No Backwards Compatibility In The Future
"Alright, time to play me some King's Que... oh."

"Spies are used to dealing with cutting edge encryption and billion dollar security, but sometimes the toughest challenge is cracking something old and out of date. If you find yourself up against an old and obsolete tape drive loaded with arcane software, you can either find yourself a time machine, or admit defeat."
Michael Westen, Burn Notice

Our time-traveling protagonists need to recover a piece of information on a computer from our time and they end up stealing the whole laptop. The Fridge Logic asks why didn't they simply just do a file transfer? As it turns out, the future tech doesn't work with tech from our time. Even though the future technology has its roots in the technology that we have currently developed, it is not backward compatible with that of its predecessors.

This can also be applied to a post-apocalyptic future stories only if the equipment is in good condition due to Ragnarok-Proofing. Otherwise it is merely a subversion or aversion of said Ragnarok Proofing.

Of course, when the record must be accessed, this is a job for Mr. Fixit to rig something up to make that possible.

Truth in Television; somewhere along the line, certain new technologies may not be backward compatible with their older versions, because they were deemed obsolete or just not worth the extra cost. Indeed, a significant portion of early electronic archives (1970s through early '90s) are now inaccessible, or nearly became so, because the hardware or file format became too outdated.

The inversion of this, where things that shouldn't be compatible are, is Plug 'n' Play Technology.


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  • Cowboy Bebop: Spike and Jet hunt through esoteric tech shops, black markets and ancient ruins, to chase down a working Betamax VCR, which is so scarce even avid collectors don't have much hope of seeing one in their lifetime. They have a tape that supposedly holds clues to Faye's past — how far from the past she must have come from in order to have anything recorded on Beta is the biggest clue. Ironically, when they finally do find a VCR in a derelict museum it turns out to be VHS. (Made funnier because they had their choice of VCRs in the museum, and chose the VHS because the tape slot was bigger.)
    • When you put the number together to find out that it was recorded in 2010, you find yourself questioning where they got it from to begin with, and why they would be using it to make a video time capsule instead of any other recording medium found in modern society. It makes slightly more sense if you know Betamax -or at least a close relative called Betacam- had rather more success on the production side of the television industry, and could also be bought commercially as late as 2002 in Japan.
  • A significant amount of the plot in Steins;Gate consists of the cast's struggle to obtain a very old model of computer called an IBN 1500, because it's the only piece of technology capable of undoing the Alternate Timeline they've created, due to the fact that it was used to create that timeline in the first place, using a method that wouldn't be compatible with a newer model.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Erico's Mega Man X fanfic series, the Cossack-class Robot Masters are recommisioned at one point in Demons of the Past to help protect Russia. However, they prove to be incompatible with 21xx technology for their internals, so the tech/medic who was sent to do the upgrading had to cannibalize the now-useless Cossack Fortress Guardians for parts like superconductor cabling and power control components. They were also not willing to risk overloading on 21xx subtanks and stuck to their stockpile of E-Tanks from the Classic Era.
  • In Touhou: The Cursed Tape Enters Gensokyo, Yukari is unable to find a VHS compatible player in Kourindou's stock, despite the piles of forgotten "modern" digital devices he had collected from the outside world.

     Live Action Television 
  • Burn Notice has this happen in the present. In one episode, Michael finds an old tape drive that a rival was after in a wall. The next episode, in a voice over, he explains that old technology is often a spy's biggest headache for just this reason, before we hear Fiona say, "Fourteen phone calls, seven data recovery experts and three hours of arm twisting to find out what's on this thing and it's unreadable!"
  • Continuum plays with this. On the one hand, when Kiera arrives from 2077, her super-advanced Augmented Reality implant can't interface with 2012's internet, phones, or pretty much anything else, though she is able to use her suit to brute-force hack an ATM. On the other hand, when she arrives she accidentally contacts a Teen Genius playing in his lab—because he's in the middle of inventing the tech she's using.

    Video Games 
  • The major reason why backwards compatibility is hard to come by in consoles is that the manufacturer chooses a different hardware platform each generation and can't find a way to recycle the old hardware (if they can still use it). Software emulation could make up for it, but this gets harder to implement as features get more rich. As for the reason why they choose different hardware, they feel that certain parts fit the needs of their console better than others in terms of performance and cost.
    • Another issue that isn't brought up as much is that some older software could react badly with the current system software/OS or hardware in unpredictable ways. Support costs to ensure that all titles work on it outweighs its benefits, especially for a dwindling user base. Not to mention, since profits generally come from software sales, they're not going to make much money supporting backwards compatibility since the games were most likely already purchased for the previous hardware.
  • As the Eighth Generation completely ditched composite & component in favor of exclusively using HDMI, you won't be playing your Eighth Generation console on an old school CRT television (at least natively, there are special adapters that bridge the gap).

Nintendo Consoles
  • Unfortunately for owners of the DS, the different chipset in use means that their old Game Boy titles won't work with their new systems. Game Boy Advance cartridges, however, will still work with the DS "Phat" and DS Lite models.
    • This also applies to Pokémon, where the fundamental differences ultimately made it impossible to transfer your critters from Gold/Silver/Crystal to the Advance Generation (Generation III), making it much harder to successfully catch them all. Thankfully, Nintendo avoided such a problem with the fourth generation of Pokémon, as owners of the first-wave DS and DS Lites can migrate their parties from the Game Boy Advance games into the Sinnoh-based games and the Johto-based remakes.
      • Unfortunately, the DSi sacrificed its Game Boy Advance port for more gadgets, so DSi-using Trainers will need an older-model system on hand for all of their migration needs.
      • Though Game Freak mostly took care of this with both Pokémon Platinum and Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver, which have the Pokémon only available in Generation III.
      • Finally averted to a degree between the DS games and the 3DS games via cloud service. However, it's still a one-way transfer, and it only works between the Generation V (BW/B2W2) and Generation VI (XY/ORAS) games.
    • The Wii, however, is not only capable of using a lot of the GameCube's games, but can even utilize some of the GameCube's peripherals (like the microphone and the GBA-GameCube link cable). However, support for GameCube peripherals and games were dropped entirely from a new "Family Pack" model introduced in late-2011.
      • The inbuilt Virtual Console seems to be an inversion as it runs a lot of classic games, even those from Sega, the old-era rival of Nintendo. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is to re-buy a (often slightly tweaked) digital version game direct from Nintendo. Your old carts and CDs will not work with the current hardware.
      • The Wii U retains backwards compatibility with Wii games and controllers, but lacks the ability to play GameCube discs.

Sony Consoles
  • On the Sony side of things, the PlayStation 2 avoids this, as it has actual hardware capable of running PS1 games inside.
    • ...for the most part. Gradius Gaiden, for instance, has a stage that runs just fine on a PS1, but will slow down more than an average round of Espgaluda on a PS2.
  • While the PS3 can run PS2 games, it does it by software emulation, as the Cell processor is completely different from the chip set used by the PS2. There was some uproar when back in 2007, rumors abounded that certain future models of the PS3 would lose this software emulation function, which they did.
    • The first year models for the North American, Asian and Japanese markets have hardware-based backwards compatibility. The 80 GB models that came out later had software emulation for the Emotion Engine, while the Graphics Synthesizer was run on a chip. The 40 GB models and later 80 GB models dropped all BC, but there are rumors of full software emulation on all models for firmware version 3.0.
    • Frustratingly, the European PS3's were made with a different hardware set, and don't have any real emulation function at all.
    • And now, Sony will allow you to play PS2 games on any PS3, but you must buy the games from the UsefulNotes/PlayStationNetwork Store even if you already own the DVD, and even then it's only titles they approve of, which is not many. Thankfully, you can play physical copies of PS1 titles on any PS3.
  • And now, the latest announcement is, the PlayStation 4 will not be able to run games for previous Playstation consoles at all offline, however you can stream the system's backwards compatibility with PS1, PS2 & PS3 games to get around this. However, that still leaves you at the mercy of your Internet connection, and whether your region's GaiKai service has the games you want to play.

Microsoft Consoles

Online Services
  • MMOs that rely on company-owned servers, eg for online Copy Protection, are often doomed. When the company decides the game is no longer worth running, they'll pull the plug, and rarely does the server-side software get released to anyone else. You better hope enthusiasts managed to reverse-engineer the tech and make their own, or that game's gone for good.
    • City of Heroes and City of Villains are victims of this. NC Soft just decided to pull the plug on the games, and even the team in charge of the games, Paragon Studios, weren't notified until the last minute. However, it's getting a fan remake.
    • Disney's MMOs- Toontown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online- both shut down on September 19, 2013. Disney's excuse was that the quest-driven MMOs weren't profitable for the company anymore. While the server side of the games isn't released for obvious reasons, a group of fans are taking to writing their own server for the former. The latter remains Lost Forever for now.
    • Same with online play in other game genres, for example, as mentioned above, Microsoft has pulled the plug on all original Xbox online gameplay.
    • Similarly, with DRM-encrypted music, also used by Microsoft, if the DRM server goes down, the tunes are Lost Forever. Also, many iTunes songs were delisted before Apple switched to all DRM-free, so you can't upgrade them and they may never be available again. If for whatever reason, Apple decides to shutdown the DRM server, you're fucked. Unless, of course, you hack the DRM system and decrypt your music files.
    • Gamespy, which hosts the servers for Nintendo's WFC services for the Nintendo DS, DS Lite, and DSi, has terminated the WFC services with effect from May 20, 2014. You will no longer be able to enjoy online gaming on said consoles, especially on first party titles. Meaning:
      • You can no longer visit friends' towns in Animal Crossing Wild World and City Folk
      • One of the few still playing Tetris DS online? Challenging another player online is no longer possible.
      • Pokémon Black and White 1&2? No more online trading and battles. Furthermore, with the loss of the Gen V Global Link website, you can no longer visit the Dream World.
      • Mario Kart Wii? Online races are no more
      • Super Smash Bros. Brawl? No more online fighting!
  • Gabe Newell of Valve has sworn that if they ever shut down Steam, they would release a patch beforehand that removed the internet connection requirement to play games bought through Steam. However, some games still come with their own DRM. They obviously can't remove that.
  • In 2014, Microsoft decided to shut down its Games For Windows Live service. While this was decidedly a good thing because how of how terrible the service was, it meant that if the game used it for DRM services, you won't be able to play it. Thankfully, many of those titles that used it that were available on Steam are switching to using Steam instead. But those that weren't released on Steam or the publisher just doesn't care, those games are forever unplayable.
    • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger was re-released on Steam and GOG, but the netplay code (a must in a modern Fighting Game) still tries to connect to the defunct GFWL servers.
    • Fallout 3 also makes use of GFWL as a secondary copy-protection system. Thankfully, the game will still run without it. It's just that you can no longer use cloud save to synchronize the game across multiple PCs. There is, however, a more serious issue under Windows 10- installing GFWL has the potential of bricking Windows 10's networking stack, and the game will always install GFWL as part of it's installation routine. Luckily, uninstalling the copy of GFWL will solve the issue. Fallout 3 also has a problem with it's radio music on Windows Vista and newer, but it can be fixed with mods.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV is a more egregious example of GFWL abuse - without GFWL, you can't save games, period. Thankfully, there are third party mods to fix that annoying issue. Aside from that, as like Fallout 3, the game's installer will install GFWL, which will brick the networking stack of a Windows 10 PC. Again, uninstalling GFWL immediately after installing the game fixes the issue.

  • The Sega console line of the early Nineties were known for excellent backward compatibility (especially compared to chief rival Nintendo): the Sega Master System's cartridges could not only be used on the Game Gear with an adapter (not surprising as the Game Gear was essentially a portable Master System) but also on the Mega Drive with a second adapter that duplicated some of the Master System's hardware (This was partly because the Mega Drive had the same Zilog Z-80 processor that was in its 8-bit siblings). Unfortunately, incompatibility set in with future Sega consoles (oddly, given that the Mega CD and Sega Saturn used the same storage medium, the CD, and the Dreamcast, while using GD-ROMS, could read CDs...). Comparing the Saturn with the Genesis, it's clear that the former shared several architectural similarities of the latter and suggests that backwards compatibility was probably planned at one point of development.
  • Arcade games using the Seibu Kaihatsu COP hardware use an encryption chip so obscure that it has not been completely defeated, not even by Seibu Kaihatsu themselves. This is the reason why quite a few games, like Raiden II(until recently), remain unemulatable. While a lot of the graphics encryption for a lot of COP based games have been defeated, it's been discovered that the game's rules were also encrypted, and that those encryption methods are compounded with more encryption. Thankfully some games have many ports/remakes/etc. that it doesn't really matter.
  • Although the original Far Cry has a 64-bit upgrade patch, the installer for most versions of the game doesn't work with 64-bit Windows! So unless you have a dual-boot option, your only choice is to install it on a machine running a 32-bit version of Windows, then copy it to the 64-bit machine.
  • The Reader Rabbit titles had this as part of it's progression- version 3 of it's personalized titles dropped support for Windows 3.1 and 68k-Macs. Likewise, many of the older titles will not run on the modern Intel-based Macs due to being Classic Mac OS titles, nor would they run natively on newer 64-bit Windows PCs, due to Microsoft deciding not to support 16-bit software on the 64-bit versions of Windows.
  • Windows 10 and later updates to Windows 7 and 8 have ceased support for the Safe Disc and Secu ROM Copy Protection schemes, so games that use these, which include most titles between 2003 and 2008, will no longer function unless either you find a legally dubious No-Disc crack, or repurchase the game without these DRM if possible.

  • In Mega Man ZX, Aile and Vent have no problems using the 20XX Energy Tanks from the Classic series, while in the Battle Network series, Lan and MegaMan.EXE have no problem exploring ancient parts of the Internet. The Ruby-Spears incarnation of Mega Man X also had no problems using Weapon Copy on Robot Masters from a hundred years in his past.
  • A character in Shadowrun: Dragonfall keeps his notes on ancient DVD-R/W recordings. You have to go on Fetch Quests to track down an old DVD player and an analog TV with the proper inputs to connect it before you can view them.


    Web Original 
  • Many old websites will now have dead plugins as browsers have moved on to better software than what was once used in the early days of the WWW.
    • Shockwave, replaced by Flash and, in some places, Java.
      • and after Java was quickly discovered to be a memory hog and full of exploits, many are also jumping ship to Flash or HTML5.
      • Flash itself is slowly being replaced by newer systems, although none has been dominant enough to supplant it.
      • HTML5 standards are set to replace Flash for multimedia based applications... which is most of the reason why Flash is used. It's gaining ground, especially with big-wigs dropping Flash support.
    • This is strangely averted by Wikipedia, in that a really old laptop that was using a serial port to run an ancient telephony modem (wherein you had to use an actual phone receiver in conjunction with the trunk-sized modem) with a monochrome browser-like client was able to load their English front page, albeit in a vastly-simplified form. There was a whole video showing it in action on Youtube.
    • Wikipedia's aversion is mostly a side-effect of it being designed to be usable by the blind. Anything more complicated than plain text with a bit of HTML tends to give text-to-speech software fits, so the weird Flash-powered plugins and other embellishments that also wreak havoc on older browsers are verboten. Many web designers use Lynx to test accessibility; if you can use a site with that and not tear your hair out, it'll work with a screen reader.
  • The story of John Titor, supposedly a time traveller from the 2030s who appeared on Art Bell's forum in 2000, revolved around this — in the post-nuclear-war future he came from, the Year 2038 problem had yet to be solved, and he had been dispatched to a time before the war in order to acquire an IBM 5100 for use in developing a fix.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park has the episode where Cartman froze himself to avoid waiting for a Nintendo Wii. When he is thawed out (500 years later), he discovers that future displays aren't compatible with those of his time.
  • In Beast Wars, the Maximals, the descendants of the Autobots, can't use their ancestors' hardware in conjunction with that of Maximal technology.
    • Somewhat justified in that both pieces of technology they're attempting to use in conjunction are cobbled-together, oft-patched desperation-grade junk in the first place. And, y'know, the fact that the Autobot tech they're trying to use is in excess of three million years older then their Maximal tech.
    • Also built on a different scale...
    • Even the smarter Maximals can't figure out how the Ark was made in the first place.
    Optimus Primal: "Die-cast construction. It's a lost art..."
  • Subverted in Danny Phantom. Apparently technology in the future (or at least Skul Tech) is still eligible for Tucker's PDA to hack through. Lampshaded when Tucker declares his hacking skills are just that awesome or just very, very sad.
  • Averted in the Mega Man episode "Mega X", where the eponymous future robot scans and copies the weapon of Snakeman, an older robot. He can actually improve on the originals, too, as a single shot utterly destroys Wily's weapon. Wholly justified, as X is based on Rock's design and has a modernized version of the Weapon Copy system, so he can copy anything Rock can.
  • In The Batman episode "Artifacts", a 1000 years in the future, archaeologists discover the Batcave. Their advanced computers cannot interface with or download the Bat Computer's data. Fortunately, Batman saw this coming and etched the computer's data in binary code on titanium sheets. They are able to scan that into their computers, which gives them instructions on how to defeat the ageless Mr. Freeze.

    Real Life - Computers 
  • Buy a new computer? Make sure all of your peripherals have drivers that are compatible with the computer's OS, or be willing to upgrade them as well. Some printers, scanners, etc. from as recently as 2010 do not have drivers that are usable by 64-bit processors.
    • The biggest offender of this is, of course, the CPU and RAM. RAM sticks change layout every few years, as do CPU sockets. This seems to have become progressively faster since we hit the new 10s. For example, Socket 5 and Socket 7 are electronically compatible and you can actually upgrade a 486 to a Pentium while reusing the motherboard. Nowadays, upgrading the CPU will also mean replacing the motherboard. Same goes for RAM, the 72-pin slot was standard for a very long time, almost a decade. Nowadays, not so much. Chances are you may also need to upgrade to a newer RAM type when you get a new motherboard along with that new CPU.
    • Averted by Linux, where support for older hardware persists far longer than Windows support. Your Guest 95 program for ZIP drives might no longer work on even WinXP, but you can get Linux to recognize that drive, assuming you still have an LPT or SCSI port, that is.note 
    • Windows 7 and beyond has compatibility for a lot of older, USB based hardware, at least those made from well-known manufacturers. It's almost to a point where the CD that comes with the peripheral contains just a PDF of the user manual and a link to the manufacturer's website.
    • Windows NT based OSes are also driver compatible between major versions. Windows 2000 drivers work just fine in Windows XP (both are NT 5). Windows Vista drivers work just fine in Windows 8 (Vista to 8 is NT 6). And it works the other way, usually. Though jumping major version numbers may or may not work.
  • And of course, computer expansion cards at an electronic level. Have an old AdLib or 16-bit SoundBlaster card you'd like to stick to on your new PC? Chances are, you can't because they used an old pinout called ISA (Industrial Standard Architecture) which has been largely depreciated since the late '90s and has not been found on almost all motherboards made after 2002note . Same goes for AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) which has been displaced by PCI-Express since 2007 and cannot be found on most motherboards since 2010. And oh, God help you if you have a very old MCA (Micro-Channel Architecture) card- those were only supported by true IBM PCs for a short time in the late 80s/early 90s...
  • 3 1/2 inch floppy disks are getting to this state, and 5 1/4 are pretty much already there unless you're an enthusiast.
    • And unless you work in the military or NASA, just forget about 8-inch disks!
      • There's a semi-apocryphal story about an old industrial computer at a Russian plant whose power is backed by several UPS batteries concocted by resident engineers - because if it ever turns off, it won't be able to boot again since the 8-inch floppies with the software have long since crumbled to dust. And that would render all the (similarly outdated and incompatible) equipment it controls useless.
  • As well as cassette tape drives, zip drives, and pretty much any other "floppy" magnetic storage medium
    • And what about Jaz and Zip Disks? (Okay, so Jaz never caught on in the first place.). They were quite popular in their time because they were still relatively cheaper than a CD writer drive even though they have only one sixth the storage capacity (a Zip drive as of 1997 costs US$50. A CD writer costs somewhere around US$1000, and also required that the owner buy a SCSI card (unless your sound card already has one, or you use a Mac, Amiga or Atari ST), because even though there were already IDE CD-ROM drives, CD writers still belonged to the domain of the professional and thus only SCSI interface writers were produced). And that's before you even factor in the cost of the burning software. However, by 2003, IDE CD writers were already available, burning software prices have fallen tramendously to the point that there are free burner software if you know where to look, and their media's costs has fallen enough to be affordable and thus displace Zip drives. It should be noted, however, that even then Zip disks and drives were still being manufactured until at least the late 2000s- mostly to cater to musicians and certain organizations who require them for backwards compatibility or security by obsolesce. Generation 3 zip drives, the final generation of the medium, has a storage capacity of 750MB, rivaling the capacity of a CD-RW, and the external drives do have a USB 2.0 interface. However, the third generation drives have a quirk of not being able to write to first generation disks, only read them.
    • However, professional tape drives are surprisingly still an aversion, somewhat. Amazingly, in this modern age, many large multinational enterprises still prefer them to removable hard drives or even BD-R (recordable Blu-Ray discs) when it comes to server backups. The fact that they're still being improved upon (with version 6 of the LTO tape cartridge specification coming out as late as December 2012 and another two planned versions in roadmap) shows that there is a serious demand for them. Though they've evolved so much that they don't look anything like the reel-to-reel of the 60s. Much of this can be attributed to the lack reliability on recordable disks, which often use ink that is "burned in". It doesn't help that in 2010 or so, it was discovered that pretty much every CD-R made before 2003 had a shelf life of 10 years because the ink would just rot away.
  • Even standard serial ports are becoming phased out in favor of USB
    • USARTs (what serial ports are based off of, basically) are widely used in embedded devices because they're simple and most embedded devices don't need that much bandwidth. It's not uncommon to find an OMAP processor (the very ones that power your smartphones) to include several USARTs that you could, more or less, plug into a PC serial port with the right connections.
    • Though there are plenty of USB to serial port devices, and USB cables that act like a traditional RS-232 serial port.
    • Businesses complained about the lack of the "standard configuration" of the rear I/O panel, so there are a few modern motherboards out there that have a serial port and a LPT port.
    • Many motherboards still ship with a serial connector on the board. However the needed port is on a bracket that is sold separately. Ditto for parallel ports- there is a connector onboard, but the port and bracket is sold separately.
  • Any storage systems that use SCSI (anything pre-SAS, but mostly SCSI II) are only still interesting to electronic musicians who prefer old-fashioned hardware samplers to running a software sample player on a computer. The same goes for just about all removable storage media that came out between the 3½" floppy and the CD-RW (ZIP, various MO drives, etc.). It helps a lot that musical instrument manufacturers like Akai or Kurzweil didn't change to USB and Flash memory cards as quickly as computer manufacturers.
    • For the consumers, have an old PATA interface drive? Good luck finding a brand new motherboard that has one of those anymore. However, some companies have wised up and started offering IDE-to-SATA converters, although whether or not it will still allow DRM-imbued media to play is another question.
    • Works the opposite way as well. Have a motherboard with a PATA interface and want to put it to good use (so you can free up that one SATA port to put in one more hard drive when all the other ports are fully occupied and there's no more free PCI or PCIe slots available)? Good luck finding a PATA optical drive. Sure, converters for PATA-to-SATA are still being made, but let's not start on the stupid DRM that may potentially block drives that go through these devices from playing protected media.
  • Flash memory cards. SecureDigital is pretty much the sole remaining popular standard. CompactFlash is for semi-pro and professional photographers with D-SLRs and certain musicians, and all other formats are either for certain other musicians who still didn't upgrade to the latest music workstations and acquire second-hand memory cards from eBay instead, or defunct altogether. Card readers that support all those special formats are either using the sheer number of supported standards as a selling point ("Supports 60+ memory card formats!"), or going extinct in favor of USB devices which only accept SD and MMC anymore.
  • Averted with Windows XP. With the right amount of programming, you can run anything on it.
    • Windows in general has great backwards compatibility provided the program only relied on Windows provided libraries. It was found programs that came with Windows 2.0 still work in the 32-Bit editions of Windows 7.
      • Microsoft even has a subdivision dedicated to maitaining compatibility, with an entire subsystem in the OS that effectively patches select programs at runtime so they can "fix" older software on customer demand. Raymond Chen, a member of that subdivision, has a lot to tell about what that is like in his blog, The Old New Thing.
    • Some DOS games simply dislike running in Windows' protected memory spaces, while others require DOS components not found in versions of Windows released after ME. Most of this was caused by Microsoft leaving MS-DOS behind when they made the jump to Windows 2000 by using the Windows NT system structure, as all previous versions of Windows have had some reliance on DOS components.
      • Of course, this is also why many DOS software could be run on machines running Windows 95, 98, or ME — they still had MS-DOS embedded in their foundations.
    • To be fair, DOSBox is extremely good for emulating DOS Games… if you can find a floppy drive, of course. It's really the games that worked with Windows 2000 that are the problems.
      • However, the developers of DOSBox has expressed no intentions to emulate a SoundBlaster AWE card due to there being only about two games that really make use of the advanced capabilities— never mind that the card's wavetable MIDI synthesizer, which many games do support, sounds way better than regular SoundBlaster 16 or AdLib.
    • On the topic of synthesizers, these are starting to become uncommon features on computers as modern games move towards sampled music (read: MP3/OGG-Vorbis/AAC) and the CPU chips become powerful enough to be able to decode these formats with little effort. It also offers two side effects- one positive and another negative. The positive? The music is now conformant and sounds the same across all hardware note . The negative? Well, most old games require a synthesizer chip for music, so the absence of one in modern hardware means that said games are unable to play back music.
    • Additionally, while Windows ships with a software synthesizer that fully emulates a Roland MT-32, few sound cards now come with a hardware synthesizer - even Creative's more recent consumer-oriented cards lack them, preferring software-based synthesizers; and they're absent from onboard sound solutions. You'll only find hardware synthesizers on prosumer-oriented cards like the E-MU series now.
    • Windows 7 Pro's XP Mode can work with games that don't do heavy 3D rendering. It was more or less intended for companies to use their office applications.
    • Also, 16-bit applications do not work in 64-bit operating systems (which are becoming more and more common those days, specially with people wanting to use more than 4GB of RAM).
    • Of course, this whole issue is also gradually erasing itself as the increasing power of newer computers makes emulation and/or Virtual Machines trivial.
    • If a pre-Win2000 (especially DOS-based) game had Redbook audio, such as Descent II, it often required an analog audio cable directly connected to the soundcard from the disc drive, as opposed to the digital playback of later Windows versions. Fortunately, the D2X Rebirth sourceport/frontend for Descent II allows the CD music to be played digitally, and Turok 2 has a patch for the same purpose.
    • Much of this could be attributed to the different philosophies of resource management between OS's. Windows NT was designed with multiple users and running in a network in mind, and so had to implement more features for stability and security. Since the consumer version of Windows before XP were DOS based, which allowed programmers to do whatever the hell they wanted, they wrote programs that expected to do things that Windows NT requires permission to do so.
    • The DirectSound 3D API. Good lord. The API was heavily used in many games, including Fallout 3. Microsoft removed said API in Windows 7 and later, causing broken BGM playback that had so many riled up. Third party companies did try to put out fixes for it, with varying levels of success (Creative's ALChemy fix worked like a charm, but unfortunately this requires the gamer to own a Creative X-Fi or newer card, and have that as the active card when the fix is run; Realtek's 3D SoundBack did not work for Fallout 3 at all). Bethesda Softwork's response to the complaints? Silence, which is especially painful since Fallout 3 came out after Windows 7 hit the market!
  • Linux is said to offer great support for older hardware. But beware if you want to compile an old program which requires a version of a library or a (often third party) kernel module which is not available anymore or does not compile due to various header location changes.
    • Actually, it was found that a piece of software (a dungeon-type game) that was first ported to Linux when Linux was still in it's infancy still runs on Linux today. So long as you don't attempt to use sound and use ASCII graphics, you're good to go. It's technically the reason that a simple "Hello World" program written in the 1970s will still compile on a modern day C compiler- it uses only the basic unchanging libraries. One kernel maintainer even regularly stresses the importance of maintaining the basic kernel ABI (application binary interface - the machine-level equivalent of the API that is called by the programs during run-time) structure for backwards compatibility, and Linus Torvalds (the head honcho) completely agrees with him.
    • Running old audio software, for example, has grown complicated since OSS was displaced by ALSA, and when ALSA was upgraded to version 0.9, programs written for ALSA 0.5 ceased working due to extreme changes to the fundamental API calls (although understandably, many programs that was written to support ALSA 0.5 also supports OSS due to it being understood that ALSA 0.5 is experimental and should not be fully relied on alone). However, ALSA does provide a library that provides backwards compatibility with OSS, but whether the Linux distro will ship with it or not depends on the distro's communuity.
    • Another comparison: PulseAudio to the Enlightenment Sound Daemon, the latter which was heavily used in GNOME 1.x but was superseded by the former in GNOME 2.x and is now largely forgotten, although true to the Linux spirit, PulseAudio has an Enlightenment Sound Daemon compatibility layer- whether the Linux distribution chooses to ship with it or not is another matter...
    • The same goes for graphics libraries. Since the launch of KDE 4, Qt3 has mostly been phased out and is only kept in repositories for a few older applications. The same might quite likely happen with GTK+ 2 when Gnome 3 starts to spread. However, the switch to GTK+ 3 will most likely take longer since GTK+ 2 is still being used in the MATE and XFCE desktop environments, and effort to move them to GTK+ 3 is happening slower than expected.
    • The same also applies for sound in KDE. Many pre-KDE4 apps use the aRts API, which has since been superseded by Phonon in KDE 4.x
    • And then there's printing. Many modern distros have switched to the Apple-created CUPS (Common UNIX Printing System) since around 2008. Up until 2002, they still ran on the BSD-Licensed LPR (Line PRinter daemon). Good luck trying to print from an early version of StarOffice, if you managed to get that running. Though to be fair, CUPS does come with a LPR emulator as well for backwards compatibility (like other Linux packages mentioned here). However, again it's up to the distribution creators on whether the distribution will ship with it included and/or enabled.
    • Amusingly, Windows' own backwards compatibility has proven to be a boon for the Wine project, which is an attempt to backwards-engineer the Windows API in order to let programs written for Windows run on Linux. Ironically, some older programs written for Windows 95, 98, or XP run just fine through Wine even though newer versions of Windows flat-out refuse to run them at all.
  • Apple's never particularly cared much for compatibility. Old-school Mac users remember the Mac OS 7 debacle. Macs since 2005 are no longer compatible with pre-OSX software (due to the switch to Intel processors causing the Classic environment to become no longer available); it's also now at the point where a lot of software is only compatible with these Macs, leaving older ones out of the loop. As of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, PowerPC applications are no longer compatible either, even if they support Mac OS X, due to the dropping of Rosetta.
    • This is not limited to Macs — much kerfuffle came out when Apple announced the iPhone 5 will use a completely different kind of connector port, invalidating all of your accessories. Apple loves the future. Or at least being able to re-sell you hardware you already own.
    • It's not just the hardware. Many have retired their first generation iPad out of force because Apple won't upgrade it beyond iOS 5.1.1, and many existing apps eventually started requiring iOS6 or newer to run. This is particularly true for web-dependent applications. One prime example is the Youtube client on these iPads will no longer work. And it's beginning to repeat itself, several newer programs are starting to require a 64-bit processor and will not run on anything older than an iPad Air 2.
    • In addition to rejecting Blu-ray, Apple appears to be phasing out removable disc drives altogether, as few if any of their modern devices use them.. This even harkens back to the original iMac in 1998 with the rejection of the floppy drive, which was still an essential media in the business and education world at the time. note 
    • Apple also removed the support for floppy drives and the Wings video capture from Macs that have them if one were to upgrade to OS X. The former actually sparked development of a homebrew driver to re-enable the floppy drive, showing how important the floppy drive was at that time. The latter was not worked on, which is a shame since the chipset does not honor Macrovision signals (which is probably why Apple chose to drop support for it).
    • Apple also does this with early versions of Mac OS X. For example, blocking a Beige G3 from upgrading to OS X 10.3 or newer despite a machine that has been upgraded to the hilt being capable of running said OS version fine. Using third party software to force install OS X 10.3 or newer on said upgraded Macs shows that it can be done. Apple probably just wants you to throw away the pre-Jobs Beige for a machine from the post-Jobs era.
  • At the time of this writing (February 2016), the Python programming language currently has two 'newest' versions: 2.7 and 3.5. The reason for having updates for both Python 2 and Python 3 are because many people have enormous numbers of module libraries for Python 2...that won't work on the non-backwards compatible Python 3.
  • iTunes has issues with Windows XP x64; both the 32 and 64 bit versions require editing the MSI files via Orca to install and may not fully function, and the "64 64" version doesn't work with certain older video cards.
  • Console and hardware emulators are fully software reimplementations of the precise behavior of old hardware, with the express purpose of allowing games and software only compatible with those old machines to be run and used on modern and relatively arbitrary hardware.
  • This nearly doomed the BBC Domesday Project to unreadability, as, in 2002, they realized that drives able to read the disks the project was written on were getting exceedingly rare, as ones that were compatible with the format hadn't been made in years. Fortunately, they managed to create a new system simply to read and preserve all the data on the disks.

    Real Life - Other 
  • Betamax. AppleTalk. NetBIOS. SNA. DECNET. Good luck to you trying to maintain a system or workflow based on any one of those technologies; no matter how similar they may be to more successful tech, almost no one cares about backwards compatibility.
    • Not to mention LaserDisc, rapidly reaching that state for cassette tapes, and if it weren't for audiophiles, the vinyl record would have surely gone that route already.
    • Vinyl records are making a small comeback. You might find one or two at your local big electronics store. New.
      • With the advent of 3D printers, a college student wrote a computer program to turn an MP3 file into a printable record that plays on a standard record player. Quality is low for now, but as printers improve and detail increases, that will get better.
  • The engineering schematics for the space vehicles used in the Apollo project were written in an early CAD/CAM application that ran on computers that no longer function. The US National Archive has all the data preserved, but have no way to read it as modern computers are incompatible with the format they are stored in & the archivists have not been able to get funding to have a conversion program written.
    • This may apply for the 1980s diagrams of British traffic signs, as commercial CAD software (KeySIGN, formerly AutoSIGN) for this wasn't launched until the early 1980s by Pete Harman and Geoff Walker working for Humberside County Council. Prior to then, it's not known what software was used for these. Older KeySIGN/AutoSIGN diagrams may be compatible with the newer 2011 versions.
  • This has been a significant problem for the US military as they try to upgrade their computers yet keep compatibility with tech that may be 60 years old. One case study is the the schematics for the nuclear aircraft carriers, which when read were displaying dotted lines as solid and other such glitches.
    • Military maps are prone to this. The World Geodetic System is the basis for all military maps used by most modern armed forces. The modern US military and most of NATO are on WGS 84. Our allies and some countries use older versions. Units that get lost, maps that don't match, weapons and navigation systems that can't talk to each other, all adds to Jurisdiction Friction.
    • It's not just software and hardware that falls victim to this trope; it applies to physical materials too. Case in point, FOGBANK, which was an unbelievably-classified plastic used in Trident missile warheads. FOGBANK production ended in 1989. When the Navy wanted to refurbish its existing warheads, they had to build a brand-new factory to produce FOGBANK again — and discovered that the documented procedures didn't work. It turns out FOGBANK relied on an impurity included in the original batch, and this delayed the refurbishment by nearly ten years.
    • As the page quote implies, old encrypted records may become unrecoverable if the decryption methods for such messages are lost in the deeps of time. Have fun wringing out the alphanumerics of a coded World War 2 message from an obsolete tape, then decrypting it into whatever it originally said.
  • Mocked (sort of) in this piece of Dinosaur Comics Reader Art.
  • Subverted in this Slashdot exchange.
  • In addition to all analog air signals being phased out, many cable stations are no longer watchable on analog TVs either (unless you have a box). Go buy that DTV.
  • Averted at first with the move to portable music players. Many iPod buyers were thrilled that they could convert and download their CD music collection on to their new device, a factor which probably worked to speed up the adoption of MP3 players. However, with more and more PCs being sold without optical drives, and smartphones and media players becoming increasingly independent from PCs, this is starting to become true.
    • When the Beatles announced in 2010 that their music was finally coming to the iTunes store, the response was a collective "yeah, big deal" because if you were a hardcore Beatles fan you probably would have ripped your CDs onto your iPod already.
  • Some older engines (a few cars, but mainly outboard motors for boats, lawnmower and other small engines) cannot run on gasoline containing ethanol without replacing all non-metal parts in the fuel system.
  • All written languages follow this trope to a degree: ever tried reading Geoffrey Chaucer in spare time, without real training?
    • And this will eventually become true for audio recordings as well (in fact, to a much greater extent than written text for a language like English, that avoids orthography reforms like the plague).
  • The one thing that people have managed to not shoot themselves in the foot: electrical connections and batteries. Thanks to international standardizations done sometime after World War II, we pretty much guaranteed a plentiful supply of means to connect our gizmos to power. For example, the only thing you could possibly carry over from the original IBM PC today is its power cord. At the ultimate extreme, you only need to know the power requirements of an electrically powered device (Direct or Alternating current, which electrodes are the positive/negative or live/neutral/earth, the voltage range, current load, and so on) to figure out how to get it working.
  • The distance between two rails is totally arbitrary. There are some advantages and disadvantages for a very narrow and a very wide distance between them, but ultimately the gauge, as it is called just hast to be the same across a wide area, no matter which standard is chosen. Of course as most railways were built in the 19th century, sometimes explicitly with military applications in mind, non-compatible gauges were chosen deliberately in some cases. Today countries like Spain have a vast legacy network built in broad gauge and a much smaller (but growing) network built to standard gauge (1435 mm). The latter is used almost exclusively by high speed trains, making them non backwards compatible. There are variable gauge trains and the Spanish are among the world's leading inventors of those, but they have a lot of downsides.