The setting and timeline may seem at first to be The Middle Ages, The Colonial Period, or some Fantasy Counterpart Culture thereof, but when you look closer, you find polyester, robots, or other high-tech toys in between the horse-drawn wagons and wattle-and-daub buildings. There's generally no rhyme or reason for which technologies are anachronistically present besides the Rule of Cool. Sometimes these may be leftovers from a lost technological civilization, or perhaps it could be that science developed along a different path than ours, allowing for more advanced technology in one field, while stagnating in others, but most of the time there is no explanation whatsoever for the bizarre mix of medieval and futuristic.
Schizo Tech is a key component of Punk Punk. It's also the foundation for Fantasy Gun Control. Compare Decade Dissonance for when one side has all the cool toys. When a story nominally set in a real-life historical period has this problem, you've got yourself some tasty Anachronism Stew. It may be because an isolated branch of mankind created an Advanced Ancient Acropolis. After the End is normally a good justification of this; often resulting in Scavenger World, especially when you have a faction with Low Culture, High Tech.
When evaluating a candidate for this trope, try not to confuse anachronisms with non-western-isms. For example, a kimono can be just as modern as a three-piece suit, if not more so. Likewise, do not confuse anachronism for cosmetic purposes with anachronism of technological capability. For example, though you will see lots of Zeppelins from Another World at work in Schizo Tech, Airships themselves are not more or less advanced than airplanes or helicopters, just suited to different situations- namely, ones that value endurance, payload and fuel efficiency over speed and maneverability. Alternatively, a judge wearing an eighteenth century robe and wig while judging cybercrime cases is not schizo tech, but simply a remnant of the Good Old Ways. And again, Tropes Are Still Not Bad. It's also worth noting that in the alternate history of a candidate, the culture and style may simply be different, so while their older architecture may seem to jar with their higher levels of technology, it may be that that style of architecture is just "in" at that time. In dealing with other cultures, also remember that the concept of Technology Levels is flawed, and that real societies are not obliged to all invent the same things in the same order.
Most comic book universes have this trope as a natural consequence: the wondrous science held by the heroes and villains would, if even partially distributed, violate the surprisingly mundane world that divides the superhero genre from outright Speculative Fiction. Examples and subversions are noted below.
Beware: Many sci-fi settings that aren't harder than diamond can become this if you think about it too hard.
Compare Adventure-Friendly World, Anachronism Stew, Culture Chop Suey, and Fantasy Kitchen Sink. Technology Levels is what this trope averts. As well as Medieval European Fantasy, of course. If the old stuff proves as effective as the new stuff, you've also got an Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age. It may also be the byproduct of a Retro Universe. Contrast Days of Future Past.
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In Last Exile, antigravity generators are common, yet in other respects the setting is almost entirely steampunk. This is because the antigravity generators are lent to the two major world powers by the Crystal Spires and Togas Guild. And if you go against the Guild, they have a bad habit of taking the generators back, in-flight. Guess who turns out to be the Big Bad organisation?
Pokémon: You have Poké Balls that transmute living beings to light and store them in containers, which are used and sold in rural forest and mountain towns with little transportation.
The Mysterious Cities of Gold takes place in the 16th century during Spain's exploration of the New World. The Spaniards have about the level of technology that they had in real life, while the heroes have technology from an ancient, highly advanced empire, including a solar-powered warship that shoots lasers, a solid gold airplane, and even a fusion reactor.
Tetsuro: So that's Mars. Maetel: They've raised the air pressure here up to the levels on Earth, but it's taken them a century to do so. Tetsuro: They created it artificially? Maetel: Exactly. It's a place where humans can live without any difficulty. Yet, the only ones who live here are people with cybernetic bodies. Tetsuro: So they didn't even have to bother raising the air pressure to Earth levels. Maetel: Not at all. It was a completely wasted effort.
Trigun uses this to good effect, mixing use of native animals and chemically propelled weapons with use of cybernetics and extreme high tech terraforming equipment, for the most part cannibalised for water and energy production.
El-Hazard: The Magnificent World is a setting that superficially resembles the Arabian Nights, but is littered with the explicit remains of ultratech civilizations that destroyed themselves in a massive war centuries before.
In Axis Powers Hetalia, England berates America during World War II for having a laptop model from 42 years in the future. "Are you trying to show off?" He doesn't bother mentioning the flippant use of Google, from even further into the future, which winds up functioning as the joke of the strip. It's as seen here: . Talk about American ingenuity...
Also, during the 1700s, Japan is seen listening to his ear bud headphones (presumably from his iPod)
And speaking of the above strip, America also makes mention of Spielberg...who wasn't born until 1946. Maybe he got a glimpse of the future?
Aura Battler Dunbine is a classic schizo tech series, in which the inhabitants of a medieval fantasy world have kidnapped a group of robotics engineers and computer manufacturers from Earth to build advanced weapons. (There's an almost surreal shot of a chip-assembly "clean room" in a castle basement.)
In Bleach, we see that the 12th Division of the Gotei 13 has some pretty advanced computers...in an afterlife that seems to be based on feudal Japan. Also, IVs. The bulk of the Court Guard Squads certainly have access to at least modern technology, as they use cell-phones as Hollow-detectors and their mod souls seem to come out of PEZ dispensers.
Grenadier is set in a feudal Japan that somehow still manages to have modern automatic weapons and other high-tech goodies. The Imperial Capital is powered by a tremendous solar device that can be weaponised by someone rather malicious (read: the Iron-Masked Baron, who is himself a Brain in a JarCyborg).
Lost Universe and Outlaw Star both appear to inhabit the opposite end of the schizo tech scale — futuristic worlds with anachronistic magic. That's actually Space Opera, the same thing as Star Wars.
The characters of Haré+ Guu live in a hunter-gatherer society, in a village in the middle of a jungle. However, they also have television, video games, modern school buildings, and a typical late-20th-early-21st-century city just a plane trip away.
This is actually a Truth in Television since there are hunter-gatherer societies that have remained mostly unchanged for years, but do in fact, have radio, televisions, electricity, and wear modern clothes such as jeans and T-shirts. While going on hunting trips. One British journalist was shocked to see said society watching episodes of Star Trek, despite them not being able to understand the language.
Smack-dab in between the two extremes is Paradigm City, the setting of The Big O, which would appear to be a 1940s film noir New York — if it weren't for the giant glass domes, androids, robots and Humongous Mecha all over the place.
This can be explained by the entire world that we see (barring a minuscule exception or two) is part of a gigantic set reminiscent of The Truman Show. Why the producers, etc, of the show inside the show, who presumably have all of this technology and more, chose to do this is another story altogether.
The universe of Fullmetal Alchemist at first glance seems to be early 20th century Europe. Most long-distance travel is done by steam train, the streets are paved with cobblestones, soldiers dress in uniforms similar to the era and are armed accordingly with period weapons (though the anime messes things up a bit by replacing the WWII-era guns with Vietnam-era ones), things like automobiles and telephones are just coming into existence, and are only being used by those with money or influence and it's mentioned in one episode that delivery of meat in a refrigerated truck is a new technology. At the same time, there's "Automail", which are basically prosthetic limbs linked directly to the nervous system which are even more advanced than what 21st-century technology can currently produce, yet they're so widespread that even some small towns have at least one automail mechanic. Additionally, Fort Briggs has carbon fiber and post-WWII-style tanks. The presence of alchemy as a viable branch of science might have caused technological research to go down different routes.
Interestingly, elements such as the steam trains and the State Alchemists' watches are accurate reproduction of early twentieth-century ones.
Parodied in Shaman King, in which the Patch Native American tribe has "traditional hand-made" versions of things like pagers, monitors, and cell phones.
Later on, it is shown that they really ARE hand made. The tribe became friends with an alien who taught them how to make all of their tech with what they had at hand.
The anime movie, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, which takes place in the 1960's, but includes both anachronistic WWII-era weapons and futuristic powered-armour suits.
This applies to the rest of the Kerberos franchise as well, with most technology being from the 50s or so, except for the aforementioned power armour, and the social structure being entrenched in the 1960s and the cold war... aside from the totalitarian dictatorships and massive gang warfare caused by that very same power armour (or rather, those who use it). It's complicated.
At least in Jin-Roh there is absolutely no evidence of the Kerberos armor being powered, i.e. self-actuated. It is a heavy but ergonomical set of cotton padding, leather covers and metal armor plates, plus a helmet and an armored gas mask. The IR night-vision device in the mask seems to be based on contemporary active technology; the integrated backpack houses the radio, batteries for it and the IR device, and ammunition.
The world of Saiyuki has ancient Chinese architecture, clothing, and farming technology (witness the hoe-wielding mobs of angry cheongsam-clad villagers found in many episodes)... and also such everyday items as butane lighters, a jeep, a revolver, and a gold credit card.
Specifically, a deity booted out of heaven- who was reincarnated as a small dragon- who can transform into a Jeep via magic. Nice going, Hakuryuu.
Not only do they have a credit card, not a single one of those ancient Chinese villages is ever unable to scan it, no matter how small the town may be. And no one even expresses surprise at seeing it.
The villainous lair they're trying to reach is full of computers and ominous-looking lab equipment, guarded by men with swords, alongside a woman who's been turned to stone by a magical curse.
The universe essentially mixes feudal society with modern technology (and clothing). The only exceptions are things like cars and guns. The only fields of technology which are outdated are transportation and military. Since these jobs are done by Shinobi, there is no requirement for advancement in a different direction/a need for there not be advances so shinobi have a reason to exist.
In chapter 354, apropos of completely freaking nothing we see dozens of buildings of late 20th century build, all of which are abandoned except for one that was used as a weapon storehouse by the Uchiha and is inhabited by some old lady, her granddaughter, and their cats.
The chapters before the war showed the feudal lords, that rule the Countries the ninja villages are located in, having a videoconference! Powered with huge acid batteries no less.
The first movie features a film crew who travel in snowmobiles. The villains drive a steam engine, melting the ice with chakra run through the rails, and fly a Cool Airship.
One filler episode had a dart gun (which looks like a sniper rifle, but is not an actual gun) with a laser sight.
The popular anime and mangaInuYasha has a completely feudal Japan fantasy setting ... until a group of bandits suddenly come into the picture, one of whom appears to be half-tank.
Samurai 7 has massive cyborgs and warships, equipped with what seems like anti-gravity systems, Wave Motion Guns...and samurai, armed only with katana and Implausible Fencing Powers. The villagers fire incendiary arrows at power armor. The cities are part cyberpunk, but the villages are traditional Japanese in style. And the "mother of all crossbows" is so very worth the watching...
One of the Seven is also a robot. Powered by steam. To borrow a line, I wasn't aware steam could form allegiances.
In the Orguss 02OVA, we have Industrial Age societies digging up Humongous Mecha which have teams of psychics onboard to navigate and act in lieu of radar and other sensors, and machine guns installed to replace any Energy Weapons that aren't still working.
Shina Dark has the Vansable Empire with steam-powered war devices. But more notably, when one of the main characters gets injured, she is sent to a hospital which has an oxygen tank with a mask.
Adding to its ever notorious anachrony, Samurai Champloo features semi-automatic handguns, rocket launchers, and elevators all existing in the Japanese Edo Period.
Afro Samurai. The opening scene looks like something out of feudal Japan to Wild West Europe... not too long later, cut to a man using night vision goggles. Other technological marvels include rocket launchers, cellphones, androids and cyborgs alongside old-style clothing, architecture and swords.
Saber Marionette J has Robot Girls, spaceships and all sorts of technology in what looks like feudal Japan; supposedly, this is the result of a space colony operation gone awry.
Mamoru Nagano plays this trope to the hilt in The Five Star Stories, where genetically enhanced Super Soldiers who act like knights in shining armor and pilot Humongous Mecha serve in the same military forces as WWII-style soldiers, but with laser rifles and anti-gravity tanks. Most of these armies serve various feudal empires, though democracies and fascist dictatorships are not unheard of. This is occasionally Lampshaded, with characters lamenting what a ridiculous game war has become, and various justifications are given, the most common being that it's more a matter of tradition than practicality and that the prevailing military theory favours personal combat to weapons of mass destruction because it isn't worth conquering territory if it's just going to get nuked (which doesn't stop the main character from creating a mecha with a gun that can blow up entire continents when fired at full power, but let's not get into that).
The only difference that Glass Fleet has from The Cavalier Years is the presence of space-faring vessels. Swords, flintlock pistols, crossbows, spears, horse-drawn carriages, and plate armor are still well in place. This is taken to ridiculous extremes when artists' renditions of mercenaries are used as a stand-in for intelligence/surveillance photographs.
The majority of the world of One Piece doesn't appear to be particularly advanced. They have guns, cannons, and cameras, but they substitute a lot of communications technology with magic snails. Then we meet Cyborg Franky who, true to his name, is a cyborg. Turned himself into one in a junkyard! With a box of scraps!. Has a bottomless magazine in his left arm with doubles as a cannon and an automatic weapon, a sort of Rocket Punch attached to a chain. What have you.
A bit further into the story we meet Bartholomew Kuma. Like Franky, he's a cyborg, but of a much higher quality. He's called a Pacifista.
Not long after that, more cyborgs show up in the form of what are essentially clones of Kuma, but with lasers.
And now we have flat-screen TV monitors and speakers made using snails.
Also the Marines and the World Government have better tech than most every other place simple because they do not want other people to be able to challenge them. So they keep all of their inventions out of public hands because they know that pirates will use it against them if they can. Dr. Vegapunk also works for the Marines and he is more than likely the best scientist in the world by far.
Vegapunk is said to be 500 years ahead of his time. Technology-wise One Piece looks to be set 300-400 years before our time. This means Vegapunk is able to make technology 100-200 years better than ours, explaning the robotic dogs and laser cyborgs. No justification for Franky, though, but the whole guy seems to run on Rule of Cool.
According to Vivi, because most islands in the Grand Line are separated by random weather patterns, giant sea monsters, and, of course, pirates, they've all had to advance on their own rate. This is why you can have an island that's stuck in the age of the dinosaurs, and another island that's full of cyborgs (incidentally, said island is Vegapunk's homeland).
Kino no Tabi: in the "Land of Wizards" episode, it is pointed out that no one has ever successfully built an airplane. Never mind that various countries have artificial intelligence, humanoid robots, fully-automated economies, incredibly-advanced neurological science, and, of course, hovercrafts. No airplanes, just hovercrafts.
In New Getter Robo, the Getter Team find themselves transported back to the Heian era, and are quite surprised to find Samurai fighting the Oni with guns, tanks, and airships. It's suggested by Hayato that their arrival, which deposited each of them at different points in a 2-year period and the robot itself long enough ago to be recorded on scrolls as a fable, somehow screwed up the time line.
Black Butler is set in a distinctively Victorian English flavoured setting, complete with explicit historical references such as Queen Victoria and Arthur Conan Doyle making appearances. But television and video games also are mentioned... and Grell's chainsaw.
D.Gray-Man supposedly takes place in the late 19th century, but the Black Order has everything from computers to giant robots.
Gintama takes place in a Post-Edo Period, with all its kimonos and wooden houses, houses literal aliens and time-space warp gate technology. aliens took over the world and it actually works as an alternate universe modern-day setting.
Word of God from the Berserkerverse admits that there is some armor and items that do not belong in the medieval setting, but said that he didn't go that far cougharmcannonthatturnsintoacrossbowcough. Miura simply said:
Somewhat funny as something like that really existed, though Miura mentioned he didn't realize it till long after he written several chapters.
Super Atragon: Modern mach 2 fighters and their missiles could not scratch the enemy's advanced weaponry. A fictional, WWII-style, seaplane armed with nothing but machine-guns could swat down several before being damaged.
Most of the car designs in Red Line are bizarre, futuristic, and/or downright aerodynamically impossible but otherwise nothing like you'd see today...except for JP's custom gold plated, pimped out Trans-Am. It's the smallest thing on the track.
The borderline-surrealist environment that is the setting of Revolutionary Girl Utena features phonographs, reel-to-reel players and cell phones being used by the characters. In a flashback that may be the most trippy scene in the story up to the point at which it occurs, villagers dressed in modern business attire and wielding pitchforks and swords demand entry to a barn, in which a fax machine continuously prints out the world's further requests for assistance from the barn's beleaguered occupants: Dios and Anthy. Suffice to say that unlike many examples of this trope, in which such anachronisms may be unintentional, these juxtapositions help to set the mood for the show.
In The Borrower Arrietty, Haru uses a modern flip-style cell phone that easily fits in her hand. Yet the house where she works at has a rotary-dial landline phone in working order as well! Makes it difficult to determine when exactly does this movie take place.
This is a deliberate point in Mushishi. The time period is kept vague, and Ginko uses rather advanced technology for a place where people all dress in kimonos.
Attack on Titan takes place in a setting that appears to resemble the early Middle Ages. However, they also have flintlock rifles used by the Military Police and fairly advanced cannons that can be fired from almost any angle, mounted on tracks along the walls. A glimpse at the wealthy citizens living in the interior of Wall Sina also reveals fashion closer to the Victorian era (top hats, pocket watches, and well-tailored suits). But the most distinct piece of technology is the primary tool of the military, the 3D Maneuver Gear used in their battles with the Titans. It is a system consisting of two waist-mounted grappling hooks controlled by trigger mechanisms in hand-held controllers, and powered by a gas-propelled fan intake system. The entire system is noted to be incredibly light, and it's actually pretty advanced even by modern standards. The foundries that produce their swords, although only briefly seen, also seem to hint at some pretty sophisticated metallurgy and manufacturing streams (albeit presumably reserved solely for military purposes).
Comic books seem to be egregious examples of this. Batman's nemesis Mr. Freeze has invented a freeze-ray; Lex Luthor currently waltzes around in a battlesuit full of crazy power and can probably fly; Firestorm can synthesize any material in any quantity (I'm looking at you, lithium); Thanagarian N-th metal is apparently capable of bestowing flight; Black Lightning is capable of generating mounds and mounds of electrical current, and... well, you get the idea. And yet, citizens of Earth are still using gasoline-fuelled cars. This is usually either justified with the technology either being created by super geniuses and only working for them, or being in the domain of only aliens, magic-wielders or the very, very rich/military. Or maybe they just don't trust regular people with these wonderful toys - after all, someone probably could mass-produce cars fueled by the Power Cosmic, but suppose someone back-engineers them into weapons?
Lampshaded somewhat in the first Superman/Batman comic. Alfred is guarding the sewer entrance to the Batcave with a shotgun. Superman remarks on it, telling Batman "You didn't have an extra freeze ray gun you could've given him?"
Lampshaded in Starman, when Jack Knight tells his father that when he invented an unlimited, clean source of power in the 1940s, he should have used it to make cosmic-powered cars instead of flying around fighting crime. Jack's father actually goes on to construct a cosmic power plant big enough to power the entire county, which hasn't been seen since in the DCU.
Oracle (the former Batgirl crippled by the Joker and current organizer of the Birds of Prey) plays with this. In theory, she could have the use of her legs back instantly with the tech that the JLA and Batman have available. She refuses to use it, however, until it is available to everyone.
Like many things, Watchmen deconstructs this trope a bit: Dr. Manhattan and others actually invent a ton of things that change the world. Cars are now electric, eliminating the need for gasoline powered vehicles, and among other things Rorschach's constantly shifting mask is an invention of Dr. Manhattan's designed originally as just an ornate dress.
Pre CrisisKrypton had all manner of advanced tech, with the single, sometimes-lampshaded exception of a space program. Krypton only started developing space flight within a single generation before its destruction, and largely abandoned it after a catastrophe destroyed one of their moons (oops! This is what got Jax-Ur exiled to the Phantom Zone). But the reason for this lack of space tech is simple: In Pre-Crisis days, Krypton was freaking huge, with monstrous gravity that any rocket would have to fight. The breakthrough that finally allowed them to have spaceflight at all was Jor-El's invention of antigravity. All this meant that Jor-El was never able to build the evacuation fleet he wanted, and only had one little home-made rocket for baby Kal-El.
This mostly just justifies why the Kryptonians didn't travel the galaxy as Supermen once they escaped the light of their red sun. In theory, if they had gotten far enough away, they could simply continue travelling without the need for spaceships.
More modern stories often explain this as a cultural shift; Kryptonians did at some point attempt to develop space travel (though not clear to what extent) but abandoned it as the planet became more xenophobic.
Marvel Comics is guilty of this as well. Stark Industries have technology that really should have revolutionized the world by now, SHIELD have jetpacks and spaceships (technically, SWORD has the spaceships, but whatever), Charles Xavier has a global surveillance system (mutant only), Henry Pym has his shrinking particles, and of course, Reed Richards Is Useless.
This huge waste of world changing technology is noted as one of Pym's "sins" in Paradise X since Pym could have saved many more lives by adapting his technology to industry or health technology rather than using it to beat up criminals.
Even before the Civil War, Tony Stark tried letting the U.S. government use some low-powered suits of Powered Armor a few times. Inevitably, the armor ended up getting used for purposes that were evil or stupid and Tony ended up regretting the decision.
Latveria is one of the most advanced nations on Earth, but most of the landscape looks quaint and medieval—because Doctor Doomlikes the quaint medieval look.
Beetle Bailey's been going since The Fifties and the Korean War, so Beetle and his unit wear Korea-era uniforms, drive Jeeps, and use old-fashioned rifles. In more recent strips, there are computers, microphone headsets, modern-style golf, and other modern technology, but the 50s tech has never gone away.
Nävis, the protagonist of the French comic series Sillage, lives in a treehouse inside a sort of biosphere spaceship, presumably because she grew up in a jungle and likes her home feeling close to nature.
The Trigan Empire has supersonic planes and swords. Guns exist, but haven't made swords and spears obsolete, for some reason.
Darkseid's world of Apokolips often is depicted as this, having space ships, teleportation technology, and many advanced weapons, while making the slaves use wooden pullies, carts, and hand labor to build stone castles. Most likely, this is all intentional.
In Worldwar War Of Equals, Humans are actually surprised that the aliens have tanks, aircraft, and technology that are somewhat weaker than theirs but yet they have starships and have cold sleep tech.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is explicitly set in 1891, but casually shows tanks, vinyl records, and automatic pistols—20, 50, and 12 years before they were invented, respectively. None of the characters express any shock upon seeing them. Dr. Watson also at one point attempts CPR, or at least chest compressions, but either way it is an anachronism—the latter was described first in 1904, and the former not invented until the 1960s.
The film Wild Wild West has steam punk technologies such as the steam powered spider mech and non steam punk technologies like the metal collars and saw gun
Superman Returns adopts a glamorous style reminiscent of the '40s, while implied to be taking place not long after the events of Superman II(which was set in 1980). It even says as much that it's set five years later. And then someone pulls out a camera phone.
Not to mention the involvement of Richard Branson and Virgin Airlines.
Which were founded in 1984. Their presence is slightly more plausible, though still hard to justify if the film's meant to be set in '85.
The 1996 movie Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh. The external guards in the beginning use polearms, the statue of the old King Hamlet wears platemail, and Norway is allowed to invade Poland without any alliance system protecting Poland, making it at least seem like medieval times. Then there are some old-looking guns inside the palace, making it seem like 17th century at least. Then there are steam trains, one way mirrors, and a globe with a complete map of Africa, making it seem like 19th century. Then there are electric lights, which make it seem like the 20th century.
The original Hamlet was pretty anachronistic to begin with. William Shakespeare did this a lot, probably because he thought his audience wouldn't be able to identify with the characters or the setting if he didn't include things they were familiar with.
The 1996 movie is an explicit Setting Update to the late 19th century, when commercial electricity was first being adopted, mainly by wealthy elites and governments. 17th century palaces filled with antiques, guards with ceremonial weaponry (backed up by guards with modern weaponry) and old paintings and statues are still commonly found amongst European royalty today. The only thing that doesn't work is the invasion of Poland, which is an Acceptable Break from Reality given that the plot of the play (written in the 17th century and taking place most likely in the 13th century) cannot take place otherwise (that, and the fact that neither Norway nor Poland existed as independent nations in the late 19th century anyway—Norway was a dependency of Sweden until 1905, and modern Poland was formed from territories controlled by Germany, Austria, and Russia after World War One).
Planet of the Apes. The Ape civilization seems to be on the level of ancient Rome, yet there's an abundance of semi-automatic weapons, plastic pens and high pressure water hoses. This is explained by the After the End setting.
Dark City includes elements of this to reflect the fact that the city's builders just kind of yanked technology off of Earth for the city's inhabitants (humans) to play with. The makers of the movie did this simply to enhance the Film Noir elements of the movie.
It also provides hints that the city is somehow displaced in time, which is kind of true.
The Emperor's New Groove is largely set in an ancient Incan kingdom, although a floor waxer inexplicably appears for a one-shot gag.
The animated movie Dragon Hill seems mostly set in a medieval setting, with a character trying to improve technological advance (such as the use of television); in the end, it turns out dragons had developed a super computer.
The Wookiees in Star Wars use advanced lasers and holographic systems, and still live in wooden treehouses in the middle of jungles. This is one of the reasons that Return of the Jedi used Ewoks instead - a technologically advanced Wookiee battle would be too expensive to create.
A shot of Tatooine featured a hovering cart pulled by a beast of burden. Seriously, what's wrong with the wheels in that galaxy?
There's also the Gungans, who use shield generators mounted on elephant-like creatures, defend themselves with handheld forcefield shields and throw their plasma grenades with slingshots.
The plasma balls at least are supposedly created naturally. Not that this explains why they could not invent some kind of bazooka-like device to launch them instead of using slings as if they were Ewoks or something.
The technology in Star Wars is rather inconsistent, e.g. the ships wield rather primitive lasers and rocket-engines, but also have antigravity technology and hyperdrive technology that seems thousands of years more advanced.
The wide variation in technology is somewhat justified in the Extended Universe, by virtue of the fact that all of the worlds were at various stages of technological development when they were contacted by the the Republic, or enslaved by the Empire. Limitations on technology reflect what the various cultures have been able to buy or steal, or what they've been permitted by Imperial occupation forces. After all, it doesn't make sense to give an enslaved people too advanced technology that they might turn around and use on you. Combine that with environments that can make primitive tech more useful or reliable than high tech, especially when it comes to the cost and difficulty of maintaining advanced tech vs. more primitive versions, and the infrastructures needed to do so; as well as belief systems that may limit certain applications of technology. There are numerous real-world parallels to this.
There's a Russian filk Krupp's Answer, laughing at the Painfully Slow Projectiles "Which your silly Jedi mock". It contains advice to visit a museum, "skip arquebuses", then "find Gatling Gun, sit next to piece, and meditate a hour on this device". As a corollary, the name's due to Epigraph referring to Krupp (who patented the wedge breechblock) standing in St. Petersburg Artillery museum and "thoughtfully looking" at a rifled bronze pishchal cast in 1615... with a wedge breechblock.
In Avatar, they are capable of projecting live humans into the bodies of live Avatars, but can't remotely control attack-helicopters or attack-robot suits because all they could afford to send to Pandora was hundred-year old military surplus from the mid-21st century.
In the 1995 version of Richard III most of the military equipment is of WWII vintage — except for a few modern T-72 tanks that appear in the final battle.
The Sci-Fi movie The Ice Pirates, a low-budget rip-off of Star Wars, features a Galactic Empire, FTL spacecraft, and warrior robots (and even something like a holodeck in one scene). But when the heroes and villains do battle, it's generally aboard ship or on a planet's surface with simple melee weapons, like swords and axes. There are virtually no ship-to-ship battles: laser cannons do exist, but they appear to be rare and inefficient, almost like single-shot muskets. It takes place in a Post-Apocalyptic galaxy, where civilization might have been at a higher level.
Of course, the only reason everybody seems to use melee weapons is because the clumsy robots from both sides can lose their limbs in the ensuing chaos.
Might also be, to coin a trope, "Rule of Cheap"—lasers cost a lot to animate, but fake swords are cheap.
Much of Sucker Punch is in the form of fantasy/dream sequences, but in the bordello scenes, you still get modern music being played on vintage radios. And while a vivid imagination might conjure WWI Steam Punk zombies, where did she come up with the Humongous Mecha piloted by Rocket? Not to mention the modern helicopter and the automatic weapons?
By the end of Back To The Future Part III, the Delorean becomes a product of schizo tech thanks to the upgrades and mishaps through time travel: train wheels from 1885, the time circuits rebuilt from 1955 parts, the Delorean body and flux capacitor from 1985, and Mr. Fusion and the remnants of the hover conversion from 2015.
In the film version of The Hunger Games, the Capitol has such advanced, futuristic technology as energy shields, hovercrafts, and interactive holograms. The people of District 12, meanwhile, mine coal manually, hunt with bows and arrows, and, if the picture we see of Katniss's father is any indication, don't have color photography. These technological discrepancies are justified somewhat by the backstory, but they seem a bit extreme even so.
Panem seems to rely pretty heavily on trains, but this troper doesn't recall seeing a single automobile. It's possible that cars have been completely replaced by hovercrafts, but this seems unlikely in the more impoverished districts.
In the movie, a car takes Katniss from the tribute ceremony to the train station taking them to the Capitol. IIRC, this also happens in the book. However, the car in the movie looked old, almost like a Model T. (IIRC again)
Also invoked in-universe with the Games themselves. The contestants are placed in a huge, force-field-protected arena, where every rock and tree is hiding a tiny camera, announcements are projected onto the sky, and bodies are retrieved via hovercraft—and forced to fight each other with swords, bows, and other weapons you could find on any medieval battlefield.
In Man of Steel, Kryptonians have developed guns, aircraft, and spacecraft but still use winged mounts as well.
In Walker, the 1987 acid western by Alex Cox, is a stylized biopic in William Walker, a filibuster who seized control of Nicaragua in 1856. To highlight the association with then-current events, the film becomes increasingly anachronistic. Modern magazine articles are shown writing on the film's events, and the climax features a helicopter extraction.
In Elysium Kruger essentially dual wields a katana and a force field.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier Cap and Black Widow enter a hidden facility full of old-school mainframes who the agent believes to not work anymore... until she notices an USB deck. Plugging a flash drive they had gotten reveals the computers hold the Virtual Ghost of Armin Zola, who had done some Brain Uploading after being diagnosed with a terminal disease 1973. And yet he never felt the need to transfer his mind into newer servers, only adding the USB port, 80s tube monitors and an internet connection.
Zork contains mostly World War 2ish-era technology that is augmented by magic, some of which uses devices that strike accord with pre-industrial paradigms.
The Hunger Games has fire capes and instant food, but no plasma rifles and bows, spears and swords are still used. Airships and helicopters are used, but not planes. The Capitol deliberately suppresses technology in the Districts, especially weapons tech.
Charles Stross' The Merchant Princes Series are a very good example. Some people are able to travel between parallel worlds with varying levels of technology. This leads to things like cavalry using heavy machine guns. Or a knight making trade agreements with megacorporations.
Most Steampunk works revel in this trope, though counterexamples do exist: The Difference Engine sees computers developed in the Victorian era with considerable effort devoted to making them both plausible and integrated, though even here the rollerskates do seem pure schizo tech (or Rule of Cool). (In fact, rollerskates were invented some time before 1743 and were mildly popular in Victorian times—inline ones, at that...)
The Planet Cull in Neal Asher's The Brass Man features "knights" riding on giant hogs who use lances to kill local monsters, protecting villagers who construct photovoltaic cells by hand as a trade. This is because they are the descendants of a stranded colony ship, and their leaders are trying to use a telescope and a laser to re-establish contact with the ship as it's still sitting in orbit and can be used as a relay to phone home back to Earth.
Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy has cigarettes, cameras and bathrooms with running water, but no weapons more advanced than crossbows. This is because every member of the society can shield, making them everything proof, not to mention the ability to kill people with a thought.
Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series features nations with fleets of flying warships and mile-range rifles that shoot explosive rounds, but in which the most valued combat skill is swordsmanship.
It's explained both by the After the End nature of the setting (meaning most tech is reproduced from the ruins of the earlier Barsoomian civilization) and by the Proud Warrior Race nature of most of the planet's inhabitants - yeah, guns are more efficient, but swordsmanship is more honorable and personal, so it's preferred where possible.
In Orson Scott Card's Homecoming series, a benevolent mind-controlling computer keeps anyone on the planet Harmony from thinking of anything that might lend itself to large-scale warfare, with the end result that they have advanced computers, but the horse pulled wagon is a new invention in the story.
L. Sprague de Camp's novella Divide and Rule was written primarily to have as much fun with this trope as possible. It features trains pulled by elephants, knights with armor made of chrome steel and plexiglass, cavalry battles with radio correspondents, and castles that use canned food to outlast sieges, among many other things. This is because Earth has been conquered by aliens who give humans a fair degree of autonomy, but don't allow them certain technologies, such as explosives and motor vehicles.
In Western SF, Frank Herbert's Dune is perhaps the preeminent example of this, though the reasons for it are well-rooted in the series Back Story. There are strict religio-political limitations on technology as a reaction to conflicts with sentient computers and cyborgs created by humans; culminating in a major war known in-universe as the Butlerian Jihad. Adherence to the prohibitions vary. Some societies, most notably that of Ix, develop technology that skirts the edge of the prohibitions, if not outright stepping over it; further adding to the schizo tech nature of the setting. This only increases in later books, with humans returning from the Diaspora bringing back even more advanced technology, while the remaining cultures have regressed even farther.
Stephen King's The Dark Tower series is a great version of this. It takes place in a mystical Wild West filled with malfunctioning robots. Though it's never explicitly said what happened, the books obviously exist on a planet After the End.
Eddie: "Just what the hell happened here? Nuclear war?" Blaine: [Laughter] "Something far worse than that, believe me."
Mortal Engines has quite a few examples of this: heavier-than-air flight doesn't exist (at least at the start of the series), swords are still as popular as guns, and computers are barely a twinkle in anybody's eye, but about half the world lives in cities mounted on treads with powerful engines and mechanical jaws capable of seizing smaller cities and taking them apart for scrap. To be fair, keeping the cities running is portrayed as a massive effort and the primary concern of local governments.
There's also a lot of scavenging going on for old tech.
In the Book of the New Sun, schizo tech can be summed up by paraphrasing one of its appendices - The future Urth is a world where continents are just as far away to the average person as other star systems. And the peasantry carry crossbows that shoot thermite explosives.
One very representative example is a short story in an issue of Analog, in which the most advanced two species in the universe can use black hole as a source of energy and have more Wave Motion Guns than you can imagine, but are surprised and, for one of the two species (both flew around in gigantic spaceships), destroyed by a lucky shot from a device consisting of a long tube, a titanium coated projectile, and an explosive, i.e., a gun. Apparently, only humans are brutish enough to come up with the idea.
"The Road Not Taken", a short story by Harry Turtledove. It turns out that "gravity manipulation" is absurdly simple, so easy that some Iron Age cultures have discovered it, giving them antigravity and faster-than-light travel. Humans, who have missed the discovery, are invaded in 2039 by a species roughly in its Age of Sail (except with the spaceships instead of the sailing). It's humans with 21st-century technology versus aliens with highly maneuverable aircraftnote Antigravity makes the invaders' aircraft incomparably nimble, but not fast; human air forces have radar, speed, and sheer firepower, starships... and black-powder flintlock muskets. It was a very short-lived invasion.
The story's title name-drops the Robert Frost poem; one of the humans says that because they missed the "obvious" discovery, they took a less-travelled road and developed more in other areas. And unlike gravity manipulation, which serves solely to move objects around, humanity's sciences had all manner of uses — electromagnetic physics, for instance, gave us electricity, radar, and communications. No other world the aliens have seen has followed that path... and now the humans have their own technology and the hyperdrive. A couple of captive aliens lampshade this in a hilarious "What Have We Done" moment — exactly in these words, no less.
There's a sequel short story in which it's the humans who are on the other end of this. After easily conquering all the Iron Age alien cultures with 21st century tech, humans meet an even more advanced race that has carved out a small interstellar empire without gravity manipulation.
The World War series, also by Harry Turtledove, is considerably harder, the Race, despite having mastered things like cryogenics and half-light speed travel, never thought to stick poison gas in a canister and shoot it at their enemy. Meaning they never invented a proper defense. In addition they have been unified for fifty thousand years and have only fought pre-gunpowder civilizations since then (until the 1940s of course), so they haven't needed any military weapons more advanced than assault rifles and nukes.
It is stated multiple times that if the Race had arrived just 40 years earlier they would have conquered more than just the third world countries and that if they had arrived much later they would have been utterly defeated (or would have found a radioactive rock where an inhabitable planet used to be).
In fact the Race invasion caused human technology to advance more quickly, by the sixties most cars are powered by hydrogen and the US sent a nuclear powered ship to the asteroid belt, and sent a starship traveling at a third of lightspeed to the Race homeworld by the end of the century.
They were expecting a walk-over (the last info they had was from the 12th century), not an industrial enemy. Plus they'd not had any use for the stuff in 50,000 years, so they'd probably just forgotten about it.
Despite this, they can still be called Crazy-Prepared for bringing nukes to fight what they thought would be Medieval savages, even though they themselves abhor using these weapons due to the long-term damage to the environment. (It's possible that the nukes were intended to intimidate the enemy to the point that a fight would not be necessary and humanity would submit to worshipping the Spirits of Emperors Past as soon as (for example) Rome or Mecca was nuked.) The nukes they use during the first days of the invasion are only for EMP purposes, which utterly fail because humans haven't developed integrated circuits yet.
In Neal Stephenson's Anathem this is a deliberate trait of the Avout, who live extremely simple, monastic lives without even a printing press, but make their robes using femtotechnology, grow trees genetically engineered to have leaves that can be used like paper, and carry around nigh-invulnerable femtotech "Spheres" that can be resized, recoloured and to a limited extent reshaped to serve as anything from stool or lantern to bullet-stopping shield (actually the effectiveness of the sphere as a bullet-proof shield was tested in the book, the verdict: ineffective).
In The Planiverse, most Ardean technology is described by the humans as "late nineteenth century", but they also have an experimental computer, rocket planes, and even a space station. This is because of the limitations of a two-dimensional universe.
At the primitive end of the anachronism scale, the fuzzies from the Fuzzy novels are initially mistaken for pre-sentient primates, because they didn't use fire. Their tools, however, were more sophisticated than what a pre-fire culture should've had: they just had lots of thick fur to keep warm, and liked eating their food raw.
Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is full of schizo tech, since the decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire saw science degrade first into mere past-revering authoritarianism, then into a religion of technology where Foundation-indoctrinated priests made machines work by rote and have no idea of the principles behind them. Only the Foundation(s) keep the concepts of science and research alive, plus records of the Lost Technology from brighter days.
Eric Flint's 1632 series is practically bursting with this trope. This isn't really surprising, considering that the 1630s of the setting had books covering over three and a half centuries of technological advancement dumped into it, courtesy of the arrival of Grantville from April 2000. It develops another level of schizo tech since the limited industrial capacity of the 1600s makes replicating modern technology unfeasible for the time being, meaning they have to settle for recreating 19th century technology as a stopgap.
His Dark Materials has this. Lyra's Earth has Victorian/steampunk tech plus an advanced knowledge of physics, electricity, and nuclear weapons.
Discworld is going through an accelerated technological revolution, having in the course of the books starting from extremely low-tech fantasy to having a fully functional continent-spanning semaphore network acting as a proto-Internet. Several other schizo-tech examples were temporary magical errors such as the invention of the movie industry (silver portals for eldritch abominations) and shopping malls (a giant creature-hive that hatches from snow globes that feeds on society)
Eventually lampshaded and deconstructed by Thief of Time. Early books had this trope in spades, with one novel introducing a Shakespearian style theater as a bold new invention, while another had a Victorian opera house in the same city that had been there for centuries. Turns out that time is not quite as it should be on the Disc; the history monks are forced to repair the damaged timeline with extra bits from previous eras, and the end result is that history itself is now a mishmash of anachronisms and continuity problems.
In Kevin J. Anderson's Terra Incognita series the general tech level is the usual Middle Ages type found in fantasy stories but the Saedrans use navigational equipment better suited to the 18th century that enable them to determine longitude and the Urecari invent crude, balloon based airships.
Gor has enforced Medieval Stasis for the most part but they also invented immortaliy formulas. The "justification" for this is that on Earth we spent too much time learning how to make guns.
China Miéville's Bas-Lag stories are set in a world that is roughly late-Victorian in technological terms with steam power being the driving force of industry and neon lights and phonographs being recent inventions, but also has robots and a long-defunct weather control machine. It's implied that the world was more advanced centuries ago, and in fact many "new" inventions are merely rediscovered.
In Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology, the armies of the nations fight with bronze swords, spears, and bows. Meanwhile, their officers (all nobles) carry firearms of various type (from simple revolvers to heavy machinguns). They also have an air force composed of wooden aircraft that use rocket boosters for acceleration and bombs for ground assault. No forms of dogfighting are mentioned. This is all because iron is extremely difficult to obtain in this world. Time-wise, the setting is contemporary (i.e. start of 21st century), but the lack of iron has seriously hindered progress. Also, iron is treated as gold, despite its tendency to rust. Imagine wearing iron jewelry and considering it the height of luxury.
The cause for all this is not anything geological but the use of magic to remove most of iron from Earth during the age of Rome to stop people from fighting. Needless to say, it didn't work. All iron is restored at the end of the second novel.
Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Won uses this, most of the colonists are living in a neo-feudal situation while their masters are in control of technology so advanced it looks like magic. The technology they're using was created by aliens and is hugely durable.
Probably because it was written in the 1920s and 30s, the Lensman series has a lot of schizo tech. Spaceships are no problem, but when characters talk about computers, they're talking about banks of men (or occasionally, multi-armed aliens) with slide rules. At one point the main character uses a stealthspace speedster powered, to avoid detection of the light from fusion drives, by a diesel engine. There's a lot more - the original Space Opera looks quite dated, since Science Marches On.
Cormac McCarthy's The Crossing is set in New Mexico (with serveral trips to Old Mexico) during the 1930s and 40s. As such, it's basically a Western of the kind that could be set anytime during the preceding hundred years or so, with cowboys riding horses and having shootouts with rustlers, violence on both sides of the border, etc. It's only on the occasions when the protagonists go back to town that we're reminded that the world is quite modern, with telephones and movies, and the advanced level of technology is only really brought home at the end of the novel, when the surviving protagonist drifts close enough to Alamagordo, New Mexico, to witness the first testing of the atomic bomb.
George Mann's Ghosts of Manhattan takes place in an Alternate HistorySteam Punk/Diesel Punk New York with coal powered cars and airships but also rocket propelled bi-planes, holographic sculptures and videophones and SAMs were apparently used in WWI. Also the hero, a Captain Ersatz of Batman/The Shadow uses night vision goggles, rocket boots and a flechette gun with exploding bullets.
Due to future interference, the Belisarius Series gains this more and more as it progresses. Chariot-mounted rocket launchers. Armoured heavy cavalry (with lances and bows) in the same army as rifle-carrying infantry in communication by radio with headquarters. Pretty much what you'd expect when 1500 years of advanced knowledge gets dumped abruptly on a civilization that still hasn't figured out the stirrup on its own
And then we have Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It's the modern world. Cell Phones and surfing the Net attract monsters. But the Demigods fight with Chariots, Swords, Spears, Shields and Bows and Arrows. Oh yes, and a Mossberg 500, as seen in The Lost Hero. So why don't they switch to guns instead? Yeah, I know some of these weapons are magical, but can't you do that with a gun?
The only materials that can kill monsters are Celestial Bronze and Imperial Gold. It would be absurdly expensive to keep making bullets made of those metals.
Annabeth's father made a one man fighter plane from an antique airplane and an automatic gun. He single-handedly manages to wipe out a large number of the Titan's army. But he's jokingly called a Mad Scientist.
The Thursday Next books are set in an alternate version of England in the late 1980s, with fusion generators, genetic resurrection of extinct species, and Gravitubes that tunnel through the Earth's mantle to allow travellers to cross the globe in forty minutes. Their aircraft consist of zeppelins and propellor planes, though, and space travel is pure science fiction.
The Stainless Steel Rat series are set in a universe where the League attempt to reassemble a fallen empire. Steam Punk style robots with imported brains are present, and one character was wearing a homemade leather jacket with plastic boots.
In the second Dinotopia book, protagonist Arthur Denison invents a flying machine. In the 19th century. And then there's Poseidos.
In Mistborn, The Empire closely resembles the early 1800s in terms of fashion, architecture, and technology (complete with canned food and a widespread canal system), but weapons technology is decidedly medieval. Because the Lord Ruler has been in power for the last thousand years and brutally cracked down on anything that he thinks might threaten his power.
All freaking over the place in the Destroyermen series, by the fact that much of the advanced technology is Imported Human Phlebotinum by way of Negative Space Wedgies that cause ships to cross from our world to the series' Alternate Timeline at various points in history. You've got World War II-era technology with the titular destroyers and the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi, the Grik use copies of 18th century ships armed with catapults, and roughly Bronze Age tech with the Lemurians, who the Americans teach to fight in modified Greek phalanxes supported by bronze cannons. And that's just the first two books.
Notably, the giant Lemurian Home-ships (carrier-sized wooden ships with massive junk-like sails) were created without human influence, but the destroyermen help upgrade their ballistae to bronze cannons, at which point five of the Homes become the "battle line" (despite their extremely-low speed and maneuverability) by unleashing broadsides at the Grik. Later novels have additional upgrades to the Homes, such as steam engines and fuel tanks, and one of them is even redesigned as a wooden aircraft carrier. Also, the Lemurians start copying Grik ships (which were originally copied from a British East Indiaman), including refinements from both from the destroyermen and their own shipwrights.
A small example with the USS Walker herself. Being a World War One-era destroyer used during World War II, this already qualifies as an example. However, when Captain Reddy decides to capture a Grik ship, he has the Lemurians build a "corvus", a boarding ramp of Roman design originally used by triremes.
In Donald Kingsbury's quirky SF classic, Courtship Rite, the settlers of the extremely hostile Lost Colony world Geta have held on to biological and genetic technologies far beyond anything available when the book was written, but many technologies that weren't critical for survival have been lost. They can make Designer Babies, but as the book starts, they've only recently rediscovered radio and are amazed by the concept of the electric light bulb. (Less well-justified is the fact that they still know how to do radiocarbon dating.)
Mick Farren's DNA Cowboys Trilogy and the closing book The Last Stand Of The DNA Cowboys have extreme Schizo Tech as reality itself has been broken into stasis pockets divided and surrounded by otherwise all-consuming thirdform space-time called the Nothings or "the non". Inside these stasis fields, all manner of people have been slowly forming bizarre, isolated societies or strapping portable stasis generators onto their persons or vehicles and traversing the non to find other places to be, high technology and matter templating leading to even greater customization and abuse of technology and biology. By the time it's all falling apart, biology and society is as schizoid as the tech—if not moreso.
In China Miéville's Railsea when the Medes pulls into the metropolis of Manihiki the crew sees many other trains, the majority, like the Medes, running on diesel or steampower but others being pulled by animals or powered by human slave labor. On the streets of Manihiki is every manner of conveyance from rickshaws to solar powered vehicles. A chapter on captains logs mentions them being kept using digital storage, pen and paper and quipu.
The Tripods series by John Christopher. If you believe the blurbs on the backs of the books you expect some kind of vaguely futuristic sci-fi world. The dissonance hits after reading the first few paragraphs of The White Mountains and realizing that actually the entire Earth is purposely held in a kind of hodgepodge of the 16th to 19th centuries in terms of technological development and governments and societies are generally quasi-feudal in nature, with limited self-government at the town level. Yet the Masters themselves live at a 20th/21st century standard, and go beyond it in being able to manipulate gravity and fission/fusion power.
Harry Potter. The Magical World, due to its conservative nature and isolation, you have a society of people who have professional sports team and modern newspapers, in a world without electricity and pencils.
Shows up in The General series due to the nature of the setting(s) being planets where the advanced human interstellar empire collapsed in a civil war and a "Plague" that destroyed much of the nanotech-based infrastructure, leaving planets on their own for thousands of years. Some advanced technology and artifacts remained, and planets redeveloped technology on different paths than happened on Earth. Best seen in the newest novel The Heretic, where the computer Zentrum enforces technological and social stasis, resulting in a basically stone-age civilization (with minimal metal use) nonetheless having gunpowder and rifled muskets produced by a religious caste under Zentrum's control.
By the third book of The Acts of Caine, Caine Black Knife, Overworld has shotguns and automatic weapons but is still mainly a medieval-to-Renaissance aesthetic.
In Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets the Venus colony is described as such. New London has a mix of technologies due to the cost of shipping high tech manufactured goods from Earth. The hot water in The Two Worlds Greasy Spoon is heated by a wood burning boiler despite virtually costless electricity from the nuclear power plant due to the expensive equipment needed to handle the power. The streets are muddy and unpaved but lighted by atomic power, travel is by foot or gondolas within the city but there are rocket-powered sky shuttles between settlements.
Smaller-scale examples in The Lost Regiment. When the 35th Maine and the 44th New York arrive to Valdennia via a Negative Space Wedgie, they pit American Civil War-era weapons against Medieval swords, lances, bows, and catapults. Later, when they try to industrialize the Medieval Russians in order to fight the TugarHorde, they have to step back and use Napoleonic weapons (i.e. smoothbore muskets and cannons instead of rifles), as rifling requires better tools than available. Later, the Merki use a mix of humans armed with muskets and their own horse archer warriors (and airships).
Live Action TV
The Firefly/SerenityVerse mixes starships and Wild West technology indiscriminately. There's a good in-Verse explanation for this: the Alliance tends to dump colonists on recently-terraformed worlds with the bare minimum needed to survive. As well, high technology is concentrated in Alliance hands, due to the Unification War between the outer planets and the core worlds, which ended in an Alliance victory, and they have no intention of letting the outer planets rise again.
In fact, one can actually see real Schizo Tech at work in a few locations in the series. For example, in "Heart of Gold" there's a house that looks like it would be right at home in a Western, with minimal technology, period dresses, an old-style well, and cheap newspaper-based insulation....and they have a futuristic-looking wall terminal complete with interplanetary communications.
In that episode, it's also quite likely that the higher than usual level of Schizo Tech is due to a conscious, in-universe decision; one character mentions that the Villain of the Week deliberately keeps the world in a low-technology state so that he can dominate it economically and indulge in an Old West fantasy.
He himself has no issues with carrying a military-grade laser pistol.
Some of the planets visited on the various incarnations of Star Trek exhibit this trope. One Next Gen episode had a relatively primitive, pre-industrial society that had dissolving doors that spontaneously re-formed after use. Yeah. Oh and faster than light communication but were too primitive to contact.
They were pre-warp, not pre-industrial. But yeah, the dissolving doors were a bit much.
Fringe offers an interesting three-tiered use of this trope. In the show, scientific and technological advances have been taking place for decades under the radar of the public. In addition to typical present-day technology, mega-corporation Massive Dynamic produces space age future tech weapons and gizmos. However, a third tech level exists as the protagonists have some rudimentary prototype gadgets designed by Mad Scientist Walter Bishop. The prototypes were designed 20-30 years in the past, as Walter has spent the 17 years before the first season in a mental institution. His laboratory and devices have a low-tech look but function beyond the scope of conventional science.
For an example of the latter, witness Walter's amazing matter transporter machine. It looks like some metal, wires and lenses...no computers or even obvious power source. But it can teleport a person from any point in space and time to any other point in space and time. Shit just got real.
There's also a subtle aversion. While tech developed by Massive Dynamics is sleek and efficient, the various reality bending gadgets (old and new) essentially never work as advertised or have bizarre complications involved. The development process is very much apparent.
And that's not even getting started on the technology of the Alternate Universe folks, or of the Observers: in the Alternate Universe, mainstream technological development is accelerated in certain areas. In the 1980's, the AU already had dashboard CD players and small lightweight digital cell phones. By the time the series is set, the AU possesses advanced technology like Nanite Regeneration Chambers, Energy Weapons, and computers in thin, flexible paper-like form. The Observers have some really advanced technology similar to the AU, but they tend to disguise it (and themselves) in retro stylings.
Though the AU was also still using zeppelins in the '80s; either a Hindenburg-type event caused them to design airships with new technology, or the lack of one allowed them to keep advancing along new and better lines.
Earth in Power Rangers. Fully functional interplanetary spacecraft by 1997, space colonies by 1999, and Ridiculously Human Robots indistinguishable (literally) from the real thing by 2007, and yet everyday technology looks and works exactly the same. One would think that if antigravity technology is advanced enough to show up in earthmade Ranger bikes, it'd show up in at least the very high class cars, but no.
Red Dwarf has more than a bit of this too, video tapes and spaceships for example. Lampshaded in the recent Dave special when Kryten explained that the human race abandoned DVDs in favour of videos because mankind could never be bothered to put them back in the cases and videos are too large to lose.
Parodied by Holly, a tenth-generation AI Hologrammatic computer whose one true love was unreliable ZX Spectrum.
Max Headroom had computers with old-fashioned manual typewriter keyboards. Think "steampunk" but dirtier.
Used deliberately in Spellbinder: the protagonist from our world initially thinks he's travelled back in time to a standard mediaeval setting, but then sees a flying machine. It turns out that this is in fact an Alternate Universe in which the titular Spellbinders are a ruling class who keep the people ignorant so they can claim their technology is magic.
The ruling class themselves aren't sure how it all works either and can't make more. This is because the setting is After the End, where the rest of the world is in a new Ice Age and all the Spellbinder tech was scavenged from the remains of the previous civilization.
They also punish anyone who makes something new. The pilot has a village kid make a paper airplane, which the protagonist "improves". Then Ashka appears and blasts the paper airplane out of the sky with a plasma ball. She then stuns the village kid with it and tries to do the same to the protagonist (who's wearing rubber-soled shoes, resulting in a No Sell).
The second season has the (new) main characters travel to a different parallel universe every episode. The machine inventor's home universe is set in a variant of Ancient China... with photonic computers, holograms, and energy weapons. The machine itself is mostly wood with some glass pieces that act as controls. However, no one in this land knows how to operate or fix the computer, which has protected them for generations. It takes an engineer from our world to fix it (even though she also should have no idea how photonic technology works).
One episode of Sliders had policemen, wearing modern police uniforms, driving a modern police car... and armed with swords.
Warehouse 13 is made of this trope. Magic lightning guns from Tesla? Video phones from Farnsworth?
A Eureka crossover episode has Fargo and Claudia combine Benjamin Franklin's ring (which amplifies a person's bio-electricity to make his/her hand glow) with a laser cutter from Eureka to make a fully-functional lightsaber with appropriate sound effects... for all of 12 seconds until the cutter's battery runs out.
By the way, those Fransworths are useful because they can work anywhere, don't require satellites or cell towers (e.g. in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota), and can't be intercepted or blocked.
Caprica makes an interesting example. It takes place on another planet, and a lot of the technology seems Twenty Minutes In The Future, but a lot of it is far more advanced than others of it would allow, while other aspects are strangely primitive. For instance, the police are still using rather bulky, easily visible bugs instead of remote listening equipment we have available now.
Of course Caprican technology has no relation to Earth technology and can take a different course.
Battlestar Galactica had it too: The 12 Colonies were very similar to our world in lifestyle. Cities look like they would on Earth. People use cars easily recognisable to us. Until you look at the sky and see the starships whizzing about. And their computers? They are much weaker than ours: A Colonial Laptop shown in one episode looked like it was from the 1980s!
The Jaffa from Stargate SG-1 live and breathe this trope. They are a starfaring race who, after overthrowing their Goa'uld overlords, rule a pretty sizeable interstellar empire. They fly through space in ships that use higher technology than is available on Earth, have teleportation technology, and use energy weapons as personal sidearms. Yet every time we see them on their own planet, we see thatch-roofed huts, homespun clothing, and "technology" that would have looked right at home on Earth during the Fifth or Sixth centuries AD.
We can build ships these days that would have dwarfed whole fleets before the start of the 20th century, but we're still building houses out of wood and/or bricks. A group that doesn't have a preset industry for the said product often finds it difficult to build such products.
The SGC becomes this in the later years of the franchise, combining modern Earth technology with whatever alien tech we've been able to reverse-engineer. A textbook example comes from the Season Nine finale, where Colonel Carter is beamed from a starship built and manned by the United States Air Force to disable the Ori Supergate, while wearing a spacesuit that could have been stolen from NASA.
The SGC cobbled together their dialing computer from several supercomputers, meant to replace the missing Dial Home Device. Even though several episodes highlight the drawbacks to their system, they never bother to replacing it at any point and are clearly quite proud of it being a testament to human ingenuity.
Also, in several episodes they managed to pull off tricks with their "hacked" Stargate controller which would have been impossible with a stock Dial Home Device, because the DHD locked out dangerous/risky/unstable Stargate operating modes that nonetheless proved worth a gamble in desperate times. All the more reason to stick with their custom controller.
In Doctor Who the main character flies around in a super advanced sentient time machine made by his advanced alien race. The console of said Time Machine is partly composed of typewriters, water faucets and skipping rope. The TARDIS is basically an old jalopy held together with whatever the Doctor can find.
The asteroid in the episode "The Doctor's Wife" is also this. It has everything from the remnants of destroyed space ships, to washing machines, to Elizabethan period dress-wear. It's filled with all the flotsam and jetsam of the universe.
And then there's the laser-equipped, space-capable spitfires in "Victory of the Daleks".
Taken Up to Eleven in "The Wedding of River Song". As The Doctor puts it, all of time is happening at once - steam engines are traveling between modern skyscrapers, commuting is done on cars hanging from hot air balloons, and Charles Dickens is being interviewed on TV about his new "Christmas special".
"Genesis Of The Daleks" lampshades this, as it features a war between two advanced civilizations (possessing nuclear capabilities, energy weapons, and genetic engineering) which nevertheless mostly resembles World War II (allowing the Daleks to be compared to the Nazis). This is because it is a thousand year long war, and they've quite simply run out of resources. A highly ranked soldier might still have a laser gun, but his subordinates are now reduced to gunpowder based weaponry.
"The Androids of Tara" had the Doctor and Romana visiting a world with a strictly medieval culture yet possessing technology such as androids and laser-firing crossbows.
"The Time Meddler" has a sequence where the Doctor, in 1066, pauses while drinking mead by the fire to listen to the sound of monks singing in the church nearby. Which slows down and distorts for a second, revealing it to be a recording. Turns out the church contains only one monk, who is a time traveller running electric devices with a cable coming out of his TARDIS, plotting to destroy a Viking invasion fleet with futuristic missiles.
the Minbari and the Centauri are the two most advanced among the Younger Races, yet many of the formers carry metal sticks as weapons (often very advanced sticks that retracts and extend through technology too advanced for anyone else to understand, but other times it's just oversized extendible batons), and the Centauri are liable to carry swords remarkably similar to the Roman gladius. In both occasions it's a cultural thing: the denn'bok (the Minbari take on the Simple Staff) is a versatile weapon that in the hands of a master can kill as easily as it can kill, and being allowed to own and carry one is a sign of prestige, while the Centauri coutari is mostly a ceremonial weapon that is sometimes used in honour duels, and they have far more advanced weapons when needed.
the Narn Regime and the Earth Alliance have relatively advanced technologies in most fields, but are behind other races in many fields (to the point that Earthforce ground soldiers are usually equipped with bil-pro weapons, that are nothing more than advanced firearms. They actually have better penetration than most handheld energy weapons, though energy weapons like PPGs are specifically designed not to have good penetration, because they're meant to be used inside places where a ruptured hull is a bad thing). Both Narn and Humans are relative newcomers in the galactic scene who scavenged and bought any technology they could find, and they haven't managed to reverse-engineer everything.
the Expanded Universe offers us the Attarn Union. Most of their technology is relatively advanced, they even developed Artificial Gravity on their own (something that most races in the setting failed to do)... And their weapons are bil-pro. That is, chemically-propelled firearms. They too have a good reason for this: when they first reached for space they just lacked the funds to develop energy weapons, and before meeting the rest of the setting they easily won two wars with similarly-sized empires that used them.
The entire LEGO Universe, as depicted in Dino Attack RPG. We have knights and pirates shooting crossbows and flintlock pistols alongside astronauts and cyborgs shooting lasers and sonic weapons as all sorts of technology levels coexist in this world.
The Space Knights are a specific example, since their entire culture is based on Medieval Stasis enhanced by futuristic technology.
Warhammer, particularly in recent editions. The Empire have a steam-powered tank and a "clockwork" horse while the Dwarfs - better yet - have a helicopter armed with a steam cannon (not mentioning an organ gun and a huge cannon-like flamethrower). The Skaven, infamously, feature "fantasy" versions of a sniper rifle, a ratling gun, a flamethrower, a laser cannon, a hamster wheel of death and what what appears to be three seperate types of nuclear bombs-including a Davy Crockett Personal Nuclear Missile Launcher (all of which may fail with destructively hilarious results). This in a world where a powerful human kingdom still think knights and longbows are cutting-edge, and there's at least one major faction that's entirely Stone Age. Fan reactions have been mixed, although some earlier editions featured actual plasma guns and laser pistols, so modern players get off lightly really.
The schizo tech contraptions tend to go haywire in the most spectacular ways imaginable at the moment least desired. But even then they are fun to play - if not, just for laughs.
Warhammer 40,000 features this too, ranging from worlds covered entirely in cities and advanced space age factories to planets full of human colonists that have regressed to a medieval or even Stone Age level. This is explained in the setting by the Age of Strife, when the manifestation of a new Chaos God disrupted interstellar travel and cut worlds off from Earth for millenia at a time. In general, the Imperium can range from a low Type 0 on the Kardashev Scale to a borderline Type III. Not infrequently, examples of both will exist and fight side-by-side.
There is also a bit of "lost tech" going on in the setting. The Imperium's technology is controlled by a religious cult called the Adeptus Mechanicus that doesn't believe in researching new technology or trying to understand the technology they currently have. Instead, they worship whatever old technology they can find from before the Age of Strife.
As a more straight example, the Space Marines have floating bio-mechanical skulls called familiars, basically a cybernetic computer that can hover. They put candles on them when they need some extra light.
It's actually the head of a Servitor whose head is removed and fitted with little thruster jets. True AI are outlawed in the Imperium after a machine uprising nearly toppled it in the distant past.
The Imperial Guard can sometimes be a good source of this. Example: the Leman Russ Executioner battle tank. It looks boxy and crude, the engine's designed to run on anything you can burn up to coal and wood, and the heavy stubber on top is pretty much a World War II-era M2 Browning in all but name, but it packs a huge tank-melting plasma cannon for the main gun. An Imperial Guard force is probably the only place where you'll find motorcycle troops and horse cavalry fighting alongside Sentinels and Warhound Titans.
Most races actually manage to avoid this trope fairly well, with Eldar, Necrons, Tau and Tyranids having reasonably consistent technology levels. Orks, on the other hand, really don't. Primitive axes, clubs and boar-riding cavalry are regularly seen alongside laser guns and Humongous Mecha. The in-universe explanation is that their technology works by the Rule of Cool - if Orks believe something they've built will work, it will.
Exodite Eldar don't. Their Dragon Knight warriors ride dinosaur-like creatures, and they have laser lances (much like the Shining Spears aspect warriors but more primitive) and laser carbines (much like Imperial lasguns except they don't suck). Exodites limit their technology in such a way to give themselves hard lives to stop their culture from falling into decadence and depravity; otherwise, they have almost exactly the same technology as their craft world cousins.
While the Tau avoid this trope like the plague, their Kroot allies do this intentionally. They keep tech for the most part very simple (they can absorb the DNA from other species) they still have space travel and use black powered guns to five incredibly advanced munitions given to them by the Tau. Even the Tau, which are supposed to avert this, have mostly the same military technology in the "present" of the game as they did hundreds of years ago at first contact. They upgraded their ships into true warships, and that's about it. Even that is Forge World canon and may not apply to the main line.
Rifts, being set AfterAfter the End, has a lot of this. Many wilderness villages may not have running water and only a few electrical generators, but will have laser rifles capable of blowing a sedan in half with one shot. And let's not get into magic.
The Coalition States uses this to their advantage to peacefully assimilate human communities.note They generally assimilate non-human communities by flattening them and claiming the smoking crater as their territory. They offer to help High Tech Low Culture towns to perform repair and upkeep on their technology, and use that to make the town more and more dependent on the Coalition, until they quietly absorb the community into their empire.
BattleTech is also rife with this sort of thing. The mecha all run on highly compact and portable fusion engines and have guns and missiles with great range and hideous damage, but due to the rubbished industrial base apparently nobody can build decent fire control or air-conditioning systems, so most fighting takes place at close range (under 1 kilometer!) and most mechwarriors fight in what amounts to underwear. (Admittedly, the short ranges are both to keep map sizes reasonable for gameplay purposes and because the designers were shooting for a classic in-your-face mecha combat aesthetic in preference to more logical but boring long-range sniping contests.)
Similarly, while BattleMechs have essentially taken over the role of tanks — not necessarily combat vehicles in general, just the old twentieth-century style armored boxes with a gun turret — centuries ago in-universe, everybody still uses those anyway. Some handwaving about how they're supposedly cheaper and easier to produce is basically canon, and of course weapons and armor have kept up with the times, but it's still rather akin to keeping prop fighters in production and actual military use long after everybody already knows how to make perfectly good jets.
Tanks are still used because they're comparatively cheaper and stealthier. They lack the technology to keep Humongous Mecha from being ludicrously expensive artillery bait (which is probably why the Clans' Obstructive Code of Conduct forbids artillery).
Schizo tech comes up a lot when dealing with backwater colony worlds. A hunter might use a blackpowder pistol to kill a deer for dinner, then come home and cook it in a microwave. At least part of all of this is due to the general devastation of and Inner Sphere-wide technological backslide during the Succession Wars.
Quite a few of these are very subtle ones that are a result of either ignorance of medieval technology, Rule of Cool, or both. Floor plans for castles tend to use the 14th-century pinnacle of the art, windows using 19th-century sheet or plate glass are described, chimneys (a 16th century invention) are universal, and even seemingly-minor details such as the existence of "private rooms" at inns are all developments of later centuries. On the flipside, pre-Dark Age technologies such as triremes, chariots, colosseums and the notion of daily bathing also appear.
Gary Gygax played around with this trope a lot in his original Greyhawk home games, although most of them (mostly imported from Earth or found in crashed spaceships) got left out in later releases for that campaign setting.
The Hollow World, inside Mystara, proactively averts this trope with the Spell of Preservation, which makes people in various cultures distrust and spurn unfamiliar technologies, no matter how useful.
Technology levels in Ravenloft range from Stone Age to late Renaissance, depending on where you are, with even higher tech turning up in the local Mad Scientist Laboratory. This is because new domains are added to the Land of Mists from different worlds with their own indigenous tech-levels, rather than technology evolving in tandem within adjacent countries.
Golarion is deliberately all over the place. The Inner Sea Region contains every conceivable level of technology, from simple tribal cultures with axes and spears, to the standard fantasy kingdoms policed by knights on horseback, to small city-states guarded by fusiliers, to at least one fallen Magitech nation. The designers actually acknowledge the trope in one book, citing Truth in Television: not every nation develops at the same rate, or obtains new technologies in the same order.
Spirit Of The Century plays with this, as it's set in the 1920s but uses pulp Science! to allow more futuristic technology, and even full on mad science inventions that we still haven't made. The book does a good job of cataloguing what inventions are just around the corner to give you some idea what the state of the art inventions you could get prototypes to, or make, are.
In Exalted there's SchizoMagiTech. Conventional technology is mostly around middle-to-late Bronze Age/early Iron Age. But those with the needed skills can create a hyper-precision wristwatch with perpetual calendar, sunrise and sunset calculator, moon phase display, and the functional equivalent of high resolution GPS as a minor tool.
Even without the inventors, Creation still has a variable tech level, ranging from cities where a few guards may have firewands and there's a medieval level civic works thing going on, to cities like Chiaroscuro where the rich quarters have elevators and a functional equivalent of electricity, to the relative metropoli of the Blessed Isle.
Exalted also has the Lost Technology angle going for its Schizo Tech. A lot of the more powerful or complex Artifacts are remnants of First Age technology made by Solar artisans. Of course, the Solar Exalted have spent most of the last couple thousand years being dead and have only just recently returned. Enough documentation has survived that Dragon Blooded artisans can maintain most surviving First Age tech, but any technological advancement since the First Age can't compare to what Twilight Caste Solars were capable of.
The world of Alexander Athanatos from GURPS: Bio-Tech is mainly in the Iron Age yet capable of producing genetic hybrids thanks to Hippocrates triggering revolution in medical science.
The Space 1889 RPG was all about this trope. Though most of the weapons described in it are either historically-accurate late 19th century weaponry or very rare Steam Punk inventions. Martians use rather primitive weapons but they are, all in all completely different civilization.
The Dragonlance setting has the Tinker Gnomes who power their dormant volcano home with Geothermal power and individual Gnomes have invented things like Powered suits of armor, Invisibility Spray, various Clockwork automaton, and even a nuclear bomb. The Tinker Gnomes are a race of bungling inventors, and so a lot of their technology does tend to be a bit prone to exploding.
It should be noted that tendency of terrible side effects has made most of the other races distrust ANY technology.
Vibro-swords are higher tech though. They vibrate rather quickly to slice through unprotected flesh. See the vibroblades from Star Wars.
Traveller: There is a lot of space in, well, space and some stuff never gets to some planets. Also there have been a large number of disasters in the Traveller history. And even those from high tech cultures like to go retro on occasions, like using swords when they fight a Duel to the Death.
The world of Yrth, setting of GURPS Banestorm, is a vaguely-medieval fantasy world like many others, except that people from Earth occasionally get teleported there and stranded. The Powers That Be suppress gunpowder, but many minor technologies and concepts have become common, including the germ theory of disease, some experiments in vaccination, heliocentric astronomy with elliptical orbits, the modern novel, stagecoaches with suspensions, sloops and brigs, fingerprinting, and the use of perspective in art.
New Horizon was colonized by humans with advanced technology... and low resources. Thus, while every town has touches of modern inventions—a few computers, a Promethean or two, the ever present Wafans—the setting as a whole generally features more frontier-level technology, like flintlocks and rifles.
In Fading Suns most advanced technology is prohibited or restricted by the Church following the fall of the Second Republic, though it's not always enforced, particularly weapons tech. For example, a militia man on a backworld may have a laser, while his wife still cleans the shirts on the rocks by the stream.
The technology in The Splinter covers everything from early medieval weapons to impossibly advanced, essentially magical devices. The core rulebook includes repeating crossbows, monofillament razor-wire launchers, steam-punk Gatling guns, automatic shotguns, advanced underwater laser pistols, heavy insanity rays, blade-wands, disentegrator pistols, directional nukes, and about fifty types of old-fashiond medieval slaughtering tools.
In Pocket God, sharks have lasers on their heads and drain plugs have been invented during the Prehistoric Era.
The Warcraft series threw in more schizo tech as it went along, thanks to the combined engineering efforts of dwarfs, gnomes, and goblins. The strategy game series featured swords and sorcery, guns and cannons, and flying machines. World of Warcraft added mass transit (in the form of the Deeprun Tram between Ironforge and Stormwind), robots, and teleportation devices.
The demons also got a lot of technology out of nowhere, including Humongous Mecha and Anti-Air cannons. They're shooting at people who are riding the highly advanced Giant Bird Thing technology. Nuclear warfare is also only for use on cavemen. Unsuccessfully. Clubs made of bone are much tougher.
By World of Warcraft, it becomes clear that technology in Azeroth is roughly equivalent to modern society, but the universe is quite different thanks to magic and the constant warfare between dozens of intelligent species. Well apart from the Steam Punk and the fact that Magic Rock Beats Laser.
In War Wind, normal soldiers tend to be melee, but then you have the Obblinox, angry pigmen who use modern weaponry like shotguns and machine guns and are generally very Post-Apoc Punk in their technologies (the biker unit eschews guns for Rule of Cool axes), and there's even an in-race example, as the Eaggra are all 'medieval' until you create the sniper, who gets a nifty telescoping monocle, who can then be upgraded to the superunit Grenadier, who trades his crossbow in for a GRENADE LAUNCHER. The Tha'Roon have melee weaponry, choosing to rely on their magic for long-range attacks. Until one of them is fully cybered up, and can then be upgraded into a Jump Trooper, who functions much like the soldiers in the book version of Starship Troopers.
Outright lampshaded in Ghost Trick. The majority of areas seem to have near-contemporary levels of technology (besides the dependency on landlines for communication, which is a good thing since Sissel uses the phone lines to travel). However, the blue-skinned people from the unnamed foreign country have gigantic projector screens and grape-feeding robotic arms in their huge submarine, as well as amazingly human-like robots to run them. More than one person comments that they use technology 'oddly', which is apparently a common complaint leveled at their country.
Featured prominently in the Wild ARMs series. All of the games features Western-themed elements, but the world is actually riddled with technology way beyond colonial period or even modern capabilities. In fact, the first game starts off distinctly Western/medieval and ends up in a space station for the final battle, while the third uses databases and nanotechnology. See also: Lost Technology.
The Legend of Zelda series has elements of this. It's mostly medieval-style, but you'll occasionally run into jukeboxes, neon lights, telephones, and other technology. Something of note is that apart from the sword and shield, Link's most recurring weapon in the series are handheld explosives.
Especially noticeable in Gaiden GameThe Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The third dungeon, the Great Bay Temple, is very Steampunk-inspired and is in sharp contrast with the other more typical brick-and-mortar dungeons in the game (and most of the series, even). There's also the Pirates' Fortress, in which the Gerudo Pirates ride around on boats with combustion engines on them.
Also in The Wind Waker, you find ceiling fans in the Wind Temple, as well as the room of Ganon's Tower based on it. And while you never see such things in the game or any other in the series, Salvatore's Battleship-like arcade game thing mentions radar and sonar, making one wonder how he knows the terms.
In addition to the Twili technology, Twilight Princess has the industrial Goron Mines which has functional electromagnets, and the parts of Hyrule and the dungeons that make use of the Spinner. In addition, once the player meets the requirements for the opening of Malo Mart, you enter to find neon lights, and the shopkeeper actually has a speaker rotating on his head, as well as a microphone. Partway into the music loop, the music volume goes down a bit (implying it is going over the same speaker), and he will excitedly jabber in the first instance of spoken Hylian ever heard in the entire series.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks features Link riding around on a steam train. While also being the sword-swinging hero we all know and love. And upon being asked in one interview why they insert a Train in a game set in Medieval Stasis, Eiji Aonuma replied that the Hook Shot could be considered schizo tech as well: It's a small device featuring a massive chain, which is at least 20 meters long (Hammer Space ?) and a feather-mechanism that strong enough to move an adult human, even while wearing iron boots. Spirit Tracks also has an Anouki mentioning his friends at home worrying about their electric bills. Granted, the Anouki basically run on Rule of Funny, and are far enough removed from the rest of the Zelda universe that references like that are par for the course from them. Similarly, a little girl in Papuchia also claims that she is destined to be a movie star.note and is glad that she won't be an extra, which is ironic given that her role in the game is just that — a nameless, optional, one-line character, which is probably what allows them to get away with the joke
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has an in-universe justification for the series via means of Precursors having advanced technology to begin with, having been long lost due to the war against the Demon King. The entirety of Lanayru Province, which covers the Mine, the Desert, the Temple of Time, the Mining Facility, all areas of the Sand Sea (Ancient Harbor, Skipper's Retreat, Shipyard, Pirate Stronghold and Sandship), and the Gorge, shows what kind of technology these precursors used to have through the Timeshift Stones. Lanayru Province is also the birthplace for advanced gadgets like the Beetle, the two Clawshots and the Gust Bellows. Despite it being ancient, though, some characters living in the Sky have stumbled upon this tech and appropriated it to suit their needs, as in the case of Beedle the shopkeeper and Dodoh the Fun Fun Island clown.
All of the Ultima games, particularly the earliest ones, which had spaceships and starfighters coexisting with a high medieval civilization, and a cybernetic Big Bad in Ultima III: Exodus.
Final Fantasy VI has a late 17th century Europe background, with a steam-powered industrial revolution, except instead of the military revolution being caused by gunpowder, it's being caused by the Magitek of a single nation while everyone else in the world still uses coal and wind power. There are also traditional steampunk elements, of course, inculding Magitek armor and airships. The FMVs included in the Playstation version add some additional interesting elements: Narshe guards fire on Terra and her Imperial cohorts with rifles, for instance.
We definitely see progress towards Final Fantasy VII in a world with broadcast television, helicopters, internal combustion engines (like in cars or motorcycles,) jets, stage-based rockets, automatic weaponry, cellular phones, and even the more blatantly science fiction sub-plot of the mad scientist doing crazy Magitek/genetic experiments For Science!. The Compilation of FFVII then went above and beyond by adding its own version of the Internet, digital simulation rooms, and mental uplinks.
Final Fantasy VIII takes this trope up to an entirely new level. The world of the game is shown to be 21st century, and then there's the city-state of Esthar which is pure Crystal Spires and Togas. All of this advancement and everyone still uses swords, whips, bare hands, etc. In addition, as the page quote notes, they have access to long-range missiles but not radios, at least at the beginning of the game, due to a worldwide signal blackout caused by the interference generated by Sorceress Adel's orbital containment device.
Special mention has to go to Final Fantasy XII. Mostly stock Medieval European Fantasy with legendary dragons and magic stones and High Sorcery and legendary weapons of divine origin... except for the airships that look straight out of Star Wars. And the guns. And electricity, the electronic voice changers, the radios, the airports, electric public lighting, grenades, and robots, all of which use "Mist"as a power source but are otherwise mid-to-late 20th-century technology in use and functionality. Most of the technology is actually "Mooglecraft": Moogles are behind most of Ivalice's advanced technology, but are only a minority among Ivalice sentients: appart for what comes from Cid's laboratory, pretty much everything built by non-Moogles is centuries behind Mooglecraft. Interesting to note that Final Fantasy Tactics is set long after the events of FFXII. The civilization seems to have reverted to straight middle-ages tech plus magic, except for the rare gun or robot, which is treated as an ancient artifact. An easily-overlooked note says that moogles are now extinct.
Mass Effect features this in an in-universe way: due to the huge difference in histories, cultures, geographies, and biologies of the different species, one species' tech development could easily appear this way to another species. The unbelievable speed of human expansion and advancement in the galaxy...while a vast majority of the human population still resides on Earth (a mere forty years after the huge, game-changing technological discovery on Mars), where it's likely you can still easily find communities existing at only slightly futuristic (or less) technology levels.
The Normandy itself was part of a joint Human-Turian project to test both races comparative engineering designs, in addition to a stealth vessel. It's successor, the SR-2 is a Cerberus refinement of this and can be further upgraded with a Turian designed Thanix cannon (which itself was reverse engineered from Reaper technology), as well as Quarian multicore shielding.
The Crucible in Mass Effect 3 is a (supposedly) Prothean designed superweapon to defeat the Reapers, with multiple races in the galaxy coming together to aid in it's construction. It's later revealed that much like the Mass Relays, the Protheans weren't the original builders but merely the last ones to attempt to build it. The Crucible is actually the result of countless Cycles refining the design over millions of years.
Phantasy Star III is a medieval fantasy setting with the science fiction elements placed seemingly randomly: the game takes place on a space ark that has been fleeing its doomed homeworld, Palma, of Phantasy Star II for a thousand years, and its residents have long-since forgotten.IV was more of a sci-fi/fantasy western, and all of its sci-fi elements are a product of Lost Technology. The first two games mostly avert this, however; they're more-or-less fully Science Fantasy settings, and while melee weapons such as swords and tiger claws are in use, even they are normally made of advanced materials (such as advanced ceramics or Laconia), or are Laser Blades.
The Elder Scrolls has the Steam Punk factories and automatons of the Dwemer and Sheogorath, the god of madness, who wears a prominently displayed pocket watch, despite the fact that clockwork has never been invented in Tamriel.
The Demi-God Sotha-Sil lives in a clockwork city with a few races of clockwork beings he created himself. The part of the city the player gets to explore has lots of clockwork traps and even a huge clockwork mecha. There is even something that looks like a control panel in his work-shop.
Most of the Devil May Cry series fits this in their perpetual search (and usually success) at finding the optimal way to produce the Rule of Cool: swords and guns are both used against demons (although guns do little damage) and the medieval castle on Mallet Island in Devil May Cry has lifts. Temen-ni-Gru tower in Devil May Cry 3 displays the "clockpunk" variant of Steam Punk very well, having elevators and monorail trams despite having been built two millenia ago and not touched until its unsealing in the present day; then again, it was built by demons.
Likewise, the Might and Magic series of RPGs are apparently set in a fantasy world, but the characters will eventually run into robots, technical maintenance tunnels, and space ships. And wield blasters in place of Infinity Plus One Swords. The in-game explanation is that the fantasy world was created by a high-tech race as an experiment.
The first games had vague mentions of a war between the Ancients (said to be the good guys, and the creators of the worlds in question) and the Creators. The retardation of technology seems to be at least somewhat deliberate, and part of the experiment- to keep the would-be colonists from finding out they are on (part of) a ship, for instance. From Might & Magic VI onward? Well, there is a reason for the dating system being 'After the Silence'...
Word of God noted that there's nothing that would make the worlds in question follow Earth's technological development directly, especially not with magic around. Which presumably explains how a world without guns, or at least with guns being very, very rare, could also have a prototype fleet-sinking cannon.
A trademark of the Wizardry series of videogames. it featured the standard fantasy swords and magic type world. But also spacefaring races, using 17th century firearms and 80s computers. Or light sabers. And robots as Mecha-Mooks or Angels.
In The Lost Vikings, three Vikings battle green monsters and evil computers. When they do get home, they proceed to show off what they learned to their families... which is apparently The Power of Rock.
Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura is set in a fantasy world (with orcs, elves, dwarves, and magic) that is undergoing an industrial revolution. And magic and technology tend not to like each other. As in "A scientist picks up a sword, and the magic in it just drains away; a wizard wants to look at the controls of the running train engine, causing it malfunction disastrously".
The world of Zork developed with technology and magic going hand-in-hand. In Zork: Grand Inquisitor, where magic is banned by the Inquisition, the world has a technology level somewhere around World War II. They can harness the power of electricity, and have radio, television, and movies, but don't have the technology for cars, planes, or firearms. Seems possible they either don't the ingredients or never figured out how to refine fossil fuels or invent gunpowder.
A mild version of this trope is present in Bioshock. The game takes place in the year 1960, which is evident by most of the setting (old televisions, tommy guns, even clothes and hairstyles). And yet, there are things like super-advanced geothermal reactors, autonomous flying bots (ok, they do tend to crash all over the place, but still), machines that can create all kinds of ammunition from a few commonly available items, portable guided rockets, and of course a huge city several miles under the Atlantic ocean, which would be an impossible endeavor even with today's technology.
"The Thinker", Rapture's Master Computer introduced in BioShock 2DLCMinerva's Den goes all over the place with this: it's apparently the brain behind the aforementioned security bots and it's capable of perfectly mimicking human personalities given enough input, effectively passing the Turing test and yet despite being the size of a building, according to an advertisement it's capable of performing "one million calculations per second", meaning any computer/console capable of running the game itself can out perform it.
Bioshock Infinite (taking place in 1912) is even crazier with this, although it at least justifies most of the crazy technology with the existence of tears in time/space that the architects of Columbia (itself an example, being a gigantic city in the sky that floats via quantum levitation— and was originally built in 1893) used to view the future, before crudely replicating what they saw with the materials of their day. This results in things like run-of-the-mill Colt revolvers and Mauser pistols existing alongside a portable, crank-action RPG, a revolver grenade launcher with a gilded finish, autonomous clockwork robots, hovercraft that are beyond even today's technology, and giant steampunk cyborgs. Not to mention the fact that the radio airwaves are populated by a bunch of songs from the 60's, 70's, and even 80's that have been rewritten in period-appropriate styles.
Star Ocean 1 started in a fantasy world, and then you travel back in time 300 years to the same fantasy world... but two of the main characters are commanding staff on a spaceship from Earth. (Before you get to go back in time, you're required to dump all futuristic weapons... including the swords, for some reason.) They adapt with frightening ease; Captain Ronyx even takes up magic.
In fact, all of the Star Ocean games feature this in some way. Even though it takes place in the far future in outer space, the lead character always uses swords to fight, and you'll generally spend most of your time on primitive planets. Typically, the discovery of more modern technology is a major plot point in itself, and hints that space faring races have already visited the "primitive" world.
The post-Apocalyptic game Alpha Man has everything from pitchforks and cured hide armor, to swords and toasters, to phasers, durasteel armor, and transmogrifiers.
Chrono Trigger initially takes place in the year 1000. That doesn't stop the main character's best friend Lucca from building robots, teleporters, and a time portal key.
Chrono Trigger's timeline is not the same as Real Life's; Year 1000 in Chrono Trigger is more akin to modern/recent times than it is to the Middle Ages (which are indeed a separate era in the game). Still, Year 1000 is influenced by this trope if only for the fact that swords are prominent weapons in a world with guns and tanks.
To say nothing of the prehistoric age where the humans are primitive, living in huts and subsisting on a mostly hunter gatherer basis they are still able to provide equipment better then any other that you come across. This includes firearms, katanas, broadswords, crossbows and advanced cybernetic robotic arms. Madeofrocks.
In La Pucelle Tactics, the setting appears to be fairly standard medieval fantasy. Until one of the characters whips out a walkie-talkie, that is.
Really most any game made by Nippon Ichi fits this, with characters possessing modern technology in settings that resemble the middle ages, or at the very least, worlds with characters running around with swords and axes when guns are present, and laser swords. The only exceptions to tend to be with their Darker and Edgier games take themselves more seriously, most of the above cases are largely parodies of pop-culture.
The weapons used in Command & Conquer Red Alert are a strange mix of WWII-era tanks and artillery, 1960s-70s fighter jets (despite the game saying the jets were a recent invention, they look nothing like the actual early jets) and futuristic teleportation machines and invulnerability projectors.
This is a doozy...First, after Einstein killed Hitler the past changed to what the storyline is the first game. In this timeline the Philadelphia Experiment actually succeeded, giving the Allies the Chronosphere's teleportation technology in addition to time-travel. Einstein then goes on to invent the other technologies like Prism Towers in Red Alert 2. THEN at the start of Red Alert 3, the Soviets go back in time and prevent the Allies from winning either the first game or the second one! Trying to understand this will give you a headache.
They apparently got rid of Goddard and Von Braun as well, since the allies seem to use guns for everything, except for the guided anti-tank missiles on the Longbow heli, the teleporting tank's missile pods, the missiles on the destroyer, and many more units using missiles. There's also AN ORBITAL SPY SATELLITE.
The third game is presumably set sometime in 1960s or 70s, but because of all the time-mucking about the Japanese invented fully functional Humongous Mecha Suits and wave motion cannons, while the soviets created a fully functional set of power armor. None of these are even remotely plausable in today's technology, somewhere around 40 years after the presumed timeline. They also have advanced nanotechnology to being able to pack an entire building into a small crate and move it around.
Fallout is full of schizo tech. The world before the war was a super-advanced fifties-style utopia-quickly-turned-dystopia that managed to create fantatistic technology like Fusion Power, energy weapons, stimpaks, Powered Armor, Vaults, GECKs and Artifical Intelligence. Yet their normal computers were big, bulky mainframes with terminals. After the end, it got even more schizo. The average wastelanders lives in miserable agricultural villages lightened by torches and hunts using crossbows, melee weapons, homemade firearms or a expensive decent gun. Electric Power is only possible for the bigger towns and city-states. Most people use guns of varying power and conditions (ranging from brand new firearms sold by organizations like the Brotherhood of Steel or the Gunrunners, to ancient guns pillaged from abandoned sites, stitched together multiple times and being held together by duct-tape and faith), with energy weapons being rare weaponry capable of changing the course of a battle. On the other side, the New California Republic is capable of fielding a considerable army of soldiers (enough to match the Brotherhood), the Brotherhood of Steel has a small army of elite soldiers decked out in Power Armor and armed with energy weapons, and The Enclave has even BETTER technology than both, a army larger than the Brotherhood, genetic engineering capability AND Osprey-like aircraft called Vertibirds.
The Fallout series is based on the 1950s idea of SCIENCE! rather than science.
Word of God states this is because Fallout takes place on an alternate Earth where the integrated circuit was never invented and instead humanity focused on the development of fusion technology. So how does the Pipboy work? Very small vacuum tubes.
In the wasteland it is common to find communities using old portable generations and fission batteries (Miniature fusion and fission nuclear reactors respectively) to illuminate shacks made of salvaged corrugated tin.
Happens in the Touhou-verse. Although it's established as taking place in the present day, the backstory and in-game scenes also show that the technology base in Gensokyo is approximately medieval, apart from technological objects which are occasionally brought in from the mundane world. Then, in a recent installment, a new character was introduced wielding a fairly modern-looking magical SLR camera, and now we've got characters showing up with thermoptic camo.
This seems to be the current trend in Touhou. As of Touhou 11, we have a hell-raven that controls nuclear power, which is part of the Kanako's plan to bring clean technology to Gensokyo. The plan didn't go very well and threaten a nuclear apocalypse, which must be stopped by a shrine maiden, a typical witch, and their fantastic-being allies (which includes the characters above). schizo tech combined with Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot, indeed.
In fact, there are actually four different technology levels in Gensokyo. Humans and youkai, who are pretty much at medieval level; items that come from the outside; the kappas, who are awesome engineers; and the Lunarians, who apparently use futuristic technology.
One of the stranger uses of this trope is for Akyu's Untouched Score (AKA the PC-98 Touhou soundtracks). note In-Universe, the soundtrack was made by a band... in it's FM synthesized integrality!
At one point in the Touhou series, Reimu even had a nuclear-powered Robot Maid. She only made a brief appearance in one of the PC-98 games, and has not been seen since.
Perhaps due to the various mundane uses for Mons, Pokémon games see this pop up often. Most of their technology is the same as ours, except they have inexpensive devices that can dematerialize and re-materialize living creatures and transmit them over the internet, and telepads are more common than elevators.
Guns also don't exist... but when literally hundreds of creatures that live nearby can learn how to breathe fire (among many other things), does anyone really need them? It turns out to be an instance of Fantasy Gun Control. People don't use weapons because they essentially have an ancient spiritual contract with Pokemon to never use them, in exchange for being able to master and control Pokemon. It's not in the anime, but Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum explain it all if you read the right library books in the Port Town of Canalave City.
Also, despite the means to do so mechanically, all dirt farming is done by hand.
The third generation of games shows that cars do exist, since you start the game in the back of a moving truck, but they're unusual. The lack of motor vehicles is probably a combination of Law of Conservation of Detail , as well as the fact that you can use Pokemon with certain HM moves for transportation. In Gen V, you can see plenty of cars and trucks driving by beneath you whenever you cross over Skyarrow Bridge. The majority are what appear to be cargo trucks, however, so it could be that motorized vehicles are primarily only used to transport large groups of things/people, and considered pointless for anything else.
The Monster Rancher series of games has various examples of schizo tech. While the world itself has a charming sort of 1800's look to it, with fancy clothing, old-fashioned ranches, and no vehicles beyond monster-drawn carts, they have technology capable of Harmless Freezing, movies, vast underground machine cities, pop idols, and goodness knows what else.
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath seems to have an eclectic blend of Wild West steampunk and futuristic technology. The final boss battle takes place between an armored character using a crossbow that uses live insects and rodents as ammo and a guy in a energy-shielded battlemech.
Roguelike Elona seems to have fun with this. The apparent medieval fantasy with sword, magic, and these stuff also contains gun range from pistol to laser weapon, computers, food like french fries and popcorn, genetic engineering, and aliens. There's also the incomplete (but completable) Roguelike Alphaman, which is similar in most ways to Fallout, techwise, but with a comedy twist.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village at first appears to be set sometime in the early 1900's-1930's—the professor himself wears a top hat, for goodness' sake, and the titular village has a sort of quaint charm to it. However, several of the puzzles (which are technically supposed to exist in-universe) feature things such as digital clocks, cell phones, and computers. And if that doesn't strike you as being "pure" enough? Highly advanced robotics also play an important role in the plot, and you even get to assemble a robot dog.
Layton's car is a 2cv from the late fifties, but the browns point to The Seventies. Artwork for the third game, however, which involves Time Travel ten years into the future, features a slot machine-like clock flickering between sixty- and seventy-four... but the first number of the date is obscured.
Mother 3 has a peaceful agrarian village menaced by pig-masked Stormtroopers, flying vehicles and cyborg/chimerised animals. This makes sense in the context, however, since the story is largely about how the lives of the people of Tazmily are changed by the influence of modernization brought to the islands by Porky (who comes straight from Earthbound, which is set in a modern world) and his minions.
Castlevania, baby! Dracula's castle, being "a creature of Chaos", is always full of wacky anachronisms. This is partly because, while the games jump around in the timeline from the 11th century to the present day, we like to see elements return from game to game. There's no good excuse for the robots, though.
Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow are set in the future, allowing us to see this trope inverted — there should be nifty technology and such, but aside from a couple of handguns, Soma Cruz has the same weapons and fights the same monsters as always.
In Castlevania 64, right at the beginning. Skeletons on WW2 motorcycles, and Frankenstein monsters with chainsaws for hands despite the game supposedly being long before combustion engines in either of those were invented. Awww yeah.
The Shapers in the Geneforge series have genetic engineering and some crystalline "power spirals" but are otherwise medieval. The first game attempts to justify this in that the Shapers are the remnants of a society that destroyed itself through genetic engineering, but one wonders why their technology doesn't seem to have improved since.
Most of the technology and culture in the original Monster Hunter indicates a roughly Bronze Age/Iron Age tribal society... except that they have firearms. Huge, clumsy firearms, but still firearms. Later games advance the overall tech level... but also advance the firearms, so they continue to be better than what should be available — (Freedom) 2 has a medieval-looking society (indicated by the Online Town in the console Monster Hunter 2, or the Town area in Freedom 2) with guns that look comparable to late 19th or early 20th century models... and Tri takes place in what looks to be a small fishing village during the equivalent of the 1400s or 1500s, with what are essentially modern firearms cobbled together with materials and production methods they'd actually have access to.
Possibly the most ridiculous in the entire series are the Gunlances introduced in 2... It's essentially an RPG launcher — either with mounted bayonet, or integrated into a lance — with a time-fused explosive triggered to detonate at near point-blank range. It also has a short-range flame-thrower alternate fire which ends with what appears to be a small thermobaric detonation. In a game that takes place in a small fishing village (For console) or Northern Mongolian mountain village (for Freedom) in what appears to be roughly the medieval period. They are vaguely similar to the fire lances that actually existed at the time, if you squint really hard and ignore the fact that several of them are nearly indistinguishable from a modern revolving-action RPG launcher except for the mounted bayonet.
Also, airships start showing up Frontier, to be joined by Steamships and Sandships in Tri.
Wild Guns (no relation to Wild ARMs), features a general Wild West theme merged with sci-fi, bringing everything from cyborg rustlers on flying robotic horses to giant enemy crab robots to the table. No revolvers for our heroes, though, straight to grenade launchers and vulcan cannons for some good old-fashioned blowing things up.
The Ganbare Goemon series has strong elements of this. It appears to be set in feudal Japan, and yet there is the presence of robots, Humongous Mecha, and even a machine to ressurrect the dead.
Kingdom of Loathing is a fantasy game. The Magi Mech Tech Mecha Mech, the El Vibrato constructs, the Crimborg, any any things we have today exists as Rule of Funny. (The Vibrato monsters were left by Precursors and the Crimborg are aliens, though.)
Lampshaded in the Rumpus Room: 'You pause briefly to wonder what an electrical socket is.'
In the first game, players observe such oddities as a giant robot with a Mohawk (named Metalhead, interestingly) in the same general area as where a bunch of swampland dragons reside in huts built on sticks.
In Ripto's Rage (Gateway to Glimmer in Europe) and Year of the Dragon, this trope still exists. It's kind of funny to go from regions with bone-people living in bone huts to robotic cities...
Due to similar reasons to the Ravenloft setting in literature, Timestalkers, a little known Dreamcast RPG, suffers from this. Suffers, because your characters really have no damn good reason for eschewing modern tech aside from soda pop and pre-packaged foods yet choose to do so anyway. (as the few enemies with projectile weaponry do just as much damage as melee monsters if not more.) Storywise, the reason for this is a crazy old wizard grabs hunks from various times in the world and smashes them together, and your people come from them, one from each 'piece.' Also, the one person who ought to have schizo tech knowledge, the 'lady of the night' from the modern era setpiece? Prefers to fight by kicking monsters with her heels. Oddly, she's a reimagining of earlier Climax character Lady, who lived in a decidedly non-modern world and used traditional weapons, being an obvious Captain Ersatz for Alena from Dragon Quest IV... making her handling even more bizarre.
Speaking of Dragon Quest, the series is almost entirely medieval, which only makes it more bizarre when you encounter one of the regularly-occurring robot enemies, or one of your party members references express elevators.
Outcast has a medieval society except from energy weapons and teleports. This, however, has an in-game reason, it is an alternate dimension, and modern humans have visited it before.
Civilization makes you able to both cause and justify this trope. It's not impossible to have Fission without having Gunpowder or to have computers without your Civ having ever ridden a horse. Or cars before you've invented the wheel.
"Your wise men have discovered Space Flight! What should we research next?" "I think... Mathematics. Adding two numbers together sounds important!"
Lampshaded in an ad where two tribesmen are talking about another nearby tribe. One of them mentions that with their pointy sticks (spears), they're at the top of the early tech tree. Then a rival tribesman behind him says: "Not exactly the top", holding a spear with a scope and underslung grenade launcher.
Further, your Civ can rush way ahead in tech and field stealth bombers against enemy spearmen, and lose.
There's a similar effect in Rise of Nations. You can theoretically be researching computerisation during the Enlightenment (Babbage-style Steampunk calculation engines, perhaps?), have England not get around to adopting monotheism until circa the First World War, or even develop nuclear weaponry while your enemies (or even your own troops) are still brandishing muskets.
The In Name OnlyCivilization game Civilization: Call to Power takes it even further. While your enemies are still brandishing spears, you can literally be bombing them from orbit using space bombers built from your space-based colonies.
The Monkey Island series takes place in the 1700s, and you can still see neon signs, nacho machines, etc.
In Mitsumete Knight, a game set in a medieval setting, the country the Asian (aka the player) is fighting for as a mercenary, Dolphan Kingdom, has a very advanced medicine level for a medieval country: blood transfusion is common technique, plastic surgery apparently exists and is effective, and researches on heart diseases are already ongoing.
In Sonic Adventure 2, most people use technology almost identical to that in the present day, but the military has super-advanced robots. Space Colony Ark, which is supposed to be like 60 years old, has even more extremely advanced technology and was apparently the site of extensive genetic engineering.
Sonic Riders has Extreme Gear, highly advanced hoverboard technology, invented by the Babylonians, a society of anthromorphic birds, thousands of years ago so they wouldn't have to expend as much energy flying around looking for treasure. The settings of the race stages in the spin off series tend to be more technologically advanced than some stages you encounter in the main series.
Rune Factory has this. It seems like a typical fantasy based, medieval game franchise, however..They have microwaves, recorders, mixers, light bulbs, among other things.
Its sister franchise, Harvest Moon, has this too. It appears to be set in various times, depending on the game. Anywhere from the late 1800s to 21st century. Even in games with typically older feels, your dress code and the way people act is considerable modern; A Wonderful Name seems both early 20th century and late 19th century, made even more confusing by the fact it has a sequel set 100 years later where it's considerably modern (DVD players and all). However the games typically have a steady technology level. It's Hand Waved in some games by stating the area is rural, so it's not as advanced looking as other places.
Dark Chronicle runs on this. Steam Punk robots, rayguns, knights with magic armbands, airships, steam trains, and guys in spacesuits with hyper-advanced computers are all bumping elbows with each other, though this is primarily due to time travel.
Assassin's Creed has both ancestors doing this; Altaïr uses the retracto-blade which was beyond the technology of 1191 without the technical assistance of the Apple of Eden, and Ezio has even more improbable gadgets up his volumous sleeves, such as a miniture high-powered pistol. The Codex suggests Altaïr invented said pistol and most of the rest of Ezio's equipment, meaning it was in use during The Crusades, again due to the use of the knowledge contained in the Apple. Altaïr was even able to invent an ultra-light suit of plate armor that was superior to modern body armor but could be worn while swimming, and in Brotherhood, it turns out that Brutus (yes, that Brutus, who stabbed Caesar) invented it first. Again, that nifty Precursor technology at work.
The ridiculousness of the pistol is probably why they decided to remove it from Assassin's Creed III, giving Connor a flintlock pistol, appropriate for the era, instead, which takes time to reload. There's not even a mention of the other pistol with something like "the technology to make it was lost".
Thief series features among other things: Medieval swords and armor, bow and arrow (prominently), robots, proximity mines and surveillance cameras.
Ōkami seems to be set in a romanticized Feudal Japan, but then you find an elevator, as well as two spaceships.
Strife has a weird world of medieval castles, cyborgs, crossbows that shoot electric bolts, and robots armed with flamethrowers.
Half-Life: A somewhat milder example, but despite being an ultra-modern research facility, dabbling in spectral analysis of antimatter and quantum entanglement, Black Mesa uses late 50s - early 60s era tape reel and punch card servers.
"Whoa, whoa, what's this? Are you kidding me? Are we using tape-reel computers? Noooo...Wait, are those slots for punch cards? [...] Jesus Christ, I think that is a punch card slot."
More so in the second game. Gordon is supposed to be transported to La Résistance. How? They smuggle him into a lab with equipment resembling an average garage (old monitors, big servers) to teleport him. When this fails, they send him by airboat. Then it gets upgraded with an unlimited-ammo machinegun. Along the way he picks up the Gravity Gun - a device able to attract objects from a distance and then shoot them forward - constructed from scrap metal and featuring a dial gauge. He also travels in a buggy built from scraps with an attached Tau Cannon, a chargeable laser which never runs out of ammo. The entire game gives us very advanced technology - built in a Crapsack World.
Ace Combat intersperses modern weaponry with railguns, lasers, flying fortresses, and orbital spaceplanes.
An in-universe example in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies; the narrator notes that due to the occupation forces confiscating common modern goods like gasoline and computers, the inhabitants of his town were reduced to using crystal radios and horse-drawn carts. There is even a picture shown while he is saying this, showing a convoy consisting of modern tanks and attack helicopters casually passing by a horse-drawn cart.
Despite being set during the warring states period of Japan,Sengoku Basara has Honda Tadakatsu, a giant cyborg gundam-samurai combination.
Team Fortress 2 sports this to a degree. The game is set somewhere in the 1960's but there are still Teleporters, invisibility watches, mechanic limbs and automatic gun turrets. Later updates have introduced laser cannons, high-tech sniper rifles, projectile-destroying zappers and a handful of hats and costume items that far exceed the technology of the time. Many of these items are the result of a crossover promotion with Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Other updates have pushed this in the opposite direction. The Demoman has received swords and shields, the sniper can equip a bow, a wooden shield with a car battery attached to it, the medic has a crossbow, and you have medieval mode, were everyone is limited to melee weapons. Of course, melee weapons range everything from wooden clubs to robotic limbs.
The discovery of australium pushed Australia into a technological golden age very early. They are reluctant to share too much of their tech or australium with the rest of the world, though.
Dragon Age has elements of this. While the rest of Thedas is stuck in Medieval Stasis, the Qunari on the other hand have invented ironclad warships, cannons, and psychosis-inducing gas. The Qunari hail from a continent which has never suffered a Blight or been devastated by the Darkspawn horde, thus their technological development never suffered this handicap. Coupled with their strong dislike of magic, they have sought technological means to solve problems, while the rest of Thedas is more comfortable with relying on magical or enchanted means. The only time Qunari appear to use magic is when turning Saarebas (collared mages) against their enemies, apparently having learned from the Tevinter Imperium forcing their invasion of Thedas to a stalemate, that despite all their technological prowess, magic remains superior in terms of raw firepower... at least, for now.
The fact that apparently combining magic with gunpowder produces a hell of an explosion might lead to... interesting developments in this field. Also, less dramatically, printing appears to exist (which undoubtedly speeds up the spread of information, whether on Brother Genitivi's travels or on the earth-shaking events going on).
Kingpin: Life of Crime is set in "a past that never happened", where 1990's rap music by Cypress Hill, modern vernacular and urban ghetto architecture clash with firearms and vehicles from the 1920's and 30's. Various props like radios and TVs look like they come straight from the 1940's and 50's.
The Sims 3 takes place 50 years prior to The Sims 1 and it does seem to be going for a 50s feel in many respects (some of the clothing for example).. But it's also a Cosmetically Advanced Prequel full of late 2000s technology, clothing, and social views.
Limbo is full of this, from neon lights to anti-gravity generators, to wood huts and bear traps.
The world of Borderlands and its sequel. It ostensibly takes place in 5357. There's digistruct technology that functions like Star Trek teleporters being used to build technicals that would be considered old-fashioned by modern standards. Single-action revolvers, break-action shotguns, sniper rifles, and AK-47s with wooden furniture are seen alongside laser weapons, shotguns that shoot walls of explosive shot, and submachineguns that shoot plasma, all of which are going to be used to fight off robots. And while humanity has evidently spread to six galaxies, one quest has you retrieving floppy disks explicitly described as having 1.44 MB of storage. Part of it could be Pandora being a complete backwater, or some technological dieback in the past, but a lot of it is just Rule of Cool and/or Rule of Funny.
Para World has an alternate reality where the locals use Bamboo Technology and trained dinosaurs (and other prehistoric animals that are all somehow existing in the same time period). The Northmen are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Vikings who rely more on their Steam Punk technology than animals. They have steam tanks and steamships... which are equivalent to the other two factions' use of animals. Oh, and their titan is still a giant animal (a triceratops), so it's not unusual to see a group of Northmen riding a triceratops charging into battle wielding bows and arrows, while supported by steam tanks. Also, for some strange reason, electricity doesn't exist in this world. Not just hadn't been invented, but actually does not exist as a physical phenomenon. An inventor from our world was forced to come up with alternate means of energy. Also, the Big Bad's troops field 20th-century weapons alongside local soldiers.
Halo's humans possess a fairly high tech Standard Sci-Fi Fleet, with ships that are several hundred meters long, FTL travel, and railguns that hit with the force of five Hiroshimas. Their ground forces, however, dip into Schizo Tech territory; some of their technology on the ground is fairly futuristic, like the tank-killing Gauss Cannon mounted on the Warthog. Others use technology that would have been outdated during the middle of the Cold War.
This continues throughout the series; in the sequel, Aarbon is partially returned to his human form, which resembles a Neanderthals. But it gets even weirder in the third game, in which Aarbron becomes an Indiana JonesExpy with ninja stars who flies a very 1930s-looking airplane.
Magic and Science co-exist in the Wild Star universe, but it doesn't really explain why massive tech-swords are still a viable weapon, when plasma rifles, blasters, and magic revolvers are available.
Tales of Symphonia, particularly within the waning world of Sylverant. While the Sylveranti consider a coal-powered steamship to be their most technologically advanced vehicle, Cruxis, the Renegades, and later the main party possess Rheairds, which are basically personal interdimensional jets. Note also the Desian human ranches. While they have elevators, electric lights, automated factories with electronic control panels, AND autonomous robots with lasers, the outside world is comparatively primitive. Heck, people have to travel to the Thoda Geyser using wooden wash buckets.
Elemental Gearbolt's fantasy setting makes for a reversal in that familiar technology is what's weird. The dominant tech is magitech, and it's ubiquitous — but then there's one very specific real life conventional firearm. Because inter-dimensional arms dealers.
An example is the satirical Bruno the Bandit, which is set in a basic "middle ages" fantasy setting, but still has vacuum cleaners, television (complete with every TV trope in the book) and cellphones.
The author Ian Mcdonald has said he originally intended the Schizo Tech to be the main source of humour in the comic, but soon realised it couldn't carry jokes by itself and it was left as The Artifact. There are still occasional gags such as their version of Youtube being called "Thoutube".
The Fourth is mostly a Zelda-esque fantasy world, but the authors are not afraid to throw in a Victorian-era haunted house, or phone when the plot beckons.
In a later strip, Redcloak mentions that magical, lightning-powered trains actually do exist in the OOTS-verse (and complains that he's the one who has to make sure they run on time).
Girl Genius has numerous instances of technological disconnects, mainly because mad scientists have specialized talents and are more inclined to fight each other than to build something profitable. They have autonomous robots with advanced AI but no computers. Airships the size of cities cruise the skies, but no fixed or rotary wing aircraft. Energy weapons abound but no radio or telephonic communications. Probably because lighter-than-air crafts rarely crash on their own. For that matter, instead of parachutes they have "lifegliders"—hang-gliders looking like a bastard child of blimp and bat.
Prototypes are more advanced than mass-produced stuff, though. Gilgamesh Wulfenbach actually does invent a gas powered fixed-wing aircraft early in the comic archive (Hilarity Ensues). The chapter is aptly called "The Infamous Falling Machine!". There's a jetpackjetsuit—Mk II, of course ("dangerous, but amusing"). Castle Heterodyne has a holographic map updated in real time. The Master of Paris built a city-wide telepresence system, and keeps the Autonomous Library, based on a scribing engine made by Voltaire.
Questionable Content is set in Present Day western Massachusetts, but features sentient robots sold at retail, various Transformer-style mecha (Vespa-Bot FTW), and a major character spent her childhood on a space station. This seems to go forgotten for large stretches of time.
DMFA has everyone using swords yet guns also apparently exist. Modern appliances and things like video games exist but the only known transportation is gryphon drawn carts. Also Giant Robots. Granted most of the tech is credited to be invented by the same character and some, like the guns, aren't in the hands of the general public and magical versions seemed to be the standard until recently.
Lampshaded by the world description, which states that it's not uncommon for 21st century cities to exist a short walk away from medieval villages in Furrae.
Dominic Deegan, set in a medieval-type world of magic, has plenty of modern-day luxuries. Casting a lighting bolt onto a guitar will make it an "electric guitar", a voice-amplifying spell on a crystal turns it into a microphone ... yeah, they had a full-fledged rock concert. They also have newspapers. And comic-book superheroes.
In Homestuck we see the warring kingdoms, who both have lots of crazy gadgets like flying warships, giant mechas, and high-tech facilities for genetic manipulation. However, right next to a squad of soldiers wielding assault rifles, we see soldiers wielding swords and bows.
Doc Scratch uses a typewriter to communicate with the trolls' instant messenger client through a time gap of almost a thousand years.
There is also ancient Alternia, which features sailing ships, swords, bows, cybernetics, and interstellar travel.
In The Rifters, modern combat fatigues and plate armor are worn by two different main characters, and no one thinks this odd. Then again, the other main characters are wearing modern clothes, a martial arts gi, or no shirt at all.
In TwoKinds, a character orders a pizza. This seemingly innocuous act soon becomes Fridge Logic when one realizes that the setting doesn't have the communications, rapid non-magical transport, or agricultural tech for food delivery, being just into Iron Age. Could just be a throwaway joke by way of anachronism.
The Tieke from Prophecy Of The Circle possess a number of hi-tech devices which were granted to them by a being known as Teyka, along with the means of replicating them. In all other aspects, their own technology is early iron age at best.
The small mining settlement of Prosperity in Cwynhild's Loom resembles a Wild West town in look and feel, however robots, aircraft, high-speed maglev trains and powered land vehicles are all seen.
Rusty and Co.: Electric guitars and soda machines accompany your traditional fantasy fare.
Though mostly sticking to its mid 17th-century flavor, Open Blue has the occasional incendiary bullet (WWI), Minie-Ball (19th century), and swords coated with diamond (???) to make cutting easier. This of course, does not count the myriad of weird things left behind by the precursors.
Happens in the Chaos Timeline (at least from our POV). Some of the sciences and technological advances are discovered or perfected more earlier than in our history, e.g. Novorossiya invents the telegraph and electrical devices nearly a century before it happened in our history; cryptography, basic computer science and astronomy are at least twenty to thirty years ahead of our's in the early 20th century, computers of 1990 level are already found in the 1950s etc.
In Nocte Yin, the world of Erisire has horses for transportation and swords for weaponry, yet the main characters all have laptops and cell phones.
Actually, guns and the like do exist. They're just not necessarily more useful, considering some fighters can dodge bullets and magic can do the rest.
Jonathan uses a laser blaster (Metal Silver Overdrive) during the 19th century
Straizo uses a pineapple grenade as an attack.
Kakyoin carries around a PSP and DS during the 1980s. They both break.
Cursed Devo uses a clamshell phone during the 1980s.
Neopets: The world of Neopia is based in a "pre-industrial period", where this trope is dependent on region. There's sticks and stones in Tyrannia, the various Fantasy Counterpart Cultures have the tech level you'd expect, Moltara is Steam Punk, while Neopia Central is closest to real life but has nothing like computers, cars, or any sort of electronic technology. And orbiting the planet, there's the Virtupets Space Station and moon colony on Kreludor, although they were created by an scientist from outer space.
Ever After High the setting is fantasy fairy tale world mized with modern day elements. The school is huge castle/ high school, and uses magic mirrors as tv screens, and students use them as i-pads or i-phones.
Adventure Time features a fair amount of this- swords used against enemies who sometimes fire lasers back, Princess Bubblegum's advanced science and mathematics and the detritus of past cultures like bunkers, cars and tanks next to BMO, a sentient handheld videogame.
In the Diniverse, Batman series tend to have a film noir style, down to the appearance of cars, guns, etc. However, modern technology exists as well. You're sure you're watching something taking place in the days of the earliest Batman comics, with tommy guns and classically shaped 1940's cars, until the characters start casually referencing genetic engineering and cybernetic interfaces. Similarly, video casette and digital recorders exist, but television sets still seem limited to black and white images. This was all done for artistic reasons (giving Batman a somewhat nebulous, noir-themed setting in time) and also to keep network censors from forcing the GCPD and the mooks from using laser guns (by apparently sending it so far in the past that lasers would strain even a kid's disbelief)
There was a bit of a Genre Shift between the first few seasons of Batman: The Animated Series and the later Batman episodes (in the Batman/Superman era). In order to make Batman fit in more with the style and tone of the new Superman cartoon, the film-noir visuals were heavily updated: newscasts now in color, Bruce Wayne now in a modern business suit, etc. While the original series carefully avoided any real-life pop-culture references that would date the series, the Batman/Superman episodes are filled with them, such as Batgirl referencing Pinky and the Brain. This is actually lampshaded by Barbara Gordon in Batman Beyond, when she admonishes Bruce for training Terry by saying that his brand of Justice "went out with the tommy gun".
Sokka: So Let Me Get This Straight. You can build tanks, jet-skies, and a gigantic freaking drill, but the concept of a hot air balloon eludes you.
Sequel SeriesThe Legend of Korra set 70 years later, has progressed to Dieselpunk, with automobiles and radio alongside progressively more fantastic police airships, Grappling Hook Pistols, and anachronistically modern boxing headguards with transparent plastic faceplates worn by pro-benders. And yet they have no guns, despite having had fireworks seventy years before and the greatest mind of the time being an anti-bending fanatic who not only invents shock batons, taser gloves, and biplanes but Humongous Mecha. The only possible conclusion is that firearms attract angry spirits.
Despite there being no technology more advanced than Steam Punk (and even THAT shows up rarely), The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack had one episode end with Flapjack pulling the plug on a mechanical genie that worked by electricity. And on a dock no less.
Galaxy Rangers works with this in spades. It's a Space Western to start with, but layers on sword and sorcery (Tarkon, Xanadau), cyberpunk (Tortuna), steampunk (Tarkon), and more Western. (Not surprisingly, the same writers also did a large part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe back in the mid-80s) The best explanation is that the further you get from Earth, the more the colonists are "making do" with lower-end tech and what higher tech they can use. Xanadau and the Sorcerer System have rejected most types of "hard" technology, but use magic and psionics in its place. The Queen of the Crown will cheerfully use anything that crushes her enemies, but doesn't have the high-end hyperdrives her enemies do - and she wants Andorian tech as badly as she does human souls.
Ed, Edd n Eddy is set in a deliberately ambiguous time period, and the neighbourhood seems to have a wildly different variety of televisions and appliances.
While being set in The Future, likes to play with this, giving us "Silent Holographic films" (Where Zoidberg's uncle made his reputation) as opposed to modern talking holographic film. The early films were also in black and white too (since it's far easier to create a monochrome hologram than a colour one)
Chef Elzar uses Spice Weasels as living pepper grinders in a Flintstones-esque manner.
And Fry had to re-invent the wheel during that unfortunate Revolt of the Robots. Too bad he couldn't quite remember the necessary shape.
And in the first live action movie, Fred accidentally invented concrete a few millennia early.
A few episodes/spinoffs show some devices (such as a microwave oven in 90s TV-movie "Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby" and a medical device in an episode of the original series) were powered by electric eels, which might handwave some devices such as their television sets.
The series contains castles, thatched cottages and sod roofs existing alongside everything from quill pens and chariots to corrective tooth braces, dehumidifiers, walkers with tennis balls on the feet, helium tanks with pressure gauges, chocolate dipping fountains, steam trains, horse-drawn steam trains, hip replacement surgery, microphones, megaphones, steel skyscrapers, sewing machines, cider presses, pneumatic jackhammers, outhouses, ice boxes, flashlights, modern DJ tables, bowling allies, biohazard suits, a postal system, hydroelectric dams, offset presses, cranes, cameras, sno-globes, rap music, etc. For example, Pinkie Pie uses a phonograph to play electronic music.
In season 2, there are examples of ordinary trains, without any ponies pulling them. Faust explained on her deviantART page that the horse-drawn train was an attempt to make it fit in the Equestrian universe but still keep the iconic train sounds like whistles and chugging steam. Perhaps that first train ran out of fuel or something.
This seems to be a theme in the My Little Pony franchise. While most of G1 was clearly set in The Eighties, almost all other continuities follow this trope to a point. My Little Pony Tales was especially topsy-turvy - for example the cars the ponies drive can be anywhere from modern to mid 20th century.
The Big Knights revels in this trope: Borovia is a stock medieval fantasy kingdom, complete with knights, castles, wizards, dragons and the like, but also has television, hydroelectric power, bicycles, radar, cellphones and cars. All played for laughs, of course.
Unlike the Maya (and Epi-Olmecs), but like every other civilization in the New World, the Incas didn't even have writing. It didn't slow them down appreciably: imperial administrators communicated by exchanging quipu, bundles of strings with knots tied in them to represent numbers. And it was an efficient system too - able to consistently keep state accounts. Even weirder: They managed to independently develop halberdiers just like those used in Europe at the time, save for the fact theirs were made of bronze, and despite the complete absence of what made Europeans develop halberdiers: to bring down knights from their horses.
None of the Central American civilisations had the wheel, but they could still transport goods several kilometers. They also produced incredible ceramics despite not having the potter's wheel, and built huge structures and roads made from precisely-cut blocks of stone that fit together exactly, without using mortar. In comparison, the wheel was known in South America. But for some unknown reason (the Inca also had llamas, which may not be up to the standard of horses but certainly aren't inferior to sled- or cart-dogs), it didn't occur to them to use it for anything besides children's toys (maybe that the Inca homeland is mostly mountainsides?). Not that it mattered, as humans are much better carrying things on their shoulders than pulling a cart with them, and the Native merchants in particular, both South and Mesoamerican, were able to carry HUGE loads without breaking a sweat.
One of the fallacies that people commonly, mistakenly believe is that Primitive Society = Stupid People. Many older, "more primitive" societies have had mixes of a wide range of technologies. A good example would be ancient Greece and the Antikythera mechanism which is now generally accepted to be a clockwork computer for calculating planetary orbits; technology that literally took another thousand years to reappear. Among the inventions of Ancient Greece's Hero of Alexandria: a water-powered pipe organ, and a vending machine that gave out cups of holy water. Also, the steam engine was invented in Egypt in the 1st century. But slaves were cheaper. The Aeolipile (that's what it was originally called) may actually have been around in the first century BC, but unfortunately Vitruvius was a bit scant with his descriptions. Regardless, the Greeks/Romans never took the idea beyond the Aeolipile, which was so pathetically inefficient that it was never useful as anything but a demonstrator.
Name a technology level, any tech level, between Medieval Stasis and "FINALLY released in the US", and there's an Amish or Mennonite sect somewhere in the Midwest that's stuck there. Also note that they do sometimes pull themselves into modernity and fully learn a specific farming-related machine. They have votes on technological inclusions in the same way the French vote on adding words to the language. But it's complicated as there is no Amish Pope or Curia handing down commandments from on high, so various communities have different standards of what is appropriate technology. Some sects are allowed to use modern technology such as cell phones, provided they do not own the equipment, or if the equipment doesn't physically connect their home to the outside world. Some sects are allowed to own and use landline phones, as long as they're located in an outbuilding, or sometimes on an "English" neighbor's property. Depending on the community, cell phones can be seen as a way around this stricture - or they can be banned altogether.
In other Amish sects, it isn't technology itself that's bad, it's reliance on non-Amish outsiders, which marks a downplay of this trope. A horse-drawn carriage can be constructed out of trees by some Amish guys with hand tools (and said tools can be made by an Amish blacksmith). Horses can be bred by just owning two horses of appropriate genders. But a car? Car parts aren't exactly something that an Amish blacksmith can whip up; thus, owning a car makes them more dependent on the outside world than owning a horse-drawn carriage. In a similar case, solar panels are extremely popular in the Amish community, it allows them to operate farm machinery and lighting without being reliant on the outside world, which is their primary criticism of electricity and telephones. The Amish were amongst the first adopters of solar power.
It's also a matter of what benefits the community rather than the individual; if a technology is more likely to separate a member of the community from the people around him, it is not permitted for individual ownership. Although, as noted elsewhere, communities may own higher technologies (and their members be skilled in their use), if such technologies are used for the benefit of the community as whole. For example, the Amish that run the various food stalls and dining establishments within Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. They use phones, cash registers, and any other modern equipment necessary to run their businesses. Some have even willingly appeared on camera for TV interviews. However, they do not work on Sundays so their stalls are all closed then.
The Pennsylvania Dutch, at least, occasionally cobble new machines together from components at different tech levels. A horse-drawn cart mounting gas-driven farm equipment is fairly common.
In the Bucharest of the 1870s there was no public water supply (works on water and sewage systems commenced between 1880-1883), yet there was a prosperous company which operated a state-of-the-art mechanical laundry, with steam power. They pumped their freshwater with steam pumps from deep wells. Also in 1894, despite horse power being still dominant, the first electric tram line opened.
Many wars in impoverished nations tend to take on elements of schizo tech. One example would be a video from early in the war which overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan, where Coalition/NATO supported tribesmen used horse mounted cavalry wielding AK-47s to charge a Taliban position while F-16s gave air support. In later times, the celluar phone industry began booming in Afghanistan. The lack of traditional infrastructure (safe highways and reliable communications lines) in the country actually makes it a better market for mobile phone service, which relies on radio towers to pass signals back and forth. In areas dominated by the Taliban, it's common for cell phone providers to shut off the cell phone towers at night to prevent informants from passing information to the NATO or Government forces. Similarly, despite playing host to one of the worst conflicts in Africa and for a long time having effectively no functioning government, Somalia has had since the mid-90's what may be the best telecommunications infrastructure on the continent and hosts some of the most advanced, well-equipped and competitively priced telecommunications and internet companies in the world.
Horse-transported machine guns were used in WWI and even in WWII. Soviet troops armed this way were nasty surprise for invading Germans - mow down some foes from an ambush, retreat into the forest, move a bit, repeat. When invading the Soviet Union during WWII, the Germans used a bit more than a million horses. Even for towing artillery.
In the winter, Russian troops traversed through the snow on skis and reindeer sleds.
Similarly, Poland's cavalry units were surprisingly effective against German infantry. No Pole cavalry unit suffered real defeat. The idea that they charged the modern German tanks with sabres drawn was Nazi propaganda to insult their opponent. They were charging infantry, the tanks just happened to be lying in ambush. The Poles also used armoured trains (a technology of which most of the rest of the world had given up), and were so effective with them that the Germans were forced to introduce their own versions. Polish insurgents during the Warsaw Uprising were using anything they could get their hands on, from late XIX-century Lebel rifles to brand-new prize Stg 44 assault rifles to hand-made, spring-loaded catapults for lobing Molotov cocktails over the barricades.
World War II has more examples of this trope. Some technology seems almost sci-fi. At the same time, some was stone-age (like some Polynesian La Résistance bands). There were cosmetic curiosities as well; this was likely the last war that was in many places led by the old warrior caste, as witness all the sirs and lords in the British armed forces, all the vons in the German, or the old Samurai reappearing in command of advanced naval vessels. Also during World War II, the Soviet Air Force had an all female unit that used bi-planes for night bombing.
After Dunkirk, because of shortages of modern weapons, pikes were issued to British home guards (supposedly based on misinterpretation of Churchill's orders). Likewise, Japanese militiamen (and women) were issued bows and arrows and sharpened bamboo sticks in 1945 for much the same reason.
During the war, the Italian army fielded fast cavalry combat groups equipped with sabers (that in Russia ditched their standard issue for the local models) and modern rifles and artillery. Contrary to all expectations, it was scaringly effective: the cavalry regiment that was their core was a capable exploration unit, and the one time one got pinned down by over twice their number of Soviet infantry with mortar support the guns gave the unsuspecting enemy a terrible surprise and distracted them from the three cavalry squadrons charging on their flank (the regiment would have charged with all squadrons, but the enemy broke before they could reach their horses).
Stone-age military technology in the 20th century? The sling. Rendered obsolete in the Middle Ages. Resurrected in the Spanish Civil War and the Winter War. Spanish soldiers used their belts as slings, to throw grenades farther than one could do by hand. The Finnish army also used them, to launch Molotov cocktails. Slings also make a regular appearance in the hands of Palestinians fighting Israeli security forces. In WW1 it was crossbows that got used to throw grenades, because you could keep them (and you) down below the top of the trenches. One finds the same situation in present-day Papua New Guinea, where wilderness tribes (having pre-industrial level agriculture) fight skirmishes with Kalashnikovs and may use modern simple telecom equipment and put petrol-driven outboards on their canoes, provided that they get hold of ammo, fuel and batteries. India has a thoroughly modern military, with an Aircraft carrier, an indigenously designed Main Battle Tank, a joint produced 4.5th generation jet fighter, nuclear weapons and British Lee-Enfield rifles, a design that is 114 years old, yet still in active service (though not as a front-line weapon). In trained hands a bolt-action WWI era rifle has a rate of aimed fire comparable to that of modern semi-automatic ones. A British SMLE has a 10 round magazine. Most other WWI era rifles have magazines of five rounds or less. A WWI era rifle is capable of dropping a Polar Bear with one shot while a modern military rifle will do nothing but annoy one. A similar example is the Colt M1911 pistol. Yes, it's been produced and used both in military and police service for 100 years.
The Mig-25 uses vacuum tubes since they are more resilent to EMP attacks, are easier to replace, are more tolerant of temperature extremes, and give the Smerch-A radar a 600 kilowatt output.
The famous (in certain circles) footage of mid-60s Chinese horse cavalry charging into a combat exercise in a test area just hit with an atomic bomb. For a bonus, there's a chance that it might have been dropped by a Soviet-built copy of an American B-29, itself out of combat service for some years in the US.
One of the most widely used and longest-running airplane models in the world is the Soviet Antonov An-2 all-metal biplane. The An-2 has not only seen use as a transport craft for almost forty years, but is still used by some nations as a military aircraft, where it's ability to land and take off from short, improvised airstrips is seen as a big advantage. During The Yugoslav Wars, Croatian An-2's were outfitted with makeshift bombs and used to relieve besieged towns. The North Korean Special Forces use this as an infantry transport. In one incident during the Vietnam War that seemed to have come right out of an action movie, a CIA operator shooting from a helicopter got into a firefight with North Vietnamese soldiers in An-2's, and even managed to shoot down two of them.
When the various European empires were conquering Africa in the late 1800's, they frequently ran into armies armed with medieval armor and spears while they had machine guns. Europe usually won, although Italy managed to get hilariously pwned by Ethiopia after the Ethiopians bought guns from the French, the British, and, most important of all, the Italian themselves, paying all with money loaned from Italy.note There's a good explanation for this: Italy had helped Ethiopian feudal lord Menelik take over the throne in exchange for an alliance treaty and loaned him money to modernize the country. Then Menelik found out the internationally-accepted version of the treaty made Ethiopia a protectorate, and, after the Italians ignored his justified protests, he started buying guns from Britain and France, at which point Italy, not wishing to have their money given to two countries that at the time were enemies, forced him to buy Italian guns... And, to Menelik's shock, not only actually delivered them but they were the most modern ones, so new they weren't even standard issue yet, guns Menelik's army used to great effect when he decided to take Ethiopia's independence back. For obvious reasons, Italian historians tend to laugh histerically when asked about this. Likewise, with the Spanish conquering Latin America in the 1500's, where the natives usually had little materials for weaponry besides copper, stone or wood for their blades.
Though the Africans often did have access to guns, the Zulus had many Brown Bess muskets during the Anglo-Zulu war and the Ethiopians had plenty of modern rifles, many given to them by the Italians themselves. Lampshaded in Real Life by this Affably Evil British rhyme (by the most sarcastic man who ever lived, Hilaire Belloc, who was a staunch anti-Imperialist):Whatever happens, we have got/The Maxim gun, and they have not
Menelik II, the Ethiopian emperor that defeated the Italians by the way, used a goddamn electric chairas a portable throne. Apparently the artifact's inventor decided to give him 3 of them as a gift, and only after they arrived did Menelik realize that there was not a single electric line in Ethiopia at the time.
China had this during World War II when it was divided into warlord factions. Some factions were underequipped and had to rely on swords and/or cavalry. Their only hope was to divide and outnumber the Japanese troops and steal as many of their weapons as possible.
The Chinese Army of 19th and early 20th centuries (and, for that matter, many non-"western" armies of the same era) might qualify. After the Opium War, the Chinese began to appreciate the power of Western firearms and steam-powered warships and began to import them in large quantities. However, they preferred to maintain more traditionally Chinese approach in other areas. The official program ("Self-Strengthening Movement") built around this belief came to a crashing halt when the Chinese were soundly beaten in 1895 by the Japanese who were trying to modernize more thoroughly, but the tendency continued through much of 20th century, well into the Communist era, by sheer force of inertia.
Much of the Great Leap Forward in the early years of the PRC might qualify for the trope, as it was intended to build modern industrial capabilities (steel, oil, chemicals, etc) using "traditional techniques." ((e.g. backyard steel furnaces.)
Many people who defect from or visit North Korea have reported that it resembles the Victorian era or the Edwardian era in technology and architecture. Other tourists report that the areas outside the capital city resemble South Korea of the 1950's and 1960's.
Switzerland had an excess of hydroelectric power during World War II, but a shortage of modern electric locomotives. State railway SBB sent a few 0-6-0 steam locomotives to be refitted with a pantograph and heating elements into the boiler and ran them by generating steam with electric power.
Attempts to avert Decade Dissonance lead to this in a lot of cities in developing countries. You'll see old-style villages between shining new skyscrapers, and rickshaws alongside cars. Thanks to recycling of handsets, many parts of Africa and South America have cell phone service, but no electric grid for battery chargers. Missionaries and aid organizations bring (some) modern medicine and literature, but cooking is still done over charcoal fires in handmade clay pots. And (for housing at least) prevalent across much of Europe. It's not that unusual to find state of the art eco-housing within a stones throw of a building that pre-dates the discovery of America.
Archaeology has a term for this. "Out Of Place Artifact." Now, most Oopart (or "O-Part") tend to have eventual explainations or turn out to be hoaxes. But it is a concept that gets its own name.
Lost Technology raises it to Reality Is Unrealistic level. There's lots of known "false start" or forgotten inventions, Cool, but Inefficient and working alike. Most were closely guarded secrets known only to a few in the eras before concepts like "scientific community" and "public education" were in fashion. So depending on the point of view, either "could be" or real state of affairs may be considered Schizo Tech.
The Phillipines is full of this, even the parts that would be considered 'developed' in the first place, though some is necessitated by climate, for example barely anyone in anything lower than a 'suburbia' rating using exclusively cell phones. Even clothing and furniture falls into this, most people over 30 mixing and matching haphazardly, seeking a medium between trendy and comfort. Due to having few telephone lines outside the largest cities, they also skipped straight to satellite-everything in most cases. Some people also greatly dislike the noisy trikes and motorcycles but do not produce enough to justify buying a jeepney or utility vehicle, so still rely on animals, but those types are slowly dying out as vehicles become cheaper and larger companies expand.
A more modern example belongs to John Logie Baird. He may have got it wrong the first time, but once he realised electronics was the way to go he shot ahead, demonstrating a 600 line triple-interlaced colour TV in 1944. He even invented the first (albeit not very good) known form of non-film rapid image recording.
The entire firearm industry shows signs of this, though often we fail to notice it because as far as we're concerned it's "normal." For example the Girandoni Air Rifle was first invented in 1779 and were in use with the Austrian Army from 1780 to 1815, had a 20 round tubular magazine, and fired a .51 caliber ball at roughly 1,000 ft/s. Pistol variants were also made. The Henery Repeating Rifle, which arrived fifty years later, is considered by many to be far less advanced than the Girandoni and was the next "practical" firearm to match the Girandoni's magazine and rate of fire. The biggest reason for this is cost and practicality. For example, the Henry Rifle (a repeating rifle with a tubular magazine) existed early enough to see use in the American Civil War. It actually DID; some Union troops bought them with their own funds. The problem is that the Henry Rifles were heavier than standard issue muskets, required special and more expensive ammunition, and the rifles themselves were more complicated (more maintenance, more training) and much more expensive. It also takes time to re-equip and retrain an entire army to a significantly different weapon. The war was costly enough financially for the Union and Confederacy as it was. Sure, you could equip your army with the best weapons available, but you'd go bankrupt just trying, and that's not even talking about the infrastructure or training issues. Some muzzle-loaded and touch-hole-ignited cannons of the 19th century had the touch-hole (ignition vent) made of iridium-platinum alloy, rarest metals and also and most difficult to shape. The breech loading rifle is also rather older than you might think. As surprisingly is Repeating weapon.
Looking at a modern example, the TKB-022PM. Designed 1962 by one German A. Korobov, this wild weapon is fully ambidextrous, has an above barrel forward ejection, and THE shortest "Barrel Length to Total Length" ratio of any weapon in history at "0.79-to-1.00" or 415mm to 525mm. The Styer AUG Carbine comes in at only "0.59-to-1.00" or 407mm to 680mm. It also weighs 1.1lbs less than Styer AUG Carbine, proved three times as accurate as the then in use AKM, and utilized a wood impregnated polymer body. The weapon was all but forgotten by the 70's. This weapon has one of the highest (if not the highest) BL:TL ratios among assault rifles. The closest would be the FN F2000, designed in the year 1995, weighing 7.4-7.9lbs, and with a ratio of only 0.58-to-1.00.
Consider the Enfield EM-2 which was actually being introduced in 1951 before being scuppered by the introduction of the 7.62 NATO standard. As bullpup, intermediate-caliber assault rifle with a built in optical sight it sounds, and looks, oddly familiar to something over thirty years younger.
The Korean People's Air Force has an inventory of planes from a wide variety of eras. This includes modern-ish fighter jets from the 60's through the 80's, MiG-15s similar to the ones that fought in the Korean War, and even biplanes.
On a similar but less extreme note, Italy kept the F-104S Starfighter in service until October 2004. Made more jarring by the F-104S being an improvement of the original F-104 Starfighter introduced the same year the USAF retired the original version.
The Korean Hwacha: a mobile, cart-mounted anti-personnel rocket artillery platform. Capable of firing up to 200 gunpowder-backed steel-tipped (and sometimes explosive) projectiles up to half a kilometer in a tight, spin-stabilized spread designed to tear apart defensive formations. Not a bad piece of weapons technology for 15th century Korea. During the late Renaissance Europe, the primitive rocket (propelling either an explosive charge or an arrow) was widespread. Cannons were heavy, expensive, needed many horses or oxen to move them, and needed cast metal, which was hard to manufacture with 16th century technology. Rockets were cheap contraptions of wood, paper and black gunpowder. As the cannon technology improved throughout the 17th and 18th century, with State and royal backing and financing, the accurate cannon become the weapon of choice and the inaccurate rocket a toy for fireworks.
Breech-loading swivel gun. Breech loader with cartridge shot (propellant and projectile loaded as a single, pre-measured charge). Known in Europe already in the 14th century.
Leonardo da Vinci designed a hang-glider, but never built it. It was recreated for 'Leonardo's Dream Machines'(February 2010). Not only did it work, it neatly beat the Wright brothers by 400 years, clocking a higher altitude, flight time and distance to boot. His blueprints also had designs for a tank, a machine gun, and a sort of rocket-launcher designed for boats.
The hang-glider was invented in 1010 by an English monk named Eilmer of Malmesbury.
The merchant clippers of the 19th century were the most advanced sailships in history, used by Britain and the USA for trading with the most far away colonies or countries in Asia and Oceania... and they only came into existence after the invention of the steamship liner and their owners and crews were all well aware about their days being numbered given the more modern competition. Still, they were pretty successful until the end of the 19th century. Some late clippers then took the trope to a whole new level, when they were modified to accommodate smaller steam engines for propulsion in case of windless weather. In fact, a common piece of equipment on these clippers were small steam engines known as "Steam Donkeys". You could save quite a bit of manpower with a few of these employed along with rope, pullies, blocks and tackles, etc. to do various heavy lifting and manual labor on the deck. So in the age of steam, you had a sailing ship that was partially automated thanks to the use of steam engines.
The windjammer. Windjammer was the type of sailing ship which superseded the clippers. The windjammers were truly big merchant sailing ships, used for ultra-long voyages carrying bulk cargo, such as grain, fertilizers or lumber. They were usually rigged as four-masted barques and could outrun almost any steamship on suitable winds. Their hulls were designed scientifically and rig optimized for small crews. Their heyday was from 1880 to 1939 - when aircraft carrier was already well in use. Many windjammers have survived even today, either as museum ships or as school ships. The last commercial windjammer, German four-masted barque "Pamir", sunk with fertilizer cargo in hurricane in 1957 - at the time atomic ships were already sailing.
The windjammer was the result of 3000 years of maritime tradition and 19th-20th century scientific thinking. Their hulls are usually steel and masts and yards steel profile, with stays and shrouds being steel wire.Most windjammers were equipped with steam donkeys to handle the rig. They could do with surprisingly small crew - master, boatswain and sixteeen other crew - yet they often were employed as school ships and had a crew of thirty or so.
During World War I, a windjammer was used as a ship of war by the Germans, to raid Allied merchant ships in faraway waters. Because steam-powered warships required overseas bases to support them (which Germans no longer had by 1915) and the diesel technology was not yet adequately developed, the sailing ship was chosen. Under the command of famed Count von Luckner, the Seeadler sailed around the world capturing and sinking a number of Allied merchant ships, until it was wrecked near Australia. Some of the captains whose ships were captured by the Seeadler actually refused to believe that she was a German warship when told to surrender.
Successful aircraft can have surprisingly long lifespans, which can lead to this as modern technologies are integrated into older platforms. Case in point: the B-52. Boeing won the contract for its development in 1946, the first planes saw service in 1955, and production ceased in 1961. They are still in service, operating with structural reinforcements developed in the 1970s, firing computer-aided missiles using modern targeting equipment and running on alternative fuels. And if all goes according to plan, they will continue to do so until at least the mid-2040s.
Another example is the C-47/DC-3, produced from 1933-1942, they served during WW2 and afterwards and some are still in service. They also saw a wealth of modifications, including the famous AC-47 "Spooky"/"Puff The Magic Dragon", the rather modern Basler BT-67. Additionally they saw production in the Soviet Union as the Lisunov Li-2 and in Japan as Showa L 2 D during World War II. Yes, this plane was used in large numbers by both sides of the conflict.
Other examples are the DHC-2 Beaver (first flown in 1947, the original models are still in wide use, with the new Turbo Beaver still in production), the C-130 Hercules (still in production after 50 years), and commercial airliners such as the Boeing 707 (entered service 1957), 727 (entered service 1963) and 737 (first flown over 40 years ago...and still in production).
A lot of real life examples are due to necessity being the mother of invention coupled with if it ain't broke, don't fix it. We still outfit soldiers with knives (mostly for utility, but close quarter combat is a possibility) that would not be out of place centuries ago (aside from the materials), because you really can't come up with a better way to cut things than with a simple wedge. And just because a civilization is advanced in one area does not mean it'll be advanced in all the other areas. Or that it'll advance at exactly the same rate as other civilizations. There are also advances being made to those tools. A 2003 news report discussed a nice little device in the American arsenal: the tomahawk. Not the cruise missile, the axe. Think about all the kinds of things a soldier wandering around in Afghanistan might have to deal with, and how many of them might be solved by having, say, a hatchet on hand. And not all of these are 'angry guy charging you'. Many edged weapons are far more useful as tools than actual weapons, from the Bowie knife to the Kukri and machete, for both military man and outdoorsman. The tomahawk is far more useful than a bayonet or an officer's sword: the bayonet may stab the opponent, but it performs poorly when it needs to breach doors and obstacles, chop firewood, hammer stuck metal parts, cut thick cables or ropes. The Bowie, Kukri, machete, balisong and plenty other cool blades were and still are primarily agricultural tools which could fight in an emergency.
The Finnish Army Engineer NC Os carry a military field axe instead of an entrenchment tool. (Since they are engineers, spades and shovels are readily available amongst the platoon and company gear.) The officers carry a military billhook - both as a handy wood cutting tool and a nasty close combat weapon.
This is an especially common situation in highly stratified cultures where a wealthy ruling elite — usually a brutal dictatorship — dominates a population deliberately kept in oppressive poverty. There are a large number of such nations in modern Africa and Asia; with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Zimbabwe being the quintessential examples.
There's a whole range of attempts at trying to modify old 8-bit machines to work with more modern applications like the internet, SD cards and USB devices, etc. Some of these make use of ported versions of Contiki, an OS otherwise intended for low-powered embedded systems connecting to the internet.
Many African countries with more than a rudimentary banking infrastructure are ditching paper currency (due to the expense of minting, the fact that paper money deteriorates quickly in warm, humid climates, and the spread of disease) and going straight to debit cards. In fact, in many areas in Africa, people would send their friends/relatives/creditors money in the form of cellphone airtime (since most cellphone plans are either prepaid or have limited minutes). Exchanging cellphone airtime became a legitimate unit of currency because it would not depreciate (as opposed to "real money"), and you don't need to belong to a bank in order to exchange money remotely. In this way, Africans basically invented mobile banking before it was a thing. Cellphone service providers have taken heed, and today a lot of "low-footprint" services (i.e., that don't need a lot of bandwidth) get released in Africa first to see if people would want to use them. This works out because basically everyone in Africa has a cellphone, this being by far the easiest way to keep in touch in the absence of other infrastructure. What would you rather do: wire every single house in your village to a land-line, or build one cellphone tower?
According to the British Army Afghanistan veterans, the Afghan and Iraqi insurgents fear no high-tech weapons, but the thing they really are afraid of is a bayonet charge at close distance. Especially when the British army bulletproof vests make them impervious to shooting. The US Marines once routed an enemy with a bayonet charge, after their ammunition ran out. Those knives have rings on them for a reason. In a pinch, you can snap it on a barrel of your assault rifle and improvise a bayonet. Those knives are designed to double as bayonets. There you have a triple purpose tool: both an everyday tool, a fighting knife and nasty pointy thing
Anything onboard a yacht. The yachts may (and usually do) have GPS plotters, VHF radios, radars and navigation computers onboard, as well as sextants, log lines and handlines for depth. Square sail, long considered obsolete, has made a comeback amongst the bluewater cruisers who do transoceanic legs.
There exists several kits on the Internet that allow people to convert their typewriter to connect any USB-enabled device such as an iPad or a computer to it and use it as a keyboard. Some newer typewriters have that ability built in, as well.
Some PC hardware which allows for backwards compatibility fits this trope, although certain features tend to be disappearing from modern motherboards. For example, VGA ports, PS/2 connectors, PCI expansion slots, internal modems, serial and parallel ports, etc. which sometimes appeared It's not entirely unknown for PC builders to have old parts lying around for recycling into new system builds. If you're crazy enough, an early 2000s-era PC old enough to still have a floppy controller might theoretically take a 5.25" floppy drive pulled from an '80s-era PC. And may even run DOS, though some games have speed issues. Bonus points if you can find legacy hardware adaptors that let you hook just about anything from slower SCSI and Serial or Parallel ports to a USB converter. There are also expansion cards for motherboards that add all sorts of legacy hardware support via the PCI Express slots.
Likewise, attempts to make "forwards-compatible" old O Ses. There seem to be a few USB drivers out there for DOS, if you know where to look. It's also quite possible to get web browsers and email software for DOS.
Singapore often sports large amounts of this. In the central business district, sandwiched between the skycrapers include old buildings like colonial-era shophouses, early 70s shopping centres juxtaposed opposite recently-opened designer malls, and other nice little contrasts like that. There are also classical riverside bump-boats and ferries jostling for space with modern passenger cruise-liners at the Harborfront, and even senior and browned rickshaw and trishaw operators with the latest smartphones! Bonus points for the latest LRT mini-train lines snaking between 80s and 21st-century pidgeon-hole apartments in some heartland districts, as well as the greying old early 90s MRT trains with discolouring interiors running alongside newer black-coated models with improved bucket seats and LED-augmented route maps.
NASA's technology has both cutting-edge computers and ones with technology from the Race to the Moon age. Though the outdated one is enforced: the dangers of space requires them to use simple things on what will remain in orbit.
China developed the steam powered drill as far back as 220BC,
Exploding cannonballs in the mid 1300s
Fishing reels as far back as 400AD
Double piston flamethrowers powered by gunpowder in the 700s
The first recorded use of forensic science in 1247AD
Bamboo piplelines pumping natural gas from deep bore wells to homes as far back as 200AD, as well as portable bottles of gas made from bamboo around 600AD
A helicopter made from bamboo in 400BC
nail polish, mines (land and naval) paper cups and napkins, pinhole cameras, restraunt menus, rocket launchers and mechanical rotary fan air conditioning all along side sailing ships, horses, bows and swords.