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Schizo Tech / Real Life

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Technology is less linear than most people think. Even in real life, you can find some unexpected combinations...

  • The Incas, like every other civilization in the New World except the Maya (and Epi-Olmecs), 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.
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  • None of the Mesoamerican civilisations had the wheel, due to both the terrain and the absence of donkeys and horses, 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 at 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.
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  • 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, a rather crude and inefficient 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.
    Indeed, the technology needed to make the steam engine a useful source of power was not available in Roman times: first, a heavy-duty steam engine requires certain critical components able to sustain high heat and pressure, which must therefore be made out of certain materials, specifically certain metals, and in a particular way, and the metallurgy that made these possible—particularly high-quality, homogeneous, cast iron produced in large quantities—was not available then. Second, the reason that the steam engine found uses in 18th century Britain was that it was used to power complex machinery that had existed before but was powered by water (or occasionally wind);note  this machinery, which had been invented in Europe in the Middle Ages and onward to extract more production from the continent's limited resources of manpower, did not exist in Roman/Greek times because...well...slaves were cheaper.
    After the massive population loss of the fall of the Western Roman Empire and then again with repeated plagues, Western and Central Europeans got used to the idea of trying to do more with fewer people, which encouraged the construction of machines.
  • Most European towns and cities have buildings which can be hundreds or even thousands of years old. Yet they are fully electrified, centrally heated, have modern plumbing and telephone and internet connections. The outlook of the city of Ravenna has not changed since the Imperial Roman era yet it is a perfectly modern Italian city today.
    • London is one of the largest and most modern cities in the world, with the so-called Square Mile being the biggest global financial centre outside of Wall Street. It also has several truly ancient buildings right in the middle of it, such as the Tower of London, the oldest extant parts of which were built by William the Conqueror in 1078, with the last major renovationsnote  being in 1285, which is surrounded by 20th and 21st century residential and office buildings and was still used as a prison until 1952. Westminster Abbey is even older, dating to 960, with the oldest surviving bits dating to the 1040s when it was renovated by Edward the Confessor. Since 1066, every single English (later British) monarch has been crowned there, excepting only Edward V (who was never crowned) and Edward VIII (who abdicated within the year). And older than both of those is the London Wall, which dates back to the late 2nd century AD, served as a fire break during the Great Fire of London in 1666, and is still easily visible to tourists and passers-by in central London.
  • The Amish, especially if you do the research:
    • 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 breeding a stallion to a mare. 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 ride buses or trains to get between their hometown and Philadelphia, and most contract with "English" delivery companies to transport their goods to the market by truck. Their stalls do in fact take credit cards. Some have even willingly appeared on camera for TV interviews. However, they do not work on Sundays and Mondays, so their stalls are all closed then (otherwise a very busy day at Reading Terminal).
    • 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 cellular 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-'90s 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.
  • In the particular case of Afghanistan, there's the tradition of manufacturing "Khyber Pass copies" of firearms based on any of a number of imported firearms that have been commonly used in the region. Some of the designs that have been copied, like the Martini-Henry rifle, have not seen active service in any Western military since the nineteenth century, but are still being faithfully reproduced by local gunsmiths to this day.
  • 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 Russian Civil War, Ukrainian anarchists under Nestor Makhno extensively utilized horse carts with machine guns known as Tachanka. Other factions also used them to lesser extent.
  • In the winter, Russian troops traversed through the snow on skis and reindeer sleds. Ironically, during World War II, the Italians spread the terror among Red Army outposts with skiers raiding them at night. Just the Russians' luck that, after the Italian front of World War I included a lot of high-mountain warfare where skiing was a necessary ability, the Italians trained all their Alpini (mountain troops) as skiers. And they had six divisions of them (three of which deployed in Russia).
  • 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 or Polish propaganda to exaggerate their national bravery. They were charging infantry, the tanks just happened to be lying in ambush.note  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 19th-century Lebel rifles to brand-new prize Stg-44 assault rifles to handmade, spring-loaded catapults for lobbing Molotov cocktails over the barricades. And with their industry being unable to supply many modern weapons, we have the Italians again, deploying cavalry in World War II. Italian cavalry was equipped with sabres (initially Italian models, but later Cossack ones as they found them better), and modern (for the era) rifles, machine guns, and artillery, as two very unlucky Soviet battalions found out the hard way when they surrounded an outnumbered Italian cavalry regiment expecting them to only have sabres and the cavalry opened fire with artillery before charging.
  • Horsed cavalry, for huge countries without too much infrastructure, remained useful well after World War 2. The Soviet Union maintained cavalry forces well into the 1950s. China retained cavalry even longer. There were exercises in both countries in the 1950s and '60s that tested whether horsed cavalry could operate effectively in conjunction with tactical nuclear weapons. Mounted troops are still very useful in broken country that's inaccessible to wheeled or tracked vehicles, and/or where a logistics train hasn't yet been established. US Army Special Forces rode on horseback during the initial phases of the (latest) war in Afghanistan, and police and border patrol forces worldwide still find equestrian units very practical (in addition to broken country, horses are very useful in riot control).
  • 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 (aptly nicknamed Night Witches by the Germans) that used biplanes 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.
      • And, of course, 'Mad' Jack Churchill, who carried a broadsword, played bagpipes, and is the last British soldier known to have made a combat kill with a longbow.
    • 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 scarily 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).
    • The war saw both the last (common use of) operational biplanes and the first operational jet fighters (namely, the British Gloster Meteor and the German Messerschmidt 262).
    • Another aeronautical note is that this conflict was one of the last to see wooden-framed aircraft participate in frontline conflict. Some aircraft of note are the Horten flying wing prototype aircraft, which never saw service but did see several flying prototypes. Although the center pod and cockpit of the aircraft were made of welded steel, the wing spars were made out of wood and the wings themselves were made of pressed plywood. It was also jet-powered, was planned to be armed with 30mm cannons, and utilized flying wing technology well before the B-2 Spirit bomber, the most successful flying wing aircraft ever made, which first saw service in the late 1980s and stays aloft using digital "fly-by-wire" technology.
    • The de Havilland Mosquito made use of a very old material — wood — in ways that for the time were beyond-cutting-edge, during a time when metal was heavily rationed. Many of the techniques used in the Mosquito are used to this day to mold and work carbon fiber.
    • WWII is notable for featuring both horse-back cavalry charges and the only war-time usage of nuclear weaponry.
  • 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 WWI, 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.
    • 2014 Maidan protests in Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, at times looked like this - especially with a medieval catapult to launch stones and Molotov cocktails. Just watch this video.
  • The Mig-25 uses vacuum tubes since they are more resilient to EMP attacks, are easier to replace, are more tolerant of temperature extremes, and give the Smerch-A radar a 600-kilowatt output.
  • 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 its ability to land and take off from short, improvised airstrips is seen as a big advantage. During The Yugoslav Wars, Croatian An-2s 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-2s, and even managed to shoot down two of them.
  • When the various European empires were conquering Africa in the late 1800s, 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  Likewise, with the Spanish conquering Latin America in the 1500s, 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, Hilare 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 chair as 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 the 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 the 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 1950s and 1960s.
  • The Neo-Victorian and Steampunk groups.
  • Russia had 1,000 steam locomotives ready for reactivation in 1994.
  • 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 stone's 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 explanations 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 Philippines 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 absolute poverty using 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.
    • This extends to the military as well. Until the past few years or so most of their weaponry date back to The Vietnam War or earlier. This is taken to entirely new levels with the Navy, where, until 2011, the position of the flagship went to a World War 2-era destroyer escort, and with most of its major warships dating back to said war. The new one is an ex-US Coast Guard cutter built in The '60s, though at least said Hamilton-class ships can be fitted with missiles and have been certified by the US itself in 1990. Oh, and its equivalent of SEALs is also known to have brought back the M3 Grease Gun back to service and fitted them with modern-day attachments, serving alongside the M4A1.
  • 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 Henry 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 breechloading 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 415 mm to 525 mm. The Styer AUG Carbine comes in at only "0.59-to-1.00" or 407mm to 680mm. It also weighs 1.1 lbs 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 '70s. 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.
  • The Mateba Autorevolver fits this trope very well. It is a revolver that uses the gas of its rounds to rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer, essentially allowing it to perform just like a semi-auto pistol. To top it off it uses a barrel that fires from the bottom chamber to improve recoil management. It is one of the more advanced and well-built handguns made in recent times but it's still a revolver, a platform that is almost two centuries old.
  • 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 '60s through the '80s, MiG-15s similar to the ones that fought in the Korean War, and even biplanes.
    • The common North Korean biplane, the Antonov AN-2 is in fact a post-World War 2 design that appeared in 1947 and remains in widespread use throughout the world. During World War 2, Russians saw how useful the seemingly outdated biplane was, as they could operate very slow at very low altitude (enough that paratroopers could actually jump out of them without a parachute) and could almost literally take off from people's back yards. AN-2 came out of these experiences to develop a "modern" plane that could address these needs. The AN-2 was so successful that, in the 1980s, a new turboprop-powered biplane was developed to supplement it, the Antonov AN-3.
    • 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. For these very reasons, rockets are making a comeback as the weapon of choice for insurgent movements worldwide. Crude rockets can be manufactured fairly cheaply in low tech workshops and can be operated with limited training but pack a good deal of firepower if directed against large targets, while cannons and shell require expensive machinery to manufacture and highly trained operators.
  • 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 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 sister ship of the Pamir, the Passat sits in Travemünde Harbor (near Lübeck) on the Baltic Sea - you can still walk around it, but its not seaworthy any more. Some routes and cargoes (e.g. grain from Australia or South America to Europe) had sail ships plying them until after the second world war - yes they were slower, but the higher labor cost was more than made up for by the lower fuel costs. The double whammy of rising labor costs and the beginning of containerization as well as the era of cheap oil is what finally did them in, but with oil prices on the rise once more, who knows whether they'll come back one day?
    • The windjammer was the result of 3,000 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 a surprisingly small crew – master, boatswain, and sixteen 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.
    • The windjammer actually outlived atomic ship in civilian use. Several windjammers are still today employed as school ships. The only atomic ships today are military vessels. note 
  • Military/coast guard training ships tend to be like this. Not only are more than a few of them steel-hulled sailing vessels, discussed above, but they generally tend to feature the oldest technologies a navy has (if not even older just in case) alongside the newest. USGS Eagle for example features sails, decades-old diesel engines, computers, radar, and a small drone landing pad.
  • 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. Some families have now had four generations who've served on B-52s with the expectation at least another generation or two will carry on the tradition. And if all goes according to plan, the planes will stay in service 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 L2D 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). Also, the 747 has been in production for more than 40 years and has been the Queen of the Skiesever since.
  • 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.
  • A modern nuclear-powered attack submarine has dozens of major advantages over an old diesel/electric boat, yet the older, mostly-obsolete versions are quieter because they shut down their noisy diesel engines underwater and so make almost no noise at all, while a nuclear reactor has to keep going at all times. The speed and range are much, much lower, but should an old 1950s-era sub manage to get near a target, it would be very difficult to locate and would be capable of firing just as powerful of a torpedo.
  • The Finnish Army Engineer NCOs 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. Someone has even managed to make a wifi cartridge for the Acorn Electron allowing the user to download games direct from a Web server: see here and here.
  • 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
  • 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 adapters 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. Leaving consumer hardware behind, it is possible to buy a mainboard with LGA 1155 CPU socket (Intel i3, i5 & i7), dual gigabit LAN, six COM-ports, and an ISA slot.
  • Likewise, attempts to make "forwards-compatible" old OSes. 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 skyscrapers 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 the '80s and 21st-century pigeonhole 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 require them to use simple things for anything that will remain in orbit or will go to places (much) farther away.
    • Instead of transistorized circuits, the first artificial satellites used electromechanical tuned reed receivers to pick up radio signals from their controllers; the technology was used in early radio navigation systems for airplanes starting in the 1930s.
    • When Mariner 4 transmitted its first close-up pictures of Mars in 1965, it returned a stream of data in the form of brightness values that would take time to be processed into an actual picture. Not willing to wait for that, the JPL scientists printed out the raw data as a raster of numbers and had one of their number go to an art supply store and buy a set of pastels; they then filled in the numbers with different shades of yellow, red, and brown according to their values. The first picture from Mariner 4 was literally "color-by-number"!
    • The Soviet Union's Luna 3 probe carried a film camera instead of solid state imaging equipment; after it took the first pictures of the far side of the Moon in October 1959, the exposed film was processed by a miniaturized photo lab, scanned, and radioed back to Earth.
    • The United States did likewise with the Lunar Orbiter missions, photographing the majority of the moon's surface to scout landing sites for the Apollo program in the mid-1960s. Several decades later, the Lunar Orbiter program's data was unearthed by a rag-tag band of enthusiasts and engineers who have attempted to recover and preserve the tapes. Despite working with a meager budget, volunteer time, and located in a defunct fast-food restaurant, the team managed to scavenge together working fridge-sized tape players and fed the data into modern computer image processing software. The results are absolutely stunning.
    • The outdated aspect is readily seen if you check the specs of spacecraft components, finding single (or at best double)- digit speed CPUs plus cameras with resolution easily beaten by even camera phones. Both the reliability aspect as well as that those components are pretty much tailor-made for each spaceship justify that.
  • The stereotype of Japan was that it's a society on the cutting edge of technology, however the reality is more nuanced. Long after pagers became obsolete from cellphones, Japan continued to use them because many teenage girls found the item cute and highly customizable. Sony officially stopped shipping Betamax tapes in March 2016 and the Japanese continue to use fax machines, music cassette tapes and compact discs while elsewhere in the world, these technologies are entering obsolescence due to email and MP3 downloads (though cassettes have made a considerable comeback in the west alongside the even more obsolete gramophone record, and in many places fax machines soldiered on for various reasonsnote ).
  • Those who enjoy the latest audiovisual technology also tend to be the kind of people who like restoring and maintaining obsolete technology. So you get cinephiles who have a movie collection comprising of Laserdiscs and Blu-Rays, audiophiles who collect CDs and vinyl records, and gamers who have both an Atari 2600 and a Wii U.
    • This video gives a tongue-in-cheek comparison between the Video CD (created in 1993) and the Ultra-HD Blu-Ray (first released to the public in 2016), purely based on the fact that the VCD is still popular in parts of Asia due to the format's low cost, and new films are still being released on the format 23 years later.
  • Year China withdrew their last steam locomotives from active service in revenue service? 2005. Year the Shanghai Maglev was opened for revenue service? 2004.
  • There are several examples of Native Australian arrowheads and spearpoints from the 19th century made from industrial products such as bottle glass and telegraph isolators. It's what happens when you introduce a culture with a long and proud tradition of flint-knapping to materials that are easier to find and work than flint.
  • Modern artillery doesn't use cases for their propellant charges, but cloth bags. There's a good reason for it: during World War I France introduced the 'modern' powder bag because it was less expensive than cased ammunition, and as it was later realized that one could better change the range of the gun by simply using bags of different size (or simply a larger or smaller number of bags). Replacements are being developed and tested, but they still follow the pattern.
  • Body snatchers in Victorian times continued using wooden-bladed shovels to dig up cemetery plots, generations after the steel-bladed kind had become cheap enough to supplant the old-fashioned sort. This is because, although less efficient, all-wooden shovels make less noise, allowing such "resurrection men" to procure illicit dissection specimens in secret.
  • Technology as a whole is this. Fully functioning robots were invented as for back as Ancient Greek times, yet the common spectacles wouldn't be invented until the 12th century. People were also able to go to the moon faster than they were able to invent a camera phone.
  • There are currently at least 70 different modes of transportation on the streets in India, ranging from horse-drawn wagons to electric cars. All of them are street-legal, so they share the roads with each other.
  • This tactical blowpipe. With laser pointer.
  • Pinball machines contain technology from the last hundred years side by side. For example, the Premium Edition of WWE Wrestlemania, made in The New '10s (yes, they're still being made): From the player's perspective, you will find a dot-matrix display using single-color LEDs (technology of The '60s) right behind a miniature LCD flatscreen monitor (technology of The New '10s). The ramps are made using vacuum-formed plastic (again, from The '60s), whereas the lighting on the playfield is done using variable-color LEDs (again, from The New '10s). Open up the machine, and you will find the flippers are powered by solenoids using designs from The '40s, a central computer using an up-to-date version of Linux containing equally cutting-edge integrated circuits, and a tilt bob (a sensor designed to detect if a machine has been shaken too much) that has remained unchanged since the Great Depression.
  • Most Counter-Insurgency (or COIN) aircraft are typically propeller-driven aircraft that utilize modern avionics, surveillance technology, and weaponry to engage low-tech insurgency forces. There are a number of reasons for this, as they are easier to use than faster, more expensive jets and cost less money to operate and arm. While commonly used by third-world nations, plenty of these aircraft have also been produced and served alongside high-tech air forces such as the United States Air Force. Examples of such aircraft include the FMA IA 58 Pucará, the Embraer EMB 312 Tucano, and the Cavalier Mustang, which is a post-war modification of the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter plane of WW2.
    • The above example is why the aforementioned Philippine Armed Forces had no jet fighters between their retirement of the Vietnam-era F5 in 2005 and the acquisition of the Korean FA-50 light fighters in 2014. During that period, the PAF's main priority was targeting Islamic terrorists and Communist rebels, which called for the need for turboprop-driven COIN aircraft (like the OV-10 Bronco) and transonic jet aircraft (like the S-211) rather than supersonic jets. Even the supersonic FA-50 will primarily be used to eliminate terrorist threats on the ground, though it has some Air-defense capabilities as well (a new priority given the Spratly Islands issue).
  • The T-54 and T-55 tanks were designed by the Soviet Union in 1945 just before World War 2 ended. They are still in service with militaries in Africa and the Middle East, receiving occasional jury-rigged parts to keep them effective in modern warfare. The armored frame, main cannon, and engine are typically the original 1945 era technology, while the electronics and crew equipment consist of advancements developed between 1960 to 1990. As these sturdy weapons are more than enough for despotic dictators to oppress unarmed citizens, with newer tanks are too expensive or prohibited for purchase, they're expected to remain in service until 2035.
    • Similarly, the World War Two workhorse of Western Allied tanks, the M4 Sherman, was first deployed in 1942, and remained in use by various countries until 2018.
  • Many developers use the command line interface on their computers in addition to GUIs. This is because they need more control over the computer than the GUI will give them to interact with an interpreter or compiler.
  • The Chang Jiang motorcycle, produced unchanged in China from 1957, was a copy of the Russian Ural model, which itself was a copy of a 1938 BMW. Royal Enfield in India made motorcycles based on the 1955 British model. In cars, the Hindustan Ambassador, which was built until 2014, was a copy of the 1956 Morris Oxford. In all cases they were protected from foreign competition, so saw no reason to change to more modern standards.
  • The Hong Kong tramway. Archaic-looking double-deck tramcars on two-axle trucks dating back to the 1920s... with state of the art electrical equipment, smart ticketing, and dot-matrix destination displays. Part of this is due to a late-twentieth-century era where strong political elements thought trams were outdated and rejected money being spent on them, which led to the operator modernising the vehicles in ways that didn't show.
  • This photograph depicts a pair of people riding horses in traditional steppe-tribe garb and holding up modern quadrotor drones in place of hunting falcons.
  • The British Royal Family still uses horse-drawn coaches. However, the modern coaches have electric windows and air conditioning.
  • The Island Line on the UK's Isle of Wright have a very small loading gaugenote , and so they run refurbished 1938 London Underground stock on the line. In 2021, those trains will finally be replaced... with refurbished 1978 London Underground stock.


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