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Dec 7th 2018 at 7:13:54 AM •••

I think we need to move The Star Wars examples from the literature folder to either the Film folder or its own folder as there are quite a few examples that not from novels such the Death Star which was in the films, The Dark Reaper and Protodeka are from a the Star Wars The Clone Wars Video Game and the Seismic Tank and Malevolence from from 2003 (Seismic Tank)and 2008(Malevolence)Cartoons. They have no business being the literature folder and it would not be the first place the average reader would look for Star Wars examples of this trope.

Edited by Emberfist
Madrugada MOD
Jan 19th 2012 at 2:59:22 PM •••

Scrubbing Real Life of "examples" where the plans and/or prototypes did exist but have been lost to time or normal procedures, or do exist but are useless in their current form. This trope is when there never were any to start with.

  • While this might not generally apply to technology, per se, it most certainly applies to finished products. No, Mr. Moon Landing Denier, NASA does not have the complete production plans for each of the million-odd components in a Saturn V lying around in a warehouse somewhere, nor does it have the machinery to fabricate them, nor the factory to assemble them, nor the infrastructure to move them, nor any way to launch the whole thing. NASA didn't build the Apollo-Saturn spacecraft — about a hundred different contractors did, each with their own design teams, methods, suppliers and facilities. (And all those are forty to fifty years gone now.) NASA merely set the requirements and specifications, ensured compatibility between the components, tested everything, and assembled it all into a spacecraft at the last minute. So yes, going back to the moon is pretty damn hard.
    • The story is likely very similar for almost any manufactured item that's been out of production for any significant amount of time. For instance, it would be close to impossible for, say, Ford to roll out a brand new 1970 Mustang now without completely recreating the entire assembly (and supply!) line, start to finish, from scratch.
      • Some popular vintage cars — many '50s and '60s two-door Chevys and Fords (including early Mustangs), '60s VW Beetles and some British cars — are so well-served by reproduction parts that you could build a new "old" one from scratch. That'd be a hand-assembly in the garage scenario, and you'd need the VIN and a jursdictionally-varying number of parts from an original to legally register and use it, but it could still be done. Now a 1970 four-door Oldsmobile would be another matter...
        • Also, old-style VW Beetles were still in production in Mexico until 2003. The last 3,000 of them were sold as a 2004 Última Edición, with whitewall tires, retro chrome trim, and two special colors.
    • In many cases, NASA still has some plans, but is lacking proper documentation. As they do not attempt to build exact replicas, but want to build new spacecraft based on existing technologies, it's vital to know why certain parts were made of a specific size or material. You don't want to find out that certain materials had not been used on purpose, while you're sitting on the moon with a broken engine.
    • This might also be due in part because officially, the reason why we haven't made any plans to go back to the Moon after the Apollo program was NASA said "Been there, done that" and decided to focus efforts on something more practical, i.e., learning how things work in microgravity environments. They might've figured that by the time we really do want to go and colonize the Moon, the technology for the Apollo program would be horribly outdated.
      • This is actually brought up on a Discovery Channel special, where NASA engineers scour junkyards for Apollo components in order to try to figure out how it all fit together and why.
  • The US Government has recently admitted to living up to this trope, having lost the knowledge of how to make a critical material used in the manufacture of Trident Missiles. The facility previously used to manufacture this mysterious material was demolished, and all the people who knew how to make it have left the agencies that manufactured it. This has caused plans to refurbish not only US but UK stocks of Trident nuclear warheads to be put on hold.
  • It's been said that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara ordered the destruction of the tools and dies to make the SR-71 plane in order to prevent funds being used for that instead of the F-111.
  • The A-10 Thunderbolt II: there hasn't been a new one built since 1984, and only 716 were made. We still use them (as Bad Ass Of The Week explains why) so in order to repair them we have to cannibalize the ones that are too badly damaged to fly.
    • It helps somewhat that they were made to be extremely tough.
  • "Cool bugs" that crop up in programming. In game development it happens rarely, but frequently enough to note, that a bug will occur in the game's code that's so awesome they keep it in. Since it's likely the result of any number of tiny systems malfunctioning at the same time, it's pretty much lost as soon as it's coded, and if a Video Game Remake is made it's a safe bet the bug(s) won't return since a remake is completely rewritten as opposed to how a port reuses the original's code (and even then it isn't guaranteed that a port would have the bug(s)).

  • The Antikithera Mechanism.
  • The Bagdad Battery. Assuming it really worked as supposed, it didn't lead Babylon into an electrical revolution because (a) it arose by trial and error with no framework of scientific method to devise other applications, and (b) it was probably a craft secret, and if the secret holders all dropped dead, there was no body of theory from which to reinvent it.
  • The CF-105 Avro Arrow was a supersonic jet interceptor built in Canada in the 1950s. Production was ordered canceled for reasons that to this day aren't well understood, and all of the original plans were ordered shredded and burned, with the existing Arrows chopped up and destroyed, for fear of them falling into the hands of Soviet Spies.
    • There is a Conspiracy Theory that the death of the Avro Arrow was due to pressure from American military contractors, who didn't want Canada building their own homegrown fighter craft since that meant they wouldn't be buying American fighters.
    • Projects (and even a few websites) exist that are attempting to reverse-engineer what is currently known about the Arrow, in an attempt to build a replica to the best of their abilities, with limited success thus far.
  • Data is often stored in encrypted formats, if everybody who has knowledge of the password/encryption keys is dead, the data is lost (unlss you count brute-forcing).
  • The Shroud of Turin. It may or may not be genuine, but if it is indeed not the shroud that covered Jesus, nobody living has any idea how the images on it could have been created.

Aug 23rd 2011 at 6:36:49 AM •••

The description likely needs a trim for length and "this isn't how reality works!"

Aug 23rd 2011 at 6:36:21 AM •••

Chopped all of the secondary bullets off of Big Guy And Rusty The Boy Robot. Sort this.

  • For BGY-11...The current pilot is the only guy who can actually get it 'right'. Another pilot wouldn't sound like Big Guy.
    • Also there IS a backup pilot. It only came up once in the series but Garth (one of the Pit crew) is the designated backup pilot.
  • Also, before the start of the series, the BGY never was defeated, there never was a need for a new one. When the series start, the BGY-11 is outdated — Rusty is the (AI controlled) Robot that's meant to replace it. The current BGY is only kept in service to mentor Rusty. The military probably doesn't want to go through the expense of building another large, expensive robot that's to be mothballed very soon after activation. Add to the fact that for most of it's designers, the BGY-11 is considered a failure. It was supposed to be AI controlled but they couldn't get it to work (later discovering the AI needs to mature like a children growing up, hence the boy robot scheme). The Robot's body was converted to being a piloted suit of armor, but still this inability to meet it's actual goal might be another reason no more BGY were ever built.
    • One should note that when the BGY-11 is presumed lost, the military immediately starts working on the BGY-12.

Nov 9th 2010 at 1:01:14 PM •••

Knight and Day does this. Everyone is chasing after the super-battery to reverse engineer it, the bad guys get hold of it, and the inventor (unwisely) pipes up: no worries, I'll build another.

Aug 8th 2010 at 6:10:22 PM •••

There's a way to protect against the loss of source code through bankruptcy, etc.: Source code escrow. From the wikipedia article — — a paragraph:

Source code escrow is the deposit of the source code of software with a third party escrow agent. Escrow is typically requested by a party licensing software (the licensee), to ensure maintenance of the software. The software source code is released to the licensee if the licensor files for bankruptcy or otherwise fails to maintain and update the software as promised in the software license agreement.

Things can still go badly if you request the escrowed source per the escrow agreement, of course. Murphy's law never sleeps. The escrow agent might also go bankrupt, if there's a lot of that going around. There might be excessive delays getting the source. The licensor might be lax in providing current versions. The escrowed source copies might have technical issues (like not actually being on the media, or not containing everything needed for a fresh build, requiring unavailable third-party libraries, etc.). The natural/man-made disaster that clobbered the licensor might also take out the escrow agent. Whatever.

But with source code escrow, at least you have a chance of getting the vital application built again.

I would expect that firms would routinely confirm their licensors and escrow agents are keeping up their ends of the deal, at least on a random spot-check basis, they way they inspect the fire extinguishers, conduct fire drills, validate backups can be used for data recovery, etc.

That last thing can be important. I heard tell of a night-shift operator many years ago who made a discovery: making backups was a lot faster if, instead of mounting labeled tape after labeled tape in the drive, he just put the new labels on the OLD TAPES. This was only discovered when a file restore (drive restore?) failed because there was no current backup. Or recent backup. Or kinda recent backup ...

but I haven't seen or heard about any such validation process at places I've worked in the past, such as: a major aerospace firm (since bought by a competitor) and a large regional bank (since bought by a competitor) and a major brokerage firm (since bought by a bank). Hmmm...

That hasn't been anywhere near my primary responsibility lately — and only barely close when I was at that bank, before Y2K got people in interested in source code — so shouldn't be too surprised. Maybe it happens all the time, like checking those fire extinguishers, but nobody talks about it.

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Sep 23rd 2010 at 2:30:49 PM •••

Can music fit under this trope? There are a lot of examples from Keep Circulating the Tapes that would fit perfectly.


  • Anything by the industrial group Flowerpot Men (not to be confused with the 60's Britpop group). None of their records were released in CD format, and the record labels are long gone.
  • Jean Michel Jarre only produced one copy of his Music for Supermarkets album, then destroyed the master tapes.
  • The electronica label Platipus Records recently went out of business, thus all their digital releases have been delisted.
  • "Piledriver" by Amoebassassin (alias of Paul Oakenfold) was only released (unmixed) on vinyl, and the master tapes have been lost or destroyed.
  • The full unmixed version of "Dude in the Moon" by Dastrix was only released on vinyl, and the record label went under long ago. Many of Mike Koglin's other early projects suffered the same fate.
  • Slowdance Records - and most of its catalogue - went under in 2008.

Jul 22nd 2010 at 2:56:34 PM •••

Removed these sub-bullet points under the Library of Alexandria example:

  • The worst part was the terrifyingly callous reasoning behind this fire: the Muslim warriors who carried it out reasoned that either the books in the library disagreed with the "truth" of the Koran, in which case they were blasphemous and had to be destroyed; or they did agree with the Koran, in which case they were superfluous and taking up needless space: throw them on the fire too, boys.
    • Um, almost every historian believes this is a myth. Early Muslims didn't have any aversion to learning or knowledge — on the contrary, a lot of ancient Greek and Roman classics were presevered by them, and Islamic scholars made important advances in mathematics, astronomy and medicine.
      • Under the later Abbasid caliphate. The Library was burned during the reign of the more orthodox Umayyad caliphate.
    • There are four theories on the destruction of the Library. Some have even advanced the possibility that all four are correct and the Library may have been rebuilt and destroyed again. However the most likely responsible is the Christian Emperor Theodosius, for the same reason offered above. It is unlikely to be caused by the Muslims since were very much interested in science and mathmatics. Today we do not use roman numerals but Arabic (Well, the Hindu actually, which is more evidence that they were happy to take good ideas from any source) numerals. 1,2,3,4 etc... are of arabic origin. Zero, very much so: the Romans and Greeks did not have a zero, the arabs did, and it is one of the greatest mathematical concepts. Likewise some of the most famous stars have names like Aldebaran (Al Debaran) or Altair (Al Tair). They have been known to preserve Roman and Greek documents, as a matter of fact.
      • Caesar burnt a lot of the city in a naval seige. Way, way before any of those things. People have lots of ideological axes to grind against religions, but the fact is, as Plutarch said, "when the enemy endeavored to cut off his communication by sea, he was forced to divert that danger by setting fire to his own ships, which, after burning the docks, thence spread on and destroyed the great library." Then three centuries later, Emperor Aurelian invaded and looted the city's remaining books (they had a second smaller library), then a century later Emperor Theodosius I ordered the destruction, for religion reasons, of a pagan temple which had in the past, but no longer, stored books. Then three centuries later, the muslim guy invaded, and there were few books for him to do anything to, even if he had wanted to.

Mar 29th 2010 at 7:48:54 AM •••

There used to be an entry here about how Terminator II averted this, as the heroes (with the help of the guy who built it) destroyed every last piece of Skynet's mainframe while it was still being put together, burned or deleted all of Dyson's notes, and indirectly killed Dyson. I'm guessing someone didn't like the use of the term "averted", but this has to be worth a mention. What would be the proper description?

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