 25ml of something like vodka can make an entire quart of water safe, because the ethanol kills bacteria and protozoa, which are the primary waterborne nasties that make people sick.
    • Water in general is this. Most people don't think much of it, but it can generate renewable electricity, is a powerful industrial solvent, can save lives in a pinch, clean tools and wounds, be a measuring device, etc. Combined with a bit of that human ingenuity there is very little that water can't do. If you want to get decidedly impractical, water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen. If you can separate it, you have the stuff stars run on. Which is more readily available and safer than radioactive elements like Uranium.
      • And on the subject of hygeine, flossing. If you floss after a meal, which is something quite easy to do considering you probably have bits of food in your teeth anyways, it removes more gunk between your teeth than brushing, and also helps with bad breath (a la bacteria on your tongue and rotting food in your teeth.) It'll also stave off problems like gingivitis. There's a reason dentists recommend it. Speaking of dentists, they do actually tell you to floss more even if you do floss regularly if they cause your gums to bleed, probably because it's a safe explanation, and it is very unlikely to lead people to sue.
  • 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.
    • And it can be filled and dressed with almost anything you can think of.
  • Salads are inherently low-calorie (thanks to lettuce being mostly water), and are extremely customizable; dressings, fruits, veggies, meats, and the like (all in moderated quantities, of course) can help add taste to a healthy bowl of lettuce.
  • Everyone in the whole world knows the absolute importance of food in everyday life. But what is just as important as food is the taste and smell of it. People are very likely to consume and enjoy foods that smell good and taste good than they are to consume foods that have no flavor at all or have offensive odors and tastes. Because of this, the manufacturing and distribution of flavors and spices is an international industry that brings in billions of dollars.
    • Expanding on that: salt. It was worth its weight in gold for a long time due to its ability to flavor and preserve food before refrigeration and other methods of chemical preservation, purposes it is still widely used for today.
  • Canned foods and MREs. Sure, they don't taste too well and are not as healthy as their freshly-made equivalents, but can withstand years of storage and do not need any preparations before eating.
    • Instant foods also qualify. Sure, they are not the tastiest things around and are not considered good for your health, but they are cheap and easy to prepare.
  • Coffee and tea may not be very sweet on their own, but they are popular sources of caffiene that pack less than 5 calories per cup, allowing even those on a low-calorie diet to enjoy them, and can be prepared to be hot or cold.
    • In Britain before the days of water treatment, many people died of waterborne diseases and parasites. When tea and coffee started to get imported, general health improved as people were boiling their water before they drank it. That's right, the cup of brew was a genuine lifesaver.

    Lifestyle and Work 

Daily Life

  • Generally, "If something looks stupid but it works, then it's NOT stupid." ~ One of the additional rules on Murphy's Law
  • The "Wash" method of shuffling cards. It's not pretty, it's slower than other techniques, looks decidedly amateurish 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.
  • Regular, comfortable clothes. Spend a few months rehearsing/acting in a corset, hoop-skirt and high heels if you don't believe so.
    • 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.
  • Sweatpants are anything but associated with sharp fashion sense, but they're comfortable, let the skin breathe easily, and quite versatile—they can be used for running, lounging around the house, sleeping, and even everyday out-of-the-house wear.
    • Yoga pants have all this and are reasonably acceptable for wear in casual social situations without throwing an immediate impression of slovenliness.
  • The Jacket: It's just a piece of fabric fitted for human use with sleeves, but good lord is it truly useful, you can take it off much easier indoors, and for people in colder climates, where Jackets often become large, bulky masses meant to keep you from freezing over, can really make things easier, as indoors the temperature can rise by 20 degrees or more. Just try not taking it off and see what happens.
  • The technology that made the jacket as we know it possible: the button. A simple piece of material attached to an item of clothing which goes through a corresponding hole. Despite the simplicity, it revolutionized clothing when it was invented in 13th-century Europe; you could now make snug-fitting clothing that would keep you warm through the cold winters much more easily. Earlier fasteners, like laces, tended to leave an open space that let the air in; not so with buttons.
  • Education. Regardless of how you get it (e.g. self-teaching, an institution, or getting homeschooled), skills such as reading, writing, and basic mathematics are of the most important things you need to function well in life and contribute to society.
    • Public universities and community colleges, while lacking the small class sizes, accommodations, and prestige of their private counterparts, still provide helpful courses with reasonable financial returns while also offering lower tuition fees (the average public college in US has a tuition of $9,410 compared to the $32,405 of most private colleges). In fact, many public colleges have higher return-on-investments than even some private colleges.note 
  • 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.
    • Besides, there's half-price sales and seasonal blowouts to help you out with those toys you're dreaming of. Patience pays off.


  • Work in general. Sure, it's boring and tedious for many people (though some people have jobs that they genuinely enjoy), but it's how you make money to pay for your needs, and almost everything we enjoy or need is created or improved by it.
  • 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. Almighty Janitor exists as a trope for a reason.
    • To give you an idea of the effectiveness of these workers, the Bolshevik Revolution had famous leaders like Lenin and Trotsky who preferred being revolutionaries and didn't care as much for the paperwork and bureaucracy. They handed it off to a volunteer named Stalin, who proceeded to use the incredible powers delegated him to become a political powerhouse who took control of Russia even after Lenin specifically wrote that he shouldn't be given that power. Remember, Stalin's official position was General Secretary. It may not be as grand a rise to power as a fast-paced presidential campaign, revolution, or Awesome Moment of Crowning, but it worked.
  • Want to make sure something goes right? Come up with a list of steps you need to accomplish a task, write them down in order, and then get working on the task, crossing off each step once it is completed. Congratulations, you have invented the checklist. 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 '10s, 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.
  • This is the fundamentals of Risk Management. Every course of action will have a low, medium, or high risk along with low, medium, or high benefit.
    • Ideally, you will want the low risk-high benefit option. Failing that, you should take low risk-medium benefit one. Failing even that, go for the low risk-low benefit option.
    • Whenever you're thinking of taking medium or high risk, you should ask yourself whether you can tank the losses/escape relatively unscathed if your course of action backfires/fails.
    • If your answer for the question above is "yes", then the risk factor has dropped from medium/high to low, and you can safely take the option.
    • In short, never take medium risk, let alone high, as by that point you are taking an uncertain gamble. Only take such options when it has become a safe gamble, aka low risk.
  • Food prep may be seen as bottom-of-the-barrel for those with high-paying salaried jobs, but those who work in food prep, particularly in restaurants/eateries, are why you can just pony up cash to have food made for you instead of having to do it yourself.


  • Clear and plain writing.
  • Letter-based alphabets such as Cyrillic and Latin are this compared to languages who have different characters for each word, such as Japanese and Chinese dialects. While Hanzi and Kanji are beautiful ways to convey language, there are thousands of each, and they are all specific to the angle of each stroke. Simple combinations of letters are dull and repetitive, but are far easier to memorize and write down.
    • Korean hangeul combines the letter-based simplicity of the aforementioned Western alphabets with the phonetic properties of Japanese and Chinese. It looks as elegant as other Asian languages, but without the need to look up how every individual character block is read. Once you learn some fairly consistent alphabet rules, you realize that each block actually tells you how to read it.
  • Learning a few of the most common foreign languages. Sure, speaking Irish Gaelic or Uigur might be nice to brag at parties with, but if you want to be able to communicate with most of the world, you should opt for Spanish, Mandarin (Chinese), English or one of the other "world languages". If you can read Mandarin, you won't have problems making yourself understood to any literate Chinese, even if they speak e.g. Cantonese. If you speak Spanish, you will be able to make rudimentary conversation with Portuguese speakers and might even understand what Italians are saying. English is so widespread that its advantages are probably not even worth mentioning. Arab and French together cover most of Africa that English does not and if you're lost even with them, try a regional language like Swahili (East Africa). Even in places where English is not the official language, enough people are fluent that you will probably be able to get by even if you aren't fluent in one of the other common languages.

  • 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 the other three 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.
  • 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.
    • The same logic extends to the translations themselves. Professional anime subtitles also get a lot of flak from fansubbers for actually translating Japanese into English and leaving out things like Japanese Honorifics (although sub companies generally do include them when relevant to the plot) and rendering names in the "Firstname Lastname" Western style. Professional sub companies want to make anime videos accessible to as wide an audience as possible that includes people who aren't necessarily familiar with the Japanese language or Japanese culture rather than pandering to Occidental Otaku.
  • 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.
  • 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 Elephant 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."
  • Even here on this very website! There are two factions: SPOONs note  and FoRKS note . The former want trope names to be as simple and understandable as possible, making them this trope. The latter, by contrast, want trope names to be as funny or witty as possible, even if they don't make obvious sense, making it more Awesome, but Impractical. There's also PLATTERs and KNIVES who think the whole argument is stupid.
  • The doll. One of the oldest and most universal toys ever conceived, it doesn't seem nearly as spectacular an innovation as discovering fire or crafting the stone ax, yet it revolutionized child care by giving young children something to safely try out social interactions with. Compare that to other social primates, in which subadult females can only practice infant care by stealing actual infants away from their mothers - a risky situation for baby and young female, alike - and youngsters of both sexes are smacked around by their elders if they commit a faux pas. But dolls don't die if mishandled and don't hit back if your play gets too rough. Plus, learning to regard dolls as substitute-playmates gave the human imagination a jump-start.
  • In the some spots of very remote Sahara Desert, camels are these. While those pre-2000 Toyota pickup are easy to maintain, faster, cheap and robust, those still need constant fuel to to operate and particular skill to fix. The prospect if they broke down and none nearby can't repair it also gives the travelers some worries. The first problem can be tackled by bringing loads of fuel and spare tires but it also decrease the free load weight. Meanwhile while slow and hold less shipping (individually), camels don't need to feed and drink everyday and the fact that it's used for millennia are proof of its practicality.
  • 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.