Fantasy Counterpart Appliance

In a setting which is not particularly close to reality, the lifestyles of the characters will also tend to be less like those of the audience. Sometimes, this is intended. Other times, creators will take pains to make the world they're demonstrating more familiar.

A big step in doing this is to include devices and comforts the audience is familiar with and encounters regularly, such as phones, televisions, washing machines, guns. That way, even if the geography is totally alien, and the culture completely unusual, the viewer will have something to connect them with what they know and relate more closely to the cast.

With Science Fiction, this is easy. Common objects can be inserted into the world, given a more technological appearance, a few extra functions, and a weird name. Job done. This works as long as the technology doesn't become woefully archaic over time.

In a fantasy world or a Period Piece, this is harder. Familiar items can still be inserted, creating a Schizo Tech, Anachronism Stew or even Purely Aesthetic Era effect, but this is so jarring that it can actually pull the viewer out of the world they're meant to believe in.

The alternative is to have devices which have the same functions as those we know, but rely on different principles than modern technology. They may be powered by the likes of Magitek, Bamboo, or Steam. They may look completely unusual, but will be used in a way to facilitate the quality of life we recognise as normal, and the characters will regard them as commonplace.

Fantastic Nuke and Fantasy Contraception are subtropes. Related to Fictional Counterpart and Fantasy Counterpart Culture.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In One Piece, the Den-Den Mushi, a kind of snail, is used as telephones and cameras.

Fan Works
  • In the The Tainted Grimoire, Whisperweed is used as phones, two way radios and speakers because of its unique ability to transmit sound.

Film
  • Halloweentown II had "skull phones" which worked exactly like interdimensional walkie-talkies.

Literature
  • The Palantíri in The Lord of the Rings resemble and function like crystal balls, but were originally meant to work in a group, as something like Middle-Earth telephones. Tolkien's efforts at Applicability, and the lack of such things when the story was conceived, notwithstanding, many have also interpreted them to represent TV and whatever new media they despise. This works on a broadly metaphorical level; they provide lots of information, but seldom in a context that leads the user to a useful conclusion.
  • The Discworld is full of this stuff, usually played for humour either by contrasting the mundanity of such devices with a fantasy world, or by showing how hectic these advances have made everyone's lives. Notable examples include the Iconographs (cameras) the semaphore towers (the internet, information superhighway), the Dis-organiser (PDAs, especially Blackberries), and the cubic Device found by the Dwarves (sound-recording equipment). Interestingly, the Disc came up with all of these advances without the more basic advents of a working postal system, a stable taxation system, or printed money (all of which were implemented when Moist von Lipwig came along).
    • An interesting point about the Discworld examples is that Discworld magic is unreliable enough to be a very poor substitute for technology, it's just the only one available. There were demon-powered watches in the early books, but as soon as minature clockwork was developed these were abandoned as almost totally useless.
    • It should be noted that at least they used to have a working postal system before most of those (except for the Devices, who in any case can't be replicated by modern Disc magic/science) — it's just that an attempt at modernisation in the postal service went disastrously wrong for the largest and single most influential city on the Disc.
  • In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Magic Mirrors can be used for scrying, but tend to work more like videophones, allowing one party to call another (provided they have a compatible unit) at convenience.
  • In The Wheel of Time's Age of Legends, Magitek did everything, and people relied on such Smeerpy counterparts as "Jo-cars" (automobiles), "sho-wings" (planes), and "shocklances" (guns, although probably more like Boom Sticks). Interestingly, they seem to have had the physics know-how to create regular technology if they wished, but magic was easier. Also, in one book, there is a throwaway mention of a device that works the same as an iPod, though given the cyclical time in the series, it might have been an actual iPod.
  • In Elantris the Seons perform many of the functions of a personal computer, including preserving documents and long-term communication in the manner of a videophone.
  • The wizarding world in Harry Potter uses many forms of muggle technology, typically with upgrades, and where they don't use technology they often have advents so bizarre that they don't resemble anything in the real world, like broomsticks and hippogriffs as a form of transportation; but sometimes, they come down into the middle ground of this trope. Case in point, floo powder. Functioning as a network able to take people from one fireplace to another, it's basically like a mass transit system, albeit a much faster one, though still prone to accidents. And by sticking one's head only into a fireplace, it's possible to communicate with another's home, much like a telephone.
  • Tales of MU has many examples, magical TVs and refrigerators are mentioned by name, crystal balls are used as computers (complete with "aethernet") and mirrors are like phones (including pocket-sized "smart" mirrors).
  • The Stormlight Archive has spanreeds, contraptions that allow two quills to be synched up so that one controls the other from a distance. The practical effect of this is similar to a cumbersome form of texting, but with a very different cultural context.
    • More common is the use that is found for the local currency- small gemstones suspended in glass spheres. Because they store Stormlight and emit it evenly, the spheres are used, at least by the wealthy, as lightbulbs.
  • Used constantly in the Darkness Series, unsurprisingly as it is a fantastic allegory of World War II and is set in a Low Fantasy setting which requires fantastic equivalents of the technologies needed for industrialised warfare.
  • Harry Turtledove also uses this in The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, in which clocks and telephones are all demon-powered, as is the "simularity", which is a form of radio. Hollywood produces "light and magic shows", the main character packs a rod instead of a gun, and cars are replaced by magic carpets.
  • A regular feature of the Lord Darcy stories; one features a "preservator" which is basically a magical refrigerator, and several feature the teleson, which is a magic phone.
  • In Bubble World, bubbles and Bright Planet's PESTs work like cell phones and videophones. The bubbles also let you choose your wardrobe and hair.

Film
  • In the Shrek films, the Magic Mirror doubles as a television set.

Tabletop RPG
  • Dungeons & Dragons. Dragon magazine #73 had an article about "Non-violent Magic Items". Some of them were magical versions of real life devices, such as a Thermos bottle, electric fan, space heater, electronic scale, electric blanket and smoke detector.
  • Earthdawn had a couple of minor magic items, including magic cannons, self-heating magic pots or lighting crystals.
  • Some of the items in the GURPS Magic Items books, for example the Returner System, which is the magical equivalent of a department store security gate.

Video Games
  • Airships in the Final Fantasy series, and any number of games influenced by them, are used the same way as aircraft, but are driven by magic. This is particularly apparent in Final Fantasy XII, where Aerodromes providing commercial travel are exactly like airports.
  • In Myst, the ancient D'ni civilisation used Firemarbles is much the way we do lightbulbs. It's never explained exactly how they work, but they light when struck, extinguish in water, and have a long but not interminable lifespan.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • The Flintstones have taken this premise to the point of one enormous Running Gag that drives the show's premise, i.e. Flintstone Theming. Appliances usually on Bamboo and now-extinct animals, especially dinosaurs.
  • The Smurfs attempted this with primitive counterparts of modern inventions (a network of hollow smurfmelon vines became the telephone, and a series of crystals became "window-vision"), but would soon be abandoned by the end of the episode.