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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.
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.
The description likely needs a trim for length and "this isn't how reality works!"
Chopped all of the secondary bullets off of Big Guy And Rusty The Boy Robot. Sort this.
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.
There's a way to protect against the loss of source code through bankruptcy, etc.: Source code escrow. From the wikipedia article — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source_code_escrow — 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.
Can music fit under this trope? There are a lot of examples from Keep Circulating the Tapes that would fit perfectly.
Removed these sub-bullet points under the Library of Alexandria example:
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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