Break Out the Museum Piece
take an old steam engine out of the museum.
"Still purrs, like it was yesterday."
Cutting-edge technology is usually superior to the older stuff. But sometimes heroes can't use the latest equipment: it may have been destroyed, stolen, confiscated, or rendered inoperable (or obsolete
) by the enemy's Applied Phlebotinum
or the Alien Space Bats
. So what do they do? They take the older stuff out of storage and make do with it. And more often than not, the ancient devices still work just fine.
May lead to Chekhov's Gun
or Chekhov's Exhibit
, if said museum piece has been noted earlier in the plot. Sometimes said museum piece is a Super Prototype
that was too costly for mass production.
This trope is about using old equipment. When an old paradigm beats a new one (like pitfalls versus Humongous Mecha
), it's Rock Beats Laser
. When older equipment is better, it's They Don't Make Them Like They Used To
when standards decline within a civilization, but Older Is Better
when an older civilization or some flavor of Precursors
are involved; in either case an Archaeological Arms Race
can ensue. In SF settings, it's very possible that Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better
. If the museum piece is used with something newer it's Retro Upgrade
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Anime and Manga
- The Mote in God's Eye: When the three midshipmen are trapped on Mote Prime, they find a museum and use the weapons stored in it to fight attacking Motie Warriors. Justified because the museum was designed to keep weapons (and other items) in working order for future use when Mote civilization fell.
- In the Known Space novel Destiny's Forge, the kzinti have a form of internal warfare called skalazaal that requires all weapons used to be muscle-powered. When skalazaal is declared against the ruling clan, rendering their fancy lasers and railguns useless, Tskombe at one point spots their soldiers actually hauling an old trophy catapult out of the Hall of Victory to use against the invaders.
- H. G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895). While exploring a far future museum, the Time Traveller discovers that most of the items are useless. However, he breaks a lever off a machine for use as a club and finds a box of matches and a lump of camphor that he uses to make fire and light.
- In one of the ST:TOS Lost Years novels, A Flag Full Of Stars desk-bound post-series/pre-TMP Kirk uses the refitted Space Shuttle Enterprise to aid new 1701 CO Will Decker, commanding the in-the-midst-of-refit starship.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel "Crossover" Scotty steals a century-old Constitution-class starship to rescue Spock from the Romulans. It's nonetheless a better choice than any other Federation ship, because it still has the cloaking device that Kirk's crew stole from the Romulans in The Enterprise Incident. Bonus points for having the Yorktown refit with the bridge of the original Enterprise for the museum. Also, Scotty made sure not to make the same mistake as in the third film. This time, he routed all the controls through a 24th-century shuttle computer, which worked just fine. Unfortunately, the Romulans have upgraded their sensors within the last century and spot him pretty quickly. At least, after they realize what type of cloaking device is being used and calibrate their sensors accordingly; the old 23rd-century cloaking device apparently has completely different operating principles than the 24th-century versions.
- Museum-ship battleships are also pulled out of mothballs to provide the weapons to fight aliens in Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.
- Every Dirk Pitt novel ever made has one of these in it. In one, it's a old Ford Trimotor. In another, an old steam paddle boat saving the president. In another, its an old French legion fort.The list just goes on.
- The Seventh Carrier series of novels by Peter Albano features a WW2 Japanese aircraft carrier and its planes that had been frozen in a glacier, fighting a war against an Arab alliance after a Chinese SDI system goes haywire and starts shooting down anything with a rocket or jet engine, rendering more modern weaponry useless. To escort the carrier, the Japanese pull the pre-WW1 battleship Mikasa out of museum-ship mothballs.
- From the Legacy of the Aldenata series of novels by John Ringo:
- Museum ships like old battleships are reactivated and upgraded to fight the invading alien Posleen. A WW2 cruiser, the USS Des Moines, is brought back into service and upgraded with Galactic Federation tech to help secure the Panama Canal region in Yellow Eyes
- Elderly retired soldiers are rejuvenated with tech from more friendly alien allies to fight as young soldiers again. The "rejuv" treatment become a major part of the plot, especially when they run out before the enlisted men are called into action, leaving the U.S. military top-heavy with officers. In Watch on the Rhine, the Germans break out the Nazis, albeit under protest.
- The Dresden Files:
- Harry Dresden drives a classic VW Beetle because his magic wreaks havoc on modern cars' ECUs.
- During Dead Beat, he breaks out a literal museum piece: Sue, the most complete T. Rex skeleton found. He reanimates it as a zombie and rides it into battle. Literally 'older is better' in this case; a zombie's power is determined by its age. The oldest the antagonists have is Civil War era. Sue is 65 million years old...
- World War Z:
- The population of Britain (and various other European countries) apparently do quite well against the zombies, despite the lack of privately owned guns. Instead, they hole up in old castles and use the medieval weaponry in them. The quiet, middle-aged, academic type interviewed in the book is carrying a two-handed sword.
- Other examples show up in the book. Grenades and flechette rounds do little to stop the zombies... but a modified trenching tool for up-close wetwork does wonders.
- This is how the Russians survive the war — by breaking out their mountains of mothballed Cold War equipment (some of it dating back to World War II, even) to fight with.
- In The Zombie Survival Guide, Brooks recommends bolt-action rifles and the Shaolin Spade to be some of the best weapons against zombies, the former because they are less prone to jamming than automatic weapons, and do not waste ammo in a panic, and the latter because it has the reach of any long bladed weapon, but has practical uses such as digging a hole to plant seeds or for a latrine. As in the Real Life entries below, the bolt-action rifles are the most reliable repeating firearms in poor weather and maintenance conditions.
- In the Hyperion Cantos one of the characters owns a gun that's been in her family for generations and gets described as ancient. Eventually it becomes apparent that while the gun is very old from the character's point of view it's actually a very advanced piece of technology.
- In The Salvation War museums and private collections across America are looted of any exhibits that are able to be returned to service. Particularly aircraft and armored vehicles. This is actually Real Life since provisions to do just that are included in national mobilization plans.
- Court Martial by Sven Hassel. Tiny and Porta find an ancient 104mm field piece hidden in a Russian barn and decide to shoot it off. At that moment the NKVD decide to attack in motorised sledges, and a couple get blown up before the barn burns down around them.
- Star Wars, the two Expanded Universe Medstar novels, by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry. A planet rich in biological wonders is a little too excessive with plant life. Modern technology just tends to get eaten or rusted or worse, so the characters have to survive on much more primitive technology and ideas. Plus, the Force.
- S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series posits the sudden worldwide breakdown of all advanced technology. Civilization swiftly collapses, and the survivors have to make do with what low-tech tools are available while re-adapting to a medieval technological level. Early in the first book, Dies the Fire, characters do take equipment literally from a museum, or, rather, a living history exhibit, which justifies why it's been kept in working order.
- The premise behind the Choose Your Own Adventure book The Last Battledroid is that the galaxy is at peace, few standing armies are left, and the only thing that can stop the Big Bad is the single remaining Samurai-class battledroid currently residing in the museum. A nice touch is that you have to roll for its stats at the start, to see how badly the droid has deteriorated over the centuries.
- The eponymous corps of Joel Rosenberg's Metsada Mercenary Corps series are forbidden by convention from using military technology more advanced than the enemies they've been hired to fight (thus, they use spears and shields against a Bronze Age culture, muskets against a 17th century level culture, etc.). The protagonist's uncle in Not For Glory, the third book in the series, is renowned for his skill at using the limited equipment he sneaks past the shrewd inspectors to the maximum advantage. Against the Bronze Age opponents mentioned, he jury-rigs hang-gliders out of the tents he is permitted to bring, giving his forces aerial superiority.
- In Gone with the Wind, Ashley mentions that his soldiers have to fight the Northerners with muskets from the American Revolutionary War. One of the cases where it doesn't help the protagonists.
- In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, LEP has to resort to using a few outdated electric guns after Opal upgrades every weapon and vehicle in the fleet. Then triggers the secret modification that renders them all useless.
- Honor Harrington keeps a number of old-fashioned combustion-based pistols that she frequently practices with. Comes in handy when she has to meet with a pirate overlord who insists that she and her crew come unarmed. His scanners show that they don't have any modern pulser guns but were unable to detect the replica Colt M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol hidden in her briefcase.
- In the later books, The Solarian League realizes too late that they are doing this. It has been so long since they fought in a war that many of their frontline starships are older than their crews, predating several iterations of Game Breaker advances in weapons, technology, and battle doctrine.
- Done literally in the Starfist series, where heavy armored vehicles went out of style three centuries ago due to the availability of the Straight Arrow, an extremely lightweight and portable shoulder-fired rocket that could defeat any thickness of armor you could reasonably put on anything meant to move. When someone starts building tanks again, they have to dig Straight Arrows out of the museums so they can make copies.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan's Curse, Annabeth's father (a history professor) rescues the heroes with a Sopwith Camel. Firing celestial bronze bullets.
- Happens in The Railway Series during the story "Old Faithful". Sir Handel is having to do everything because Peter Sam is having some minor repairs done. Then he gets derailed, leaving him unsuitable for any more pulling that day. They have no choice but to use Skarloey, who had been retired to a side shed when Sir Handel and Peter Sam arrived, to pull the afternoon train. Skarloey is old and decrepit, but he gets the job done regardless even after a spring in the front of his frame breaks. Afterwards he is sent off to be overhauled and comes back good as new, and has gained Sir Handel's respect.
- Stewart Cowley's Terran Trade Authority universe features this trope in the Laguna Wars in Great Space Battles. The centrally controlled human battlefleet is vulnerable to the Lagunans' control-systems disorientation weapon and the manual backup systems are grossly suboptimal, so the mothball fleet of a previous era - actually designed for independent manual control - is hauled out of retirement. In the last-ditch defence of Earth against a powerful enemy fleet, the disorientation device is destroyed and the modern ships win the day, but when they push into enemy territory they find that the ultimate strategic victory has already been won by the museum fleet.
- Specifically, the old ships successfully blockaded the importation of a necessary substance, which turned out to be a fungicide that was the only thing keeping the Lagunan capitol world habitable. The Lagunans had the choice to go out with a bang or a whimper, and their attack on Earth was the last "fuck you" in a war they'd already lost - by the time it had begun, every Lagunan on the homeworld was dead.
- In Valentin Pikul's novel Wealth, set during the Russo-Japanese War, the protagonist, governor of remote Kamchatka, faces a Japanese landing with only a handful of Cossacks under his command. What does he do? Breaks out some old 1860s Berdan rifles from an abandoned army depot and arms a militia with these guns.
- Doc Savage: 'Long Tom' Roberts got his nickname when he used an ancient cannon - known as a Long Tom - that had been on display in the town square to successfully defend a town during World War One.
- Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast. When Mr. Ito finds Lummox eating his cabbages, he grabs a relic of the Fourth World War known as a "tank-killer" that was handed down to him by his grandfather. He fires it at Lummox, which doesn't harm her but does drive her away.
- In Ghost Fleet by Christopher Anvil, an old museum ship is used as the flagship of a deception fleet. As things turn out, it includes a shield against a long-obsolete weapons system — and the enemy's latest secret weapon turns out to be based on the same principles.
- In the Wing Commander novels, this is the primary method of both the Border Worlds Militia and the Free Landreich Republic Navy for arming themselves. While the Border Worlds could count on support from the Terran Confederation, being located in the border region between the Confederation and the Kilrathi Empire, the Landreich was located on a more tertiary front and largely relied on Refuge in Audacity to fend for themselves.
- When the BWM ends up in a (short-lived) shooting war with the Terran Confederation in The Price of Freedom, this trope gets deconstructed as the well-equiped Confed forces tend to steamroller over the Border Worlder forces until they are able to liberate some modern hardware. They only fare as well as they do because many of their pilots are battle-hardened veterans of the Kilrathi War, and because their ships, while very obsolete, have also seen some extensive upgrades.
- "The Probable Man", a 1941 short story by Alfred Bester, has a traveler to an After the End world reviving a forgotten Diesel dump-truck "tractor" that had been preserved in a museum, using it as a makeshift armored fighting vehicle.
- While not technically museum pieces, in the Jack Ryan novel The Bear and the Dragon, the Russians, being invaded by the Chinese, call up their reserves and put them in vintage-yet-pristine, never-before-used T-34 tanks. While the T-34 was the best, most powerful tank of its day, its day was World War 2, and despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of them, no one knows if their outdated weapons will even be effective against the Chinese T-90 tanks. They then prove that they are, by catching the Chinese after cutting their supply lines and utterly immolating them with minimal losses.
- In Make Room! Make Room!, the police force in the decaying and effectively isolated New York City use a decommissioned school bus, gas masks, and tear grenades they took out of a closed war museum to put down a riot.
Live Action TV
- BattleTech plays with this. First, during the LosTech era, recovered ancient war machines may actually be superior to currently-produced models because they're still equipped with parts nobody knows how to make anymore. (This is what made finding old Star League caches such a big deal to everybody, to say nothing of ComStar having secretly stashed away a whole army of old designs and waiting for the right moment to deploy them.) On the other hand, well-designed 'Mechs from that time can still give more 'modern' ones a run for their money, especially if the modern design uses a lighter but more vulnerable advanced engine.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Most of the really cool stuff is at least ten thousand years old, from Baneblades to Titans to miles-long battle cathedrals (IN SPACE!).
- The Imperium used to know how to make lightsaber-like swords (Eisenhorn owned one in book 1), but today they're stuck with ordinary metal swords charged with disruptor fields.
- Not to mention the fact that the Eldar, Dark Eldar, and Necrons are still using hardware from before the ancestors of humanity ever crawled out of the primordial soup.
- Starfleet Battles
- The Romulans have a couple of sublight ship designs (ships unable to maneuver faster than light in battle because they simply don't have warp engines at all) more than 80 years after everyone else has warp powered ships. These remain in service through the entire period of the game, and form the bulk of the Romulan fleet and many of the support ships for much of the game's timeline, receiving technology upgrades all along the way.
- The Federation keeps it's old (as in, first Romulan war era, decades before the main period of the game) cruisers in service (upgraded to warp power and now classed as light cruisers) for a variety of support roles. (The fact that these are among the few Federation warships that can land on a planet makes them particularly valuable as ground troop transports and medical ships.)
- And in case you want to seriously break out the genuine museum pieces, you can get Module Y: The Early Years, which covers the early warp powered ships, and Module Q: Sublight Battles, which covers the period before warp driven ships.
- This is practically mandatory for the aspiring Vampire Hunter in Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem. In both games, vampires are fully dead animated corpses, which means they don't actually NEED things like their kidneys or liver, and they don't bleed out... which means bullets more or less just go right through them, and only deal Bashing damage because they're not actually doing that much damage to the vampire's essential parts... and vampires have a Healing Factor to boot. (That said, a headshot will do the trick just fine, they need their brain.) Whereas bladed weapons, like a sword, actually cut and sever flesh and tendons and tend to be more hindering, doing Lethal damage. (That, and severed limbs are much harder for a vampire to heal then a simple gash.)
- The Journeyman Project 3: All the time jump suits were deactivated for some political reason, so the only time suit left was a super secret prototype the hero wasn't even supposed to know about.
- This example also counts as an aversion to the trope as the old time machine was reactivated, but it was noted that this old machine was too cumbersome to start up again, and they were in a hurry.
- In Fallout 3, you can find Abraham Lincoln's personal rifle (along with his hat) in the National History Museum. It's one of the best weapons in the game.
- And despite the fact that there are rare, futuristic and powerful laser and plasma weapons, often the best weapons at your disposal are still a good old-fashioned revolver, hunting rifle or assault rifle, for which you will find plenty of ammo lying around.
- Furthermore, you also have to retrieve the transmitter dish from a literal museum-piece spacecraft to restore Galaxy News Radio's broadcast range.
- The T-51b Power Armor in Fort Constantine, which you help Mr. Crowley gain access to in the quest "Shoot 'Em in the Head".
- Completing Operation: Anchorage grants you access to a treasure trove of unique pre-War gear, including a Chinese stealth suit, a Gauss rifle, and an non-degrading version of the aforementioned T-51b.
- The Left 4 Dead 2 survivors escape Savannah, Georgia in a borrowed 1970's racecar on display at the mall.
- They have to gas it up first, however, so that plot hole is filled. Why there are over a dozen canisters of gasoline scattered around a mall undergoing renovation is anyone's guess, though.
- In Ultima VII, you return to Britannia so long after the events of the prior game that all of the loot from your Bag of Spilling has ended up in a museum, and nobody will believe you're the Avatar.
- In Red Dead Redemption 's single-player DLC, Undead Nightmare, Nigel West Dickens gives you a blunderbuss (about half-a-century past its prime) for doing a few
shopping trips missions for him. Don't worry that there's no conventional ammo for it, you can just stuff zombie parts in it, and it's actually more effective at neutralizing (read: gibbing) zombies
- This sort of thing qualifies as Truth in Television. Properly cared for, a firearm can and will last for a very long time. Fifty years is nothing. Oh, and the blunderbuss is not picky in the least about what you feed it, provided that it gets enough powder to wash it down with.
- A major plot point in Metal Gear Solid 4, when the only ship under the control of the US forces after Ocelot hijacks their DRM is the USS Missouri, which had literally been in a museum until its license expired and it was retrofitted with VR elements for training purposes. Mei Ling is its captain, despite being an analyst with no battle experience who is unwilling even to shoot a robotic Dwarf Gekko. Snake also reactivates Metal Gear Rex for the penultimate battle with Ocelot's Ray.
- The Taneshigama of 4 and Peace Walker, a 'relic from the age of the Samurai'. In 4, it summons tornados which drop items and ammo, and in Peace Walker it shoots tornados which kidnap soldiers.
- In Super Robot Wars Original Generation, several museum-pieces pop up as 'Secret' Humongous Mecha, rewards for fulfilling more-or-less insane requirements. In almost every case, they're extremely powerful, often Hand Waved as being a Super Prototype, or having been retired originally due to being too powerful to handle. Perhaps the crown of it is the Gespenst 001 - the very-first prototype of the very-first Humongous Mecha designed in the world. For comparison, by the time of the first OG game, the basic Red Shirt mecha is the mass-produced Gespenst MK-II - the weakest machine you'll ever lay your hands on. And yet, the 001 is capable of keeping up with state-of-the-art Super Robots...
- The 001 you use is a rebuilt version courtesy of the local Human Aliens. And considering that the entire Gespenst series are inferior copies of Gilliam Yeager's Super Robot / Eldritch Abomination XN Giest from Hero Senki, the closest copy should be a top-tier Super Robot.
- In one of the most literal sense, Nuclear Strike has you break out an AH-1 Cobra from a museum in Pyongyang. While the AH-1 is still used worldwide and ingame, you were initially flying a lightly armed news chopper for clandestine operation and since North Korean army is going all out, you are instructed to get the choppper and fly it. One wonders why the chopper is fully fueled and armed, but hey.
- In Armored Core for Answer, mission "Destroy Satellite Cannons" Hard Mode, the enemy is a "Prototype NEXT", the 00-ARETHA. Not only it is not quite a Super Prototype, the only other time you will face it is in the prequel game, Armored Core 4, and even then, it's hardly a threat, even when piloted by an Ace Pilot. In that mission, your operator even flatly derides the enemy for being so desperate as to willingly deploy, in her words, "a relic".
- A theme in Red Alert 3: Paradox. The Soviets have been forced to put some of their older vehicles back into service, while the entire Confederate faction consists of rusting vehicles stolen from a massive reserve dump in the Nevada desert. The twist is, of course, these museum pieces are the old units from Red Alert 1.
- In Battlestar Galactica Online, the Cylon War Raider is just a First Cylon War-era Raider refitted to modern specs.
- Star Trek Online justifies the use of this trope right from the start of the game. As a cadet fresh out of the academy, your first assignment just happens to take you into a Borg invasion of the Vega Colony. Your captain sends you and a skeleton crew to over to a derelict Miranda class vessel in the middle of battle. After you get it back up and running, you fight to help beat back the Borg. The conflicts and tension throughout the Alpha Quadrant have grown as such that Starfleet allows you to remain in command of your new vessel just out of sheer NEED to make sure they can defend themselves, and breaks out other outdated vessels like the Constitution and Oberth class vessels just because they're better than nothing.
- Heck, even the mighty Galaxy class which was once the most advanced and powerful ship in starfleet's arsenal is now 60 years old in the game's timeframe, and it is outclassed in the offense department by nearly every other Federation cruiser, yet it can still throw down with the best of them if commanded by a skilled captain. It also bears the distinction of being the toughest ship to bring down in the game if its captain knows what he's doing.
- The Klingons and (based on revealed information about their playable faction) the Romulans does the same, with use of the K't'inga (IE, D7, IE, the Klingon TOS battlecruiser) and the T'liss (IE, the TOS Romulan Bird-of-Prey) classes.
- Starsiege's backstory, All There in the Manual, tells the tale of how the Terra Defense Force of Metaltech Earthsiege and Earthsiege 2 was formed (albeit as part of a comprehensive retcon). When Prometheus unleashed "The Fire" on humanity, ITS Cybrid forces completely decimated the remaining portion of the world's military forces still under human control. However, IT missed one important target: a decommissioned Herc base in Baja, California, turned over to the New Smithsonian for the purpose of restoring and renovating war vehicles of past ages, including manned Hercs. Many of the people at the facility, both historians and technicians, were veterans of past wars, and so had plenty of combat experience. With the skills and facilities on hand to repurpose their museum pieces for combat, they took the fight to the Cybrids.
- In FTL: Faster Than Light, the default Kestrel was decommissioned already prior to the game start and had to be pulled out of mothballs.
- Success in the hidden object adventure game Escape the Museum often depends on this trope, as you use literal museum pieces (a cannon, a steam engine, a blowgun, a bow and arrow) to make your way from room to room.
- In the old Amiga game Starglider, according to the novella shipped with the game, the ship you're flying came from a museum. You're using it because your planet's defenses have already been destroyed, and that ship is all that's left.
- In Dead Space 3, you often end up using parts and even fully-fledged RIG Suits left behind by the S.C.A.F, an organisation that was wiped out in a battle over 200 years before the present, on the frozen, Necromorph-infested world of Tau Volantis. These function just as well, if not better, than the gear that's actually modern designed.
- According to unit lore in StarCraft II, several Protoss units are old war machines that had been decommissioned and now reactivated, or work machines reconfigured for military use, because of the Protoss' desperate straits.
- In Mass Effect 2, Zaeed tells Shepard about his favorite rifle, Jessie, which he used until it finally jammed and would no longer fire. In Mass Effect 3, Shepard can learn that Zaeed has custom-ordered the parts and equipment necessary to restore Jessie to functionality, in order to be able to carry the rifle into the battle against the Reapers.
- In the third game's Citadel DLC, you can acquire an old First Contact War-era M7 Lancer (which the memory-retentive fans may recall is the model of assault rifle available at the start of the first game). It has the old-style pre-thermal-clip cooldown mechanic, and has been "upgraded with modern small arms tech" to be relevantly powerful compared to modern small arms.
- In X3: Terran Conflict a quest chain allows you to find the ship from the first X-Universe game, the X-perimental Shuttle. Despite being over twenty years old and rather banged up, it's one of the best M3s in the game, but also irreplaceable and impossible to reverse-engineer.
- Arguably done in MediEvil 2. When Lord Palethorn casts his spell on London, the only one that can stop him is Sir Daniel Fortesque, a skeletal knight who had been dead for five hundred years and whose remains were put in a museum.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, you help the Boomers raise a sunken B-29 bomber from Lake Mead, which is then repaired with parts from a literal museum-piece B-29 and used during the final battle at Hoover Dam. On a lesser time scale, the player can reunite the Enclave Remnants for further support at Hoover Dam, for which they break out their old Fallout 2-era Advanced Power Armor suits(the ones with the insectoid helmets), and the Courier gets a suit as well. Another literal example is Vikki & Vance's 9mm submachine gun that was stolen from the death car exhibit, which the player can track down in an unmarked sidequest. Yet another unmarked quest earns you an M1 Garand lookalike named This Machine.
- Judgment Rites, a Star-Trek-based point-and-click, has a chapter aptly named "Museum Piece" which strands the characters (including Scotty and Chekov) in a literal museum during a hostage situation. They need to use the obsolete technology found in the titular museum pieces to overwhelm the assailants. Naturally, they succeed.
- In The Salvation War, specifically, Armageddon, most aircraft used in the war against hell are museum pieces which were long since retired. Tanks and other armoured units are also brought out of retirement and storage, a WWII Panzer showing up at one point.
- Futurama: After the Decapodians shut down the Earth's high-tech defences, the crew uses an ancient heat-seeking missile from a museum. It immediately backfires when it's pointed out that Decapodians — and their technology and war-machines — are cold-blooded.
- There was an episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon where a character's all-powerful transformation ray couldn't affect gold. So Donatello arranged to borrow four ancient Roman shields that were made of gold. ("And try not to ding 'em, okay? They have to go back to the museum tomorrow.")
- In Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, the Big Guy was being put into a museum display, until they found that his replacement Rusty would need his help.
- Of course, Rusty ends up being the sidekick.
- In the Codename: Kids Next Door movie, a working item (which cures Laser-Guided Amnesia) was in the museum, but it was put there to hide it in plain sight, because everyone believed it was broken beyond repair.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman has to use the 1940s-model Batmobile when Owlman steals the current model. It turns out that Batman keeps every vehicle gadget and device he's ever had in proper working order, even after it's long obsolete, just in case he needs to use this trope due to his being Crazy-Prepared.
- A recurrent theme in Batman Beyond:
- Terry's batsuit was technically a museum piece in the Batcave, though he said, "This suit may be old, but it's still cutting-edge." He uses other artifacts from Batman's crimefighting days in the series as well. (e.g. Nightwing's domino mask for ID obfuscation when the suit was unavailable, along with some old-style Batarangs.)
- In "Blackout", Bruce took the freeze ray out of his little crime museum to stop Inque, and wore the old Gray Ghost hat and mask to keep his identity hidden. In her second appearance, Terry tried the same, but she broke it; later, Bruce took a huge Powered Armor suit out of retirement to go hand-to-hand with her in a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
- In one episode of Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet, Captain Black was creating crop circles that render any digital systems (essentially, everything) inoperable. Spectrum took out his base of operations with an old Lancaster Bomber, which had been introduced earlier in the episode.
- Early episodes of ReBoot have Bob doing this, since Mainframe doesn't have the advanced Technobabble Bob is used to using in the Super Computer. However, the antique devices Bob has to make do with tend to fail, making this a subversion.
- In Extreme Ghostbusters, the new crew tried the old proton packs against the Big Bad in the pilot episode and found them to be ineffective, forcing them to come up with a more powerful trap and proton guns. Even so, the old equipment still works, which makes it a suitable back-up.
- As noted above, Iron Man brings this trope into The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes when Ultron hacks into all the suits - except the Mk I, which lacks a computer system.
- BIONICLE. After Makuta steals Mata Nui's robot body, Mata Nui has to use an older, smaller, imperfect prototype to fight him.
- A version was done at an earlier part of the story, though not with technology: to end a Matoran Civil War, Makuta stuck the leaders in the Archives' wild animal exhibit. With the live specimens. The results were not pretty.
- Most modern armed forces have contingencies in place to store outdated and obsolete equipment in case it's needed again. One example would be the Boneyard, which stores thousands of old and unused aircraft ready to be repaired and restored if needed.
- Somewhat averted with the Cold War thawing in the 1990's. As part of force reduction agreements, observers from the Soviet Union were invited to witness surplus British Chieftain tanks being destroyed to the point where they could not be used again. Similarly, British and American observers officially witnessed surplus Soviet tanks beginning the long road into becoming ploughshares. Old tankies wept to see their equipment being trashed by their own side.
- Examples in WWII:
- The UK Home Guard, aka 'Dad's Army.' They carried anything they could use, in the desperate situation of 1940-41, when the UK had lost most of its materiel at Dunkirk; some personnel even carried pitchforks. The best-equipped units were drawn from rural areas, arming themselves with privately-owned shotguns and game rifles. The US, violating neutrality, sent over all the rifles it could scrape together (including from the NRA). Enfield hastily designed an SMG that could be built by the village blacksmith, and a number of creative solutions to problem of German armour were developed by the Home Guard themselves. By late 1941, the situation was back under control — although not everyone had gotten the message.
- The UK Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm used the Fairey Swordfish, "The String Bag", a biplane design commissioned in 1936. It would have been helpless against enemy fighters (like most of the war's torpedo bombers), but it had an advantage against enemy AA: WWII rangefinders couldn't predict the flight path of anything that slow. Thus, attacks by Swordfish sank much of the Italian Navy in its home port of Taranto, and crippled the Bismark in its breakout attempt in the North Sea, both times with negligible British losses.
- The Swordfish had the advantage of being so slow that an attacking fighter had to slow to almost stalling speed to be in with a fleeting chance. It was also surprisingly manoevrable: this combined with its exceptionally slow airspeed allowed it to evade fighters moving four times more quickly but which could not stunt as well. These factors also explained the survival of Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters in the air battles over Malta.
- This is also why the Swordfish bombers were effective against the Bismark. Its modern anti-aircraft guns were incapable of traversing slowly enough to properly aim at a Swordfish.
- The Hawker Harrier jump-jets used in the Falklands, despite slow subsonic speeds, also used similar tactics to successfully fight Argentinean jet fighters whose weapons were designed to take down other supersonic aircraft.
- Nazi Germany assumed, at the beginning of the war, that horse cavalry were obsolete, but by 1942, they'd changed their minds. Infantry were too slow to catch Cossacks and mounted partisans, and tanks couldn't enter rocky ground and forests (which cavalry certainly could); the result was about ten divisions of German cavalry.
- During the early stages of World War II, the Norwegians sank the heavy cruiser Blücher with weaponry which they'd bought decades before, and which was obsolete even then. The Norwegian commander wasn't sure that his fifty-year-old torpedoes would even work. They did.
- Partisans of any kind, naturally, used any guns they could get their hands on. In extreme cases, this included 19th century rifles, hunting rifles and even ancient flintlock pistols. Some were less fortunate, and had to make do with pitchforks, axes, picks or improvised spears.
- One of the most famous examples among wargamers is when the Germans, running short on panzers, reintroduced the obsolete French tanks they had captured back in 1940. Many of these saw action in Normandy, and some were used for anti-partisan duties.
- The Germans hoped to establish a Victory Museum where examples of captured tanks would be put on display. Example tanks from all defeated nations were meticulously collected and housed in a facility on the Baltic coast. These were impresssed into a scratch panzer batallion in 1945 and thrown into the battle against the Russians.
- Examples featuring WWII equipment:
- Some Taliban snipers in Afghanistan use British Lee-Enfield rifles (or locally manufactured copies), which were designed in the 1880s and used in both World Wars. (A basically similar weapon chambered for NATO-standard battle rifle ammunition was in use by the British Army in the same role until relatively recently.) Their Iraqi counterparts prefer its Nazi rival, the Mauser Kar.98k (designed in 1935, as a cut-down version of the Mauser Karabiner model 1898).
- In the Falklands War, the British took a WWII field kitchen truck from the Imperial War Museum and sent it along with the Task Force sent to fight off the Argentines, since there was no modern equivalent that could prepare hot meals in the field.
- Before they had their own defense industry (i.e., the Yom Kippur War and all previous conflicts), the Israelis relied on upgraded, surplus tanks. In the Yom Kippur War, they defeated more modern Soviet tanks with heavily upgraded Shermans — proving that in the right hands and with the right modifications, even a thirty-year-old design can defeat much newer ones.
- The Douglas DC-3◊, the first successful commercial airliner and probably the best transport aircraft of WWII (Stalin certainly thought so, and built it under license in huge numbers), is still in use today all around the world. "The only replacement for a DC-3," the saying goes, "is another DC-3."
- During the Cold War, a squad of of SAS commandos were tasked with defending an Omani fort when they were suddenly attacked by hundreds of Communist guerrillas. In desperation, a couple of the SAS soldiers rushed over to a nearby shed that housed an antique WWII era artillery piece. They managed to get it working and it proved to be the deciding factor in the fight, buying them enough time for reinforcements to arrive.
- During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, some mujahidin preferred to fight Hinds with WWII AA guns instead of the US supplied Stinger missiles.
- Keep in mind that the Stinger missiles of the era were an utterly hideous thing to fire, leaving the man firing them in a dense cloud of toxic smoke that also showed the enemy precisely where he was. A WWII AA gun under appropriate cammo netting is damn near impossible to spot when not actually firing, by which point it's too late for the target if the gunner is good. Also, an optically guided system relying on Human Eyeball Mark One cannot be taken out by a counter-measures missile designed to track radar or other detectable emissions back to its source.
- Soviet T-34 tanks are still in use in several African countries.
- Even into the 1970's, former French and Belgian colonies in Africa saw First World War surplus tanks, such as the Renault FT-17, in regular use by guerillas and locally impressed armies. The tanks had originally been relegated there in the 1920's for police duties.
- Israel's very first tanks were the French Hotchkiss tanks, built way back in the thirties and then considered far behind the technology curve. Still, they were better than no tanks at all.
- The Soviet Union captured numerous German AFV's during World War 2, which it then sold off to client states. One of the most prominent was Syria, who used long-barreled Panzer IV's and Sturmgeschütz III tank destroyers. They then used them in combat against Israel during wars in the sixties. By the time of the Six Day War, most of them had been destroyed, stripped for spare parts or turned into static fortifications on the Golan Heights. A number were also captured by Israel then later used and issued in reserve forces.
- The standard weapon issued to the Canadian Rangers (the militia force based in the Arctic) is the Mk 4 Lee-Enfield, first produced in 1939 and out of service with the regular Canadian military since the 1950s. The rifles are being replaced beginning in 2015...with another bolt-action rifle, because the extreme conditions play merry hell with anything more mechanically complicated. The only reason the Mk4 is being replaced at all is that spare parts are running out.
- Likewise, the Danish Navy's Sirius Patrol, who operates in Northern and Eastern Greenland, are equipped with M1917 Enfield bolt action rifles. It's the only weapon that's reliable enough, while still packing enough punch to take out a charging Polar bear.
- Motorcycle couriers and semaphore lamps were key to Paul van Riper's derailed victory in the 2002 Millennium Challenge wargame. Admittedly, the motorcycle couriers apparently moved at the speed of light (the wargame's rules were not designed for this), but the Germans had used normal-speed motorcycle couriers to similar effect in the Battle of the Bulge.
- Al Unser won the 1987 Indy 500 in an older car that had been sitting on a motor show display stand until shortly before the race.
- Ever heard of the A1 Tornado? It's an updated version of a 60 year old design called the Peppercorn A1.Tornado rescued stranded passengers after modern rail services were brought to a halt by the snowy conditions in south-east England in late December 2009. Take that, electric trains!!!
- While on that subject: What do you do when a sudden spike in aluminium demand requires an extra locomotive to haul bauxite? Summon forth the mighty Deltic!
- The Soviet Union kept using vacuum tubes in its bombers long after the development of transistors, since vacuum tubes are resistant to EMPs and many kinds of electronic counter-measures (ECM).
- The USSR was also not very good at manufacturing semiconductors, and the earliest, most easily manufactured transistor designs are less reliable than vacuum tubes, particularly when subjected to vibration. Vacuum tubes also have substantially different properties than transistors, including being much more easily scaled up to higher power levels and higher frequencies. (Vacuum tubes are still common in terrestrial broadcast systems because they can easily be built to handle much higher power levels than are practical for transistors.)
- Electric guitar players have also stuck with vacuum tubes; even today, 90% of amplifiers aimed at professional guitarists use them, as their sound quality simply cannot be duplicated by transistorized equipment. As for the guitars themselves, the three most popular are the Fender Telecaster (1952), the Gibson Les Paul (1952), and the incomparably younger Fender Stratocaster (1954).
- During the initial stages of the Israeli War of Independance in '48, the Israeli supply situation was so bad that they even used Napoleonic-era, muzzle-loading cannons.
- Blackburn Buccaneer a.k.a The Banana Jet. It was designed in 1954, and outlasted its all intended successors in both FAA and RAF use. It was finally withdrawn in 1994, because the airframes were too stressed to keep flying safely.
- An F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter was shot down by a Serbian anti-aircraft battery using a Soviet missile from the early 1960s. The F-117 had come in on the exact same trajectory several times in a row, and the Serbs had set up a specialized type of radar pointed straight down its flight path, so the use of early 1960s SAMs isn't now standard doctrine for opposing F-117s — but it did work.
- F-117 and B-2 were designed to be poorly visible in a limited radio band typically used by modern radars. 1960s radars and guided missiles used lower frequencies.
- Between the poverty and the insanity, it's no surprise that North Korea has a few examples.
- In the Korean War, they used sea mines dating back to the Russo-Japanese War. (In fact, they're still using them.)
- Most of the North Korean military carries equipment dating back to the 1970s or earlier. The forces deployed to defend the capital have more recent gear, but that's about it.
- Reportedly, some of their reservists don't even have firearms, and carry bladed weapons. That's not likely to end well — and even if it somehow does (perhaps by sticking to built-up areas and ensuring they have enough grenades), it would be a different trope.
- In 1807 the Ottomans loaded some giant cannons that had been collecting dust since the fall of Constantinople almost four centuries earlier and used them to repel a British attack on the Dardanelles. It worked.
- The four Iowa-class battleships have been mothballed, and recommissioned, twice, being employed in the Korean War, Vietnam War, the 1982 Beirut conflict, and the Gulf War, to devastating effect. And Congress wouldn't let the navy get rid of them completely, until the early years of the 21st century. All four are now gone, but are now literal museum pieces, as they have been made into floating museums (the Iowa in Los Angeles, the New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, the Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia), under orders of an Act of Congress that they be maintained in such a way that they could be returned to service, if need be.
- After the release of Battleship, Slate ran an article positing whether or not it would be possible to return the Iowa-class battleships to active duty now that they're museum ships. It would actually be very easy, assuming that enough crew, fuel, and ammunition for its main guns are on hand for that.
- Quite a bit of obsolete-but-still-useful equipment tends to be stockpiled just in case it's ever needed again. Of note is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB outside of Tucson, Arizona, essentially one of the largest airplane boneyards in the world. They periodically dip into this stockpile of stored airframes to sell them to other countries, scrap them, or use them for parts for still-flying airframes (worth noting that some American planes, such as the C-130 and the B-52, have been flying since the 1950's). It is notable that for many aircraft(like the listed B-52 as well as the A-10) this is actually their only source of spare parts as the aircraft are no longer in production and the plants are long closed. Some even get turned into remote-controlled drones for things like target practice.
- The Korean People's Air Force has a small number of relatively modern fighter jets, including the MiG-29. They also operate many older airplanes. Including around thirty MiG-15s, as in the fighter jet they flew in the Korean War, although their remaining MiG-15s are all trainers.
- Did we mention that they also have biplanes? Specifically, the Antonov An-2 Colt transport, the smaller Russian cousin to the equally universal DC-3. It's hard to pick up on radar, and so slow that modern fighters have trouble engaging it with guns, and it can take off and land from improvised air strips, making it an ideal commando or officer transport. For the same reasons, around ten are also used by the South Korean Air Force. Outside of the two Koreas, even smaller European countries like Estonia, Moldova and Macedonia also operate the An-2 as a paratrooper plane. And while fighting the Serbs in the early 1990s, Croatians even used them as improvised bombers to take out Serbian armoured vehicles and fortifications. While one or two were shot down, the plan worked.
- The Colt M1911 was a defiance of this trope that went on to become it:
- During the Phillipine-American war, the Colt M1892 the standard pistol at the time proved ineffective against Moro tribesmen. The army switched back to the Single Action Army, an 1873 revolver, until Colt could design the M1911, which combined a (then-)modern magazine action and revolver-quality stopping power.
- During Operation Desert Storm, some US Marine Recon units switched back to their retired M1911s as a sidearm, since their standard-issue Beretta M9s tended to jam up when exposed to sand.
- Delta Force still uses the M1911 today.
- Suggested but averted by Benjamin Franklin during the American Revolution. The Battle of Bunker Hill ended with them being driven off when they ran out of ammunition. Franklin suggested that if they had used bows and arrows, they could have held out longer and fired off volleys more rapidly.
- It may be possible that this referred more to the fact that at the start of the Revolution, the colonists were desperately short of gunpowder. At one point, there were literally only a few dozen barrels left for the entire army, which would have been just enough for one pitched battle without artillery. The situation did improve later on, when France became heavily involved in the war and started sending over regular supplies of the stuff.
- On the other hand, English officers had been proposing this on and off throughout the 18th century. Trained longbowmen couldn't be beaten for sheer volume of fire until the introduction of breech-loading mechanisms and metallic cartridges; the catch is the "trained" part. It took many years of training to be a truly accomplished longbowman, whereas a simple musket could be mastered in a week by the simplest peasant. It was not actually superiority in combat that led to the firearm supplanting the bow and arrow, as the bow was capable of a significantly higher rate of fire, farther accurate range in skilled hands, and free of the problems of misfires that often plagued the muskets of the era (though they shared a weakness to wet weather, as a wet bowstring is about as useful as wet gunpowder is). What did the bow in was the fact that an army that used firearms could field about 10 times as many men as one that fielded bowmen due to the contrast in training time.
- The first operational SR-71 was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in the 70's, only to be put back into service for 20 years and permanently retired in 1990. But perhaps the retirement was premature, since the plane broke an air speed record on the way to the museum.
- The SR-71 was considered obsolete due to the existence of spy satellites. However, its predecessor, the U-2, is still used today — primarily because it can relay information to other aircraft, which the SR-71 couldn't do due to the shockwaves caused from flying at speeds exceeding Mach 3. And this is an aircraft model that was introduced to the USAF in 1957.
- When British firefighters went on strike in 2002, the Army was called upon to provide cover. They made extensive used of "Green Goddess" fire engines, built in the 50s and mothballed in the late 60s. The law has now been changed so in a future strike, the Army would have access to the fire brigade's equipment, and the Green Goddesses have been sold to developing countries.
- The Italian Air Force used the F-104 until 2004 in spite not only of the extreme age of the design (the airplane was first flown in 1954, with the Italian F-104S version being manufactured between 1964 and 1979) but of its tendency to crash. It helped it was actually faster than the more modern F-16 that had been considered to replace it in the 1980s...note
- Also the old Carcano (dating back to 1891) and Garand rifles are still kept in the arsenals to be used by the reserve in case of war.
- During the Homeland War, some Croatian units used M4 Sherman tanks and US WWII M36 Jackson tank destroyers. They proved effective in infantry support.
- The London Transport Routemaster double-decker bus. It has outlasted all its planned replacements, and was phased out only because even the youngest specimens were over 40 years old and worn from daily use. Even now, several examples remain in service on "heritage" routes in London and many more are in daily use as wedding cars, tourist buses and the like. Also, it caused quite the uproar when the buses were replaced with supposedly more modern "bendy buses"; one of Boris Johnson's main campaign promises was to bring back the Routemaster, and wouldn't you know it—he did.
- The city of Ottawa, Canada is about to start using a double-decker design, as the concept (doubling the passenger space without taking up more roadway, increasing the turn radius, or dealing with all the headaches articulated bus designs gave the city's transit service) is actually a really good one.
- When the railways on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England, had to be electrified, it was discovered that the tunnels and bridges were too low for conventional electric trains. Fortunately, it just happened that the London Underground was disposing of some of its older trains, and ever since then they've used retired Tube trains. The ones currently in service were built in 1938.
- Several heritage railways in the UK provide a useful public transport service using antique equipment - often because the heritage railway uses a line that was closed down with no decent transport alternative in the area.
- On a similar note, about half of the trains on the PATCO Speedline between Philadelphia and New Jersey are original-issue, built in 1968.
- Some vehicle museums keep all their display vehicle in working order.
- Some navies keep old 7.62mm chambered rifles on board in addition to standard 5.56mm for resupply at sea evolutions. The reason? The 5.56mm blank cartridges are unable to propel the line far enough to reach the other ship.
- The Finnish Army Field Kitchen, m/29 Soppatykki (Soup Cannon). Originally designed in 1929 for horse-drawn troops and be used with firewood, it is still in production, adapted to be towed by lorries and smaller motor vehicles. The redesign, m/85, is merely an incorporation and documentation of all changes and improvements (tail lights, improved suspension, rubber tyres, brakes, safety reflectors, AC connection, optional electric heater etc) on the original. Several of the WWII veteran field kitchens are still in use, and they are popular also in civilian life, e.g. festivals, concerts, scout camps and outdoors events.
- Many Boy Scouts in Finland learn how to operate it as children, so when they reach the conscription age they already know how to operate it.
- The example from The Railway Series is very closely based on an incident on the Talyllyn railway, in which the railway's newer locomotives were out of commission, and Dolgoch, one of the two original engines from when the line was opened, had to be sent out to recover the train. Another, similar, incident happened a few years earlier (before the line was preserved) when Dolgoch was the only usable engine; it derailed and the even older Talyllyn had to be steamed to recover it. L. T. C. Rolt commented that given the condition Talyllyn was in at the time, it must have been a brave man who dared to drive it.
- During the national conflicts in the last years of USSR a number of armored vehicles were stolen from museums and monuments, especially in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Few had working or repairable engines, much less weapons, but even a towed tank hull is good for blocking a (mountain) road.
- More recently, in 2014, separatists in Donetsk region, Ukraine, took an IS-3 tanknote which was used as a monument. Its engine was in usable condition, and more importantly, its gun is compatible with shells still used by Ukrainian army.
- In October 2006 protesters in Budapest, Hungary, managed to start a T-34-85 tank. The tank was a part of the memorial to the revolution of 1956, which protesters were celebrating, conveniently located near the parliament building. They successfully used the tank against riot police, but it quickly ran out of fuel.
- The British Railways Class 55 "Deltic" diesel locomotive was retired in the early 1980s when it was replaced by the HST 125 on express passenger services. A few of the surviving Deltics have returned to revenue service, pulling heavy freight trains on special contracts. The Deltics have the advantage of a 3300-horsepower output and a top speed of 100 miles per hour, making them a fair match for more modern diesels.
- The Union Pacific Railroad retired all (but one) of its steam engines, though now it occasionally orders Challenger 3985, the largest operating steam locomotive in the world, to pull revenue-earning trains.
- The UP announced it will return Big Boy 4014 to operating condition, meaning the world's largest steam locomotive will run again, hopefully by the year 2019.
- In addition to the above-mentioned Enfields, some strapped-for-resources Afghan Militia used black powder Jezail muskets, most of which were created during the last major war against an invading superpower, the Anglo-Afghan war.
- The ferry service on Lake Tanganyika is provided by the MV Liemba, a beautiful ship whose classical lines suggest another era, mainly because that's what it was from; the Liemba started life as the SMS Graf von Goetzen, a German gunboat launched in Papenburg and sent by the Kaiserliche Marine to control Lake Tanganyika. She was scuttled by her master in 1916, as the British closed the net around German Africa, and was raised by the British colonial authorities in 1927 to serve as a ferry. She still sails.
- New computers often lack the Stereo Mix function or equivalent program that lets the sound card record exactly what comes out of the speakers. Some suspect that this is the RIAA's doing. (see Digital Piracy is Evil) Of course, older computers, many of which still run Vista or even the recently abandoned XP can still record sound just fine.
- In China, police and the armed forces use crossbows, as of the recent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and the riots in 2009. The reasoning behind this is that while a bullet is at risk of setting off a bomb due to the gunpowder, a crossbow can simply kill the suicide bomber while not detonating the bomb.
- In 1962 the Margaret Rose, a ship that wrecked off Provincetown, was trapped near the beach and couldn't be reached by amphibious vehicle or boat due to high seas. A helicopter was also called in but was unable to hover over the ship due to cross-winds. The only feasible way to rescue the crew was determined to be by Breeches Buoy , a 19th-century method of rescue that used a small brass cannon to fire a line to a disabled vessel, allowing the rescuers to send out a small "car" (think of a cross between a zipline harness and a life preserver) to shuttle people to shore. It was a method largely abandoned by the modern Coast Guard, and in fact only a week earlier the local base had considered retiring the equipment permanently.