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We've gone from bashing our information into rock, where it will last a billion years, to putting the sum-total of the knowledge of the universe on - a chip you can destroy with a fridge magnet.
Glen Foster

It is, understandably, common in post-apocalyptic fiction to show the ruins of society. However, many are set several decades, or even centuries or millennia After the End, and the remains of the pre-cataclysm society are in remarkable condition. Buildings and objects will never fall apart due to neglect, and any pre-cataclysm devices or vehicles that the characters find will work just fine.

In reality, time isn't so kind to abandoned modern technology. All but the simplest electronics will fail after decades of being unused. Electrolytic capacitors dry out (or succumb to the capacitor plague), batteries self-discharge and leak, flash memory very slowly fades away, and the chassis and contacts rust and corrode. Hard discs rot or degrade over the same time frame, and the skin of optical media such as Blu-Rays and DVDs corrodes, rendering the disc illegible (aka "CD rot").

Large scale structures fare no better. In many climates, wooden frame buildings will last about 50 years before falling apart thanks to termites and rotting. Metal, no matter how well protected, will eventually succumb to the elements. After about 75 years, cars will turn into almost unrecognizable piles of rust. Large bridges will collapse after only a century, and most skyscrapers will collapse around the 200-300 year mark. After 500 years, nearly all concrete structures still standing will crumble as their steel reinforcements corrode. See The History Channel's Life After People for more information. And this is all assuming that a natural disaster like a tornado, earthquake, or hurricane doesn't destroy it all first. (How much of Florida would survive 10 years if people weren't around to board everything up each summer?) It also ignores the likelihood that whatever arises after the fall of society would knock it down/scavenge it themselves instead of just waiting for nature to do the job.

After a thousand years, the Earth will look much like it was before humans, and few obvious traces of civilization will be left. Some plastic types, if buried underground (away from UV radiation) will keep for a long time until something figures out how to properly eat them; anything made out of bronze is expected to last for millions of years (so cast your memoirs with it); major cities, being massive conglomeration of artificial rock on the scale of a coral reef or lava flow, will leave traces in the geological record discernible for several hundred million years; depleted uranium will remain detectably depleted for billions of years; -- but none of this will be visible to a casual observer, or even a medieval society, and little of it will be immediately recognizable to future visitors.

If only one thing inexplicably survives, such as in a Time Travel or Earth All Along setting, it's known as The Constant.

This trope can be justified, in small doses, since there is an expensive way to render any metal rustproof the same way that platinum is -- one could assume that these relics have survived because of a similar process and the chemicals used in it are breaking down, allowing the relics to decay in places where the treatment faded first. This trope is also justified when dealing with advanced alien technology, as such technology may not necessarily decay as the same rate as modern Earth technology.

Societies with Ragnarok Proofing will allow a Scavenger World to exist, using Schizo-Tech from many different time periods. Precursors frequently build like this -- though usually the main effect is limited to the collective awe of upstart civilizations stumbling on their artifacts long after they became extinct or moved on.

The History Channel produced a television special documentary film and TV series Life After People where scientists and other experts speculate about how the Earth might be like if, suddenly, humanity no longer existed.

The term Ragnarok originates from Norse Mythology where it means 'Destiny of the Gods'; although in modern consciousness it's better known as 'Twilight of the Gods' and associated with The End of the World as We Know It, largely due to some German composer by the name of Richard Wagner.

A subtrope of Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, Older Is Better and/or They Don't Make Them Like They Used To. See also Durable Deathtrap, Apocalypse Not, In Working Order, and Never Recycle a Building. See Indestructible Edible for the food version.

Examples of Ragnarok Proofing include:


Anime & Manga Edit

  • Played straight & subverted in the Sankei Newspaper Astro Boy serial. When he travels back in time to the era of The Vietnam War he eventually shuts down due to the fuel he runs on not having been invented yet. He winds up at the bottom of the Mekong river & isn't found for decades, but a quick refill has him up & about again with no difficulty (though he was in a box at the time). When he runs out of fuel a second time due to its prohibitive cost, though, he falls down on a mountain & by the time his "birth" comes around again he is nothing more than a rusted-out shell.
  • The eponymous mecha of Cannon God Exaxxion lay buried on Earth for over 2000 years before being excavated by the hero's father. Perhaps justified, in that it was kept in a giant space-packing crate and the mech itself is practically indestructible.
  • The main premise of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is partly about people (and Ridiculously-Human Robots) having to cope with just how little Ragnarok Proofing actually exists in the real world.
  • Both played straight & subverted in Turn a Gundam. While Mobile Suits sealed in special "Mountain Cycle" chambers work more-or-less perfectly due to maintenance Nanomachines, other Lost Technology isn't so lucky. The titular Gundam's beam rifle it was uncovered with is degraded enough to burn itself out with one shot, and when Loran finds an armory, nearly every weapon crumbles to dust when he tries to pick it up, aside from the Hyper Hammer & that one breaks after being used only once.
    • Another reason why there aren't any other relics from the "Dark History" is because the Moonlight Butterfly destroyed everything else.
  • Played partially straight (but Justified) in GaoGaiGar, when the missing ChoRyuJin is dug up after sixty-five million years, his body is completely fossilized, but his AIs are found to still be in working order. It turns out, however, that he had some serious Applied Phlebotinum they were using specifically to keep himself alive long enough to be found again.
  • Averted in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, where one universe features an entire world in ruins from acid rain and pollution, most buildings already starting to crumble from the carbonic acid and lack of human maintenance.
    • A flashforward to a few centuries hence shows nothing but desert. The aversion is partially suspended for a single building, justified by its having a magic reservoir underneath it- and it was partially decayed.
  • In Desert Punk, the Great Kanto Desert is littered with the ruins of an ancient civilization -- giant, worn-down, mostly collapsed skyscrapers.
  • The manga one-shot Hotel is a case of deliberate Ragnarok Proofing. The main character is a robotically controlled, self-repairing structure designed to preserve the genetic data of Earth's creatures for billions of years after global warming has destroyed everything.
    • And when you consider the fact that the AI is not only increasingly self-aware but had managed to keep itself functioning for 27 million years, even as all its systems break down, it's could also be a case of And I Must Scream.
  • The supply hatches in 7 Seeds.
    • Slightly subverted by a hotel dining room that's found in one chapter. It's obviously rotting and is filled with overgrown plants. Played straight in that it has a perfectly working organ.
  • A significant plot point in King of Thorn, when the characters are trying to figure out how far in the future they are after waking up from suspended animation. The massive jungle of thorns that has overgrown the island indicates that thousands of years have passed until one character notices that the lights are still on and none of the bulbs have burned out...
  • Completely subverted in the Yu-Gi-Oh Tenth Anniversary Movie with Paradox's time frame, which is nothing but rubble and rust-coloured clouds. It gets even worse when Paradox messes with time, causing it to begin to disintegrate into floating particles of matter.
  • In the penultimate scene of End of Evangelion, this trope is mentioned as the true reason why the Evas were created: a monument that will outlast the universe itself.

 Yui: Humans can only exist on this Earth but the Evangelion will be able to exist forever, along with the human soul that dwells within it. When the Earth, the Moon and the Sun are all gone, Eva will exist so long as just one person remains. It will be lonely but as long as one person still lives-

Fuyutsuki: It will be eternal proof that mankind ever existed.

  • Humorously averted in Slayers. In her first appearance, Martina reactivates a war golem made by her ancestors during the last great Mazoku War, which took place 1,500 years previous. As she gloats over its immense power, the golem starts malfunctioning, due to the fact that its 1,500 years old and hasn't been maintained in at least 1,000.

Fan Fiction Edit

  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero the SOS Brigade uses a lost dimensional anchor created millions of years ago. It works perfectly fine.
  • Used to a degree in the Nineteen Eighty Three Doomsday Stories. A number of places are described in varying stages of decay. Abandoned ruins and wasteland settings, naturally, suffer the worst of it though even the relatively unharmed areas such as the Alpine Confederation show signs of neglect. Though the flashbacks show at least one particular ruin in better condition.


Film Edit

  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: the main character David (a Ridiculously Human Robot made to be exactly like a real boy) ends up trapped underwater in a police hovercar/submarine, wishing to a statue that he could be a real boy. 2000 years later, he's run out of power and is revived by a literal Hand Wave from a Sufficiently Advanced Alien. Boy robot gets up and walks around, albeit clumsily. As an added bonus, the New York Skyline (circa 1999) is perfectly intact despite being submerged in water which then froze solid.
  • Nicely averted in Back To The Future III. The time machine, built out of a DeLorean, is sealed into a disused chamber in a boarded-up mine in 1885, to protect it from damage. When it's dug up in 1955, even though it's mostly intact, it still needs extensive repair.
    • Bonus points for them explicitly stating that it's mostly the computer systems and circuitry used that needs work, although the car itself has fared better, it is also in need of serious repair. Its tires have realistically dry-rotted into almost nothing.
  • Battlefield Earth is one of the worst offenders. The Earth has been taken over by aliens for a thousand years, and the characters escape into the ruins of Denver, Colorado. Not only are all of the buildings still standing, but books are still readable, computers still work, and military jets that should have crumbled into dust centuries ago are completely operational. And they have perfectly working jet fuel, which has a shelf life of 40 years. And as if that weren't bad enough, the characters even encounter an abandoned shopping mall where frozen chickens can still be found in the supermarkets.
    • This is a major divergence from the book, wherein civilization was pretty much completely gone, buildings crumbling, machines rusted to junk, books decayed to the point of falling apart. Although the book has other problems.
  • Averted in Children of Men when the main characters walk through a crumbling school and see a deer. The school showed fairly realistic decay and mold for being unused for roughly 10-20 years.
  • In Demolition Man, La Résistance lives as scavengers in the underground ruins of San Diego. (Or possibly Los Angeles. Or literally anywhere in between.) In the midst of all this poverty and squalor, they happen to have a perfectly maintained and in working order 1970 Oldsmobile 442 -- a muscle car that would've been decades old when Sly Stallone's character was first frozen. They also happen to have a working freight elevator that's strong enough to carry the car to the surface... and through the floor of an office building.
    • Well it's not like all that much time passed, the ruins being a result of an earthquake and the squalor fitting their "living down and dirty" philosophy (remember, they could all join in a life of boring comfort on the surface if they wanted).
  • Waterworld is another major offender. It's been long enough for people to forget that there ever was dry land. The ruins of pre-cataclysm society have spent all this time underwater. Despite this, anyone the Mariner can just swim down to a former city and come back up with perfectly working artifacts. The "smokers" have completely operational jet skis and sea planes, and even large stashes of cigarettes, which have a shelf life of a few weeks.
  • Parodied in the Woody Allen comedy Sleeper. After 200 years, a VW Beetle is still in perfect working condition. Woody's character then remarks, "Wow, they really built these things, didn't they?"
  • In the Ralph Bakshi film Wizards, Blackwolf finds a movie projector and propaganda films from Nazi Germany. The film is set two million years from now.
  • WALL-E plays this straight mostly. The world that's been abandoned for 700 years is filled with rust and falling apart. The eponymous robot has only survived for so long by scavenging parts from other robots as they break down. However, even after 700 years, and all the believable wear and tear, there are a great many buildings still standing, ships operate enough to use their magnet, buildings are mostly intact, electronic billboards operate enough to give exposition, and most of the random gadgets that Wall-E finds are in perfect working condition, including an old VCR and VHS (maybe not perfect, but far better off than they should be after 700 years).
    • If you watch closely the beginning, you could see a group of wind electric generators in a hill near the city where Wall-E lives, who can explain how the electric billboards are still (randomly) working. Still, how those generator are functional after all those years push the suspension of disbelief a bit.
      • Not necessarily. WALL-E survived for 700 years; there's no reason to think that other robots didn't last a few centuries. It's not difficult to imagine repair robots mindlessly maintaining the wind farms for hundreds of years.
      • Pretty much all the technology in the movie was built to last through the ages. Say what you want about Buy-N-Large, they didn't skimp on quality.
      • One should also note that they didn't skimp on the quality when it came to food as well, as evident by WALL-E feeding a cockroach a seven hundred year old Twinkie bar. Still intact. With the cream filling still inside. Effective preservatives, then.
      • I think the Twinkie part was played less for realism and more for humor. As the joke goes, "What are the only two things that could survive a nuclear apocalypse? Cockroaches and Twinkies."
    • Well, not only it is a Sci-Fi movie set in the distant future, but it also likely takes place in the same universe as Toy Story. No need to assume no sentient beings are around just because humanity left.
      • Wow - that's some serious Fridge Horror right there, if you buy that theory and go with Toy Story's general concept of "toys develop serious problems if humans don't play with them."
  • Semi-averted in The Time Machine (2002) when Alexander Hartdegen finds the library from 2030, but in the year 802,701; the building itself is in ruins, but the artificial intelligence Librarian Vox 114 is still unbroken and semifunctional.
    • Barely. His sanity was hanging on by a thread. Fortunately he got repaired and was able to fulfill his programming, happily teaching kids in the sunlight.
    • The computer that is his brain, along with most of the projectors producing his image are undamaged after untold millennia, with no explanation to their power source. Considering that in the original work the Morlocks had considerable technical aptitude this could have been nicely explained that they kept him in working condition... but in this adaptation all Morlocks save for their leader-caste are savage brutes and even they don't seem to have interest in old technology.
      • It's worse than that. The entrance to the chamber the computer is in is below ground level in a river valley. Which means there's a pretty good chance that it has been completely floded more than once.
  • The remake of Planet of the Apes had a space station shot through a Negative Space Wedgie of the especially Magical variety. It wound up being abandoned for centuries, on an Earthlike planet's surface, with zero maintenance, and the computer and thrusters still worked immediately upon being activated. Although the main character specifically mentions it was designed to last forever, making this an Invoked Trope.
  • The main character in Doomsday finds a Bentley that's been in a storage locker for twenty-seven years. It's in perfect condition with a full tank of petrol, and she has no problem using it to stage a Mad Max-style chase with the bad guys. This may be justifiable (after all, it had been locked away in a sealed underground bunker), but what can't be explained is how the denizens of post-apocalyptic Scotland have somehow managed to keep their own cars running for twenty-seven years, despite there being no oil on the Scottish mainland (it all comes from the North Sea).
    • To be fair, when they're unearthing the Bentley we do see them manhandling some fuel drums, so it's possible it was fueled from these, although this isn't explicitly shown.
    • Scotland also has some pretty huge refineries and storage depots for processing of North Sea oil. As civilisation collapsed in a matter of weeks, it's conceivable that there would be enough scavengable fuel to run a limited amount of vehicles.
  • Played completely straight in the movie Logan's Run, where the city has been running completely without maintenance for at least 200 years. The main characters wander through several rooms of massive machinery which is merrily pumping away with no one looking after it. And this doesn't even get into the problems of how food was imported into the city and waste was exported from it.
    • Possibly Justified and/or Handwaved (at least in the novel) in that the city was specifically designed to function on its own for practically forever; with maintenance systems, food processing systems, and so on that operate out of sight of the residents (some of which are encountered by Logan and other Runners).
  • The Space Jockey ship in Alien apparently had a transmitter that had been working constantly for however long it had been since the xenomorphs wiped out its crew, which was apparently long enough ago that the skeleton the Nostromo's crew found had time to petrify.
    • Might be justified in that the atmosphere on Acheron is comprised of 10% Argon, 85% Nitrogen and 5% Neon; mostly inert gases. The petrification of the space jockey doesn't seem to be actual fossilization so it may be some other process other then slow mineral replacement. Perhaps the space jockeys have chitenous exoskeletons. We have no idea how long the ship was there for and the transmitter may be very efficient with power.
    • Not to mention that, while the Space Jockey had petrified, the xenomorph eggs were still fully functional.
    • The eggs were covered in a layer of "protective mist," which may have functioned as a stasis field. No explanation as to why the ancient beacon shuts itself off in the 57 years between Alien and Aliens, though...
  • Justified in Nine, as the stitchpunks evidently hadn't inherited the Earth all that long ago, and the extinction of life right down to bacteria would've averted biological forms of decay, leaving only slower forces like erosion to degrade humanity's leftovers.
  • Short-term variant: In Night of the Comet, despite the death-by-disintegration of nearly everyone on the planet, everything automated in Los Angeles -- lawn sprinklers, pre-recorded radio broadcasts, traffic lights -- keep right on activating on schedule, well after power outages should've resulted with no one to oversee city utilities.
  • The film adaptation of The Road, even though the exact timeframe is never specified, shows a rather grimy, realistic take, given that most everything has either broken down completely or on the verge of becoming so. Even the only intact bomb shelter for miles that the protagonists find has lights functional enough to stay on for a few seconds.
  • The film version of I Am Legend shows with graphic realism what a seemingly abandoned New York City would look like three years. Parts of the city are flooded, the power's long gone while decay and vegetation spread across the rest of it. The only signs and leftovers of civilization still functioning are pretty much those which Neville maintains.


Literature Edit

  • Marvin from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Thanks to Time Travel, his subjective age is 37 times the lifespan of the universe, and the diodes on his left side were never replaced in all that time.
    • This was Played for Laughs though. The diodes had been causing him pain since before he was first separated from his human companions so, given his miserable outlook they would be the only thing on him that was never replaced.
  • The Takers, an Indiana Jones-homage novel by Jerry Ahern, has an abandoned alien base with still-operable UFO's under the Antarctic ice. It also contains the dead bodies of an earlier Nazi expedition -- as it turns out, the base's self defense system is also in full working order...
  • In the Ray Bradbury story There Will Come Soft Rains, a futuristic house is shown with still working robot technology after a nuclear war has wiped out humanity, since it has been programmed to do a certain amount of self-maintenance. Too bad it runs out of water trying to put out a fire in itself, since there isn't any water service anymore, and its backup systems don't prove effective enough.
    • There's no indication how long ago the war took place. It's implied that it was recent, since the family dog, suffering from radiation sickness, is allowed to enter the house.
  • The universe of Perry Rhodan where underground bases of the Imperium Lemuria are scattered in the milkyway. Most of them are still functional despise the fall of Lemuria 50,000 years ago.
  • Averted in World War Z - when most things from before the war end up either being ruined (including buildings), useless (electronics), or scrapped and recycled (cars into Lobos for instance.)
  • Averted and justified in the Homecoming series by Orson Scott Card. The technology was all designed to be self-repairing even on the stuff doing the repairs, and last a very long time regardless... but it's been forty million years since this stuff was built. Naturally, some of it broke down anyway and characters are amazed that even more isn't broken.
  • Averted (sort of) in 3001: while no real Ragnarok affects it (civilization is alive and well, in fact), the 20th-century architecture of the UN building in New York City is extant and about as close to Ragnarok-proof as they come because it has been preserved in a thin layer of diamond.
  • L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth averts this trope rather hard. It follows the usual route of having buildings still standing and identifiable, but other than that civilization has completely vanished. One library does sill have readable books, but that was because the Psychlos purposefully and specifically sealed the building for preservation, and the books were still falling apart. Cars and helicopters are literally unrecognizable hunks of metal and all the technology they find has to be rebuilt using alien tech to make it useable. They do find and use a crate of Thompson sub-machine guns, but only because the crate was air-tight and sealed in grease, and they still needed to manufacture their own ammunition since gunpowder is not viable after one thousand years buried in a rockslide. The Movie took this in the complete opposite direction, with jet-fighters flying right out of the hangers, electronic flight simulators booting right up, and shopping malls still fully stocked. And the movie did not stop there...
  • The Dark Tower books by Stephen King have technology of the Ancients that still exists and functions, for the most part. There are functioning oil derricks in Mejis, working robots near the Callah Bryn Sturgis, and Blaine the Mono. This might be justified, because the flow of time in Roland's world is said to be very inconsistent, as is distance and direction.
    • The robots and Blaine were designed with future tech that was supposed to run forever, so the fact that they're breaking down at all is proof that they weren't Ragnarok Proofed. We'll have to go with the funky flow of time thing for the derricks, though.
      • Flow of time and reality itself... pretty much all of existence is going completely loopy. That's what the heroes want to fix, after all.
  • Averted in The Pilgrims of Rayne in DJ MacHale's The Pendragon Adventure series. The ruins of Rubic City are seriously damaged solely due to neglect. The presence of some operational machines is justified by the presence of the Flighters, looters who don't have much of a civilization at all but apparently maintain a few things they find useful, such as warships.
  • Semi-averted in George R. R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging, where Tuf finds an EEC seed-ship which has been abandoned for over 1,000 years, which is somewhat functional as the original crew had shut it down for long term storage including automated repair robots, but which required significant repairs to make it fully operational. But only semi-averted, in that things like air lock door seals and handles still worked perfectly even after being exposed to vacuum for a millennium.
    • Actually, that is literally the best possible way to store devices like that.
  • Larry Niven's A World Out Of Time has high-tech devices, including a network of teleport booths, Flying Cars, automated house-manufacturing units, and medical technology still functioning after three million years. The setting does have temporal stasis technology, so may be Justified.
  • Averted in Terry Pratchett's Strata. An artificial world has survived for several thousand years, maintained by a sophisticated AI and an army of robots that have managed to keep it and themselves in working order, but they can't keep it up forever; eventually there will just be too many worn-out parts for them to replace. ("What do you do when the robot that repairs the robot-repairing robots breaks down?") The protagonists arrive just as things are reaching that point and the world is on the verge of final breakdown.
    • In fact it is revealed in the end that they arrive because the world is on the verge of final breakdown and they've been brought there as a result of the central AI's desperate attempt to get outside help.
    • Arguably a subversion. Some items built by the builders where still going strong after several thousand years i.e. all the stars and planets. The artificial discworld (the precursor for THE discworld?) was deliberately inefficient a message/signature.
    • Larry Niven's Ring World is in a similar state of decline when discovered, due to centuries of not-so-competent management by Bram.
  • Discussed in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space:

 Sylveste: It's my suspicion -- no; not a suspicion, my conclusion -- that the [900,000-year-gone] Amarantin eventually progressed to the point where they could achieve space travel.

Sajaki: From what I gathered on the surface there's very little in the fossil record to substantiate that.

Sylveste: But there wouldn't be, would there? Technological artefacts are inherently less durable than more primitive items. Pottery endures. Microcircuits crumble to dust.

    • Also played straight later, as several spacecraft and assorted other bits of Golden Age technology that survived the Melding Plague centuries earlier still functioning -- even if left untended for arbitrarily long periods of time.
  • In Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen, set thousands of years After the End, the heroes search for a magic metal elephant to help them in the war. The elephant turns out to be a completely mostly operational nuclear-powered battle tank from before the nuclear holocaust. The armament is dead and the chemical-protective gear crumbles when touched, but the controls still light up, the engine roars, and none of the drive mechanism is broken. This is rare enough on a tank that hasn't been maintained since last week.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's Elder Things and the Great Race of Yith were said to have colonized the Earth about a billion years ago and 200 million years ago, respectively. Yet, there are remarkably intact ruins of their colonies on Earth discovered by humans much later on. The Shadow Out of Time even has the protagonist uncovering Yithian books from a millions-of-years-old ruins in the Australian desert. Then there's At the Mountains of Madness where an entire Elder Thing city is found relatively intact in Antarctica, along with exceedingly well-preserved Elder Thing bodies. May be explained as the Elder Things and Yithians being very advanced aliens and possibly in possession of insanely durable materials construction and preservation technologies, but still...
    • The whole point was to demonstrate just how ridiculously advanced they were. The archive of the Great Race was explicitly stated to have been built to last any cataclysms in the billions of years it'll remain unused, until they come back to reclaim it. None of the advanced technology of either species has survived, however.
    • And Lovecraft was writing before plate tectonics was accepted by geologists, so the assumption that the cities (not to mention the continents they were built on) could've been patiently sitting there for hundreds of millions of years wasn't quite as preposterous then.
    • Also, the Elder Thing city has "only" been abandoned for about 5 million years, and it's made of * insanely huge* stone blocks.
      • And there was a perfectly good reason why the bodies they found were so "well-preserved"...
  • In Timothy Zahn's Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Dark Force Rising, the characters come across a lost fleet of heavy cruisers which have been missing for sixty forty years. The running lights and life support are still active on most of the ships, but other systems, including engines, weapons, and others are either broken or one use away from disintegrating. A few ancient maintenance droids still make their rounds in the ships, and the main computers seem to be online. One character notes that ships using "full slave rigging" were designed to last. And those were the few left over as bait for a trap since Thrawn had stolen the best ones before our heroes got there.
    • For those who don't know, "slave rigging" means that a ship designed to run with a crew of 16,000 is refitted to run for the rest of its useful life with a crew of 2,000 or so with a massive networked computer system, which turns out to be a huge problem if part of the living crew goes crazy from space disease.
  • In The Night Land, there are aircraft that would still be functional, if the air wasn't too thin to support them. They've remained in working order for hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of years.
  • In Foundation and Empire, one person notes that on the planets which the Empire left, 150 years later the factories are crumbling into dust - but the park benches remain.
    • Earlier in the Foundation series, we see centuries-old power plants still operational. Somewhat justified, in that they're being maintained by a hereditary caste of technicians (who don't really understand how they work) and were specifically built to last by an uber-advanced civilization.
  • In Illium and Olympos civilization has been out of touch for long that most of the planet has basically been forgotten yet a transcontinental gondola system still functions.
  • Averted in Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge, where the murder weapon is old age. The victim leaves lots of cairns with all her homemade journals and art (based on paper). All but one are recovered after a few decades, the last after thousands of years. The information in the last cairn didn't survive.
  • Mentioned in the Song of the Lioness when one character relates stories of the mysterious Old Ones; their society, existing millenia before the current human one, had a cultural fear of aging, and they treated everything they owned with something to keep it from decaying. The method was lost, but some of their artifacts did, in fact, survive.
  • Inverted in Something From The Nightside, when John visits a devastated possible future via a Timeslip. London appears to have been abandoned for thousands of years, as plastic and metal have completely degraded and even stone falls to dust at a touch. Yet it's only a few decades since the Lilith War, which had subjected the landscape to entropic forces as the opposing sides drained energy from the world to power their attacks.
  • Averted in Joan Hess's Maggody mysteries, where the ramshackle homestead of Robin Buchanon is shown progressively falling to bits, year by year, in later books after her death.
  • Justified in Arthur C. Clarke's Against the Fall of Night and The City and the Stars. The city of Diaspar was shielded and designed to be self-maintaining and to survive for millenia. The all-pervading computer system that runs the city creates clones of techncians, imbuing them with recorded knowledge and memories, when it needs service it cannot perform itself. This is contrasted against the world outside Diaspar, which has decayed completely into desert; with the exception of the city of Lys, which is shielded by artificial mountains and maintained by the advanced abilities of its residents. There are indications in the story that the technology that enables this is at least partly the product of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Played somewhat more straight with the Master's ship and the robot probe, since there is no indication of how they were maintained. Implicitly Handwaved with the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens excuse.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Black Colossus", one such building in the middle of ruins obviously has something keeping it like that.

 Any fool could see there was something unnatural about the structure; the winds and suns of three thousand years had lashed it, yet its gold and ivory rose bright and glistening as the day it was reared by nameless hands on the bank of the nameless river.

  • Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, set 500-ish years into the future, has the Rusty Ruins. They're what's left of a major US city, including the metal shells of skyscrapers and roller coasters, which the main character uses for magnet-based hoverboarding.
    • Subverted in that the Rusty Ruin's standing structures are rare in the series: the people in Tally's city sprayed them with something to preserve them as an example of a Rusties' city. There are other remains in the series that the characters hoverboard on (the iron from railroad tracks, mostly) but they're generally collapsed and rusted to pieces.
  • In Across A Billion Years by Robert Silverberg the protagonist (who is a junior member of a mixed alien achaeological expedition) is off to a dig site containing artifacts of the High Ones, a race that existed over a BILLION years ago, give or take a hundred million years. All the technology found is in perfect working order including a large sphere that proves to be a holographic projector that sends them questing after the lost secrets of these ancient precurser beings. Think about that, the percentile error alone covers a span of geological time greater than the death of the dinosaurs all the way to now and the stuff works perfectly even advanced robots stored on asteroids in the depths of space. Even if something is 100.00 percent proof against rust, corrosion by oxygen, UV radiation, deterioration caused by plants taking root, and inedible, over that time scale you'd expect it to be engulfed in lava or hit by an asteroid.
  • Dragonriders of Pern had three abandoned town-sized colony ships orbiting without maintainance for two millenia or so, with Deflector Shields active, orbital corrections properly performed and Antimatter containment stable (which, of course, makes two previous points even more important). Granted, those were slow-ships made to hold well for a few centuries, while the nearest repair facility is several light years away and most of the crew are human popsicles.
  • In Terry Goodkind's "The Sword of Truth" series, many of the items in the Wizard's Keep are thousands of years old. Granted, some are protected by magic, but apparently even clothes can last for three thousand years.
    • Some of the leather remained, but the fabric rotted away. A powerful wizard's outfit remained intact enough that Richard could apparently order a duplicate made, but he didn't wear the original. Even books in magical libraries are nearly dust after that long. Metal and stone, however, remain quite intact.
  • There are multiple Bolo stories about Bolos that had been lost for decades or even centuries and still being in repairable or sometimes immediately usable condition when some human found it and (often accidentally) turned it on.
  • The Great Ship from Robert Reed's Great Ship universe spent a couple billion years drifting towards the Milky Way. Aside from superficial damage to the exterior hull, all the on-board systems work perfectly fine with no damage.
  • Averted with Antrax, the titular Big Bad of the second book in The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara. Antrax is a sapient supercomputer guarding knowledge of the technological age that preceded the current Shannara 'verse, and its outpost's automated defenses still work after several hundred years. However, it's noted that Antrax is self-maintaining, and that it's reaching its limits despite this (particularly with its power supply).


Live Action TV Edit

  • In an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, Archer is transported to an abandoned Earth in the 31st century. There, he finds a library with books that are still readable.
    • The episode, however, doesn't really tell us when Earth was abandoned, though it's implied to be sometime before the Next Generation/Deep Space Nine era, so it might be one of the rare instances of Enterprise avoiding a screw-up.
    • Let's not forget the TNG Episode "Booby Trap", where the crew boards a 1000 year old Promellian warship that still has air. Yes, the life support system, lights, power generator etc. have been in use constantly for 1000 years with no maintenance and not only have not completely broken down but are in good enough condition that the Enterprise crew feels safe beaming over with no spacesuits. Lampshaded by Picard remarking that the ship was built "for the generations" and it worked.
      • If there's no life on the ship, you don't really need life support - so as long as the ship remains sealed (or just bits) then it isn't beyond reason that there is still some breathable air in at least some compartments.
    • Or TNG's Time's Arrow where Data's head is found to still be in working condition after about half a millennium. Underground. With a postmortem-programmed message still recorded and intact inside. That was programmed using a steel file. Not only was it still working, it was returned to service and seems none the worse for its advanced age, throughout the remainder of the series and movies!
    • This is quite aside from a 1937 pickup truck, floating in space and intact, in the Voyager episode "The 37s". The truck itself surviving in space isn't as silly as it seems (though see below), but never mind that the fuel's still good: that there's fuel left in the tank at all, it having been in space for some time (even if it wasn't for the full 450 years), puts the entire thing into the realm of the ridonkulous.
      • Not to mention that aforesaid pickup started on the second try without any repair work other than 'try it again'...
      • Open space is without oxygen and water - so no oxidation and no rust. Fuel is in a sealed container (could you imagine driving a car that leaked fumes?), so there could be some left. Oil in the engine probably boiled off in vacuum, though, so the cylinders could seize - and the battery would be deader than a lump of lead after that time.
    • In the TNG episode "Contagion", they come across a perfectly functioning pan-galactic teleporter, which was built over 200,000 years ago... and the planet it was found on was an uninhabitable wasteland... which was made that way via orbital bombardment, around the same time.
  • Averted in the Doctor Who story The Sontaran Experiment which has the Doctor, Sarah and Harry land in the middle of a nice, pleasant meadow that just happens to be what once was the heart of central London before being made uninhabitable by a solar flare several millenia earlier.
    • Played straight in "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit", where the ruins of a civilisation that imprisoned what could very well be Satan (as well as the prison itself) predating time itself and containing writing even the TARDIS is unable to translate still stand circa the 41st-42nd century.
  • Red Dwarf has no end of functional artifacts and living creatures that seem to date back to around the time that Lister left the solar system, give or take a few centuries, including the eponymous ship itself. Given that the show takes place 3 million years after he left, it's amazing they still work so well.
    • According to the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, the ship was originally used for extremely long periods of deep space exploration before being converted into a mining craft -- the reason why it carries a stasis chamber to begin with. Also, "vacuum storage" is mentioned, indicating that the possessions of the crew were kept in stasis as well.
    • Of course, with Red Dwarf, minor details like continuity and the laws of physics are frequently discarded in favour of Rule of Cool and Rule of Funny.
    • Actually addressed in the show, for comic effect, Holly's IQ has degraded from 6000 to 6. And attempts to revert this do not go well.
  • This problem is mostly averted or justified in Stargate SG-1, where most of the alien sites the team visits are some combination of inhabited, in ruins, or made of Applied Phlebotinum by aliens so sufficiently advanced (the epononymous Stargates are the primary example) that building something that lasts for a million years is frankly almost plausible. However, there are a few times when it gets bizarre.
    • In the episode Moebius, Daniel takes what appears to be a small commercial camcorder on a time-travel 5000 years into the past. When the team screws up the timeline, he leaves the camcorder in a buried jar to be unearthed in the 21st Century. The Alternate History SG-1 watches the tape with little difficulty (Hammond says only that the battery needed to be recharged) and take the camera with them to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, then leave it buried again for the back-to-normal SG-1 to find, meaning this simple piece of home electronics has made a 10,000 year round-trip journey!
      • It is mentioned that Daniel left it in a canopic stasis jar of Goa'uld origin. Also it may have not been the same camera.
  • In the spinoff Stargate Atlantis, Atlantis has been abandoned for 10,000 years at the bottom of the sea with a shield covering it, but most of the things inside is in working order or at least intact, down to the dead plants. We do see several sections of the city that protruded outside the shield and were worse for wear, however, and in one episode we see a "sister city" of Atlantis that was left on a planet's surface without the protection of a shield. It's so overrun with vegetation and general decay that only the central tower is even recognizable. The city's weapon system is still functional, however.
  • In Stargate Universe the Ancient exploration ship Destiny was launched on an unmanned voyage long before Atlantis left Earth, perhaps more than a million years ago. When the protagonists arrive it's still travelling but is very much the worse for wear - the majority of its interior is sealed off to contain various hull breaches, its life support system is no longer able to extract carbon dioxide from the air (the filters are quite realistically choked with toxic black muck), and even the lights are dim or failing. It appears that much of the plot of the show is going to be centered around the challenge of trying to stay alive in the decrepit hulk. Still, this is not bad considering how long it's been traveling.
  • Power Rangers features this in spades. Alpha is not limber or possessing of sufficient dexterity to have kept the place running for 10,000 years. Dai Shi's palace also survived 10,000 years with no repair, and the haunts of the demons in Lightspeed Rescue made it for 3000 with no maintenance while all its inhabitants were trapped in a tomb, and while the Animarium displayed some decay, it was much too intact for having been uninhabited for 3,000 years.
    • Averted with the ancient Shogunzords (so old Zordon considers them "ancient"), which required Finster reverse-engineer technologies from the much newer Falconzord in order to render them operational again.
    • Also somewhat averted in the above: the MMPR Command Center is less than two hundred years old, and from its exterior appearance in the 1880s, has been continuously under construction and maintenance since then.
  • The titular Aquila was an alien battlecruiser's lifepod which crashed on Earth thousands of years ago, where it was later found and used to explore the world by a Roman centurion. After that, it then spent another thousand years or so buried underground before being discovered by two boys - still in fully working order.


Tabletop Games Edit

  • Gamma World. Set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of a high-tech civilization, the rules explicitly say that enjoyment of the players and usefulness for the plot are the sole determining factors in whether any given artifact has survived decades or even centuries lying around unprotected in a irradiated mutant-infested wasteland. (A Hand Wave is of course always possible: the goodies can be locked away in nuke-proof buildings, and the exact amount of time since the apocalypse is left very vague.)
  • Averted in the D20 Apocalypse supplement for D20 Modern. The rules for determining what characters can find when they search abandoned buildings includes a consideration of how long it has been abandoned. There's even a chance that the building might collapse while the characters are inside.
  • Sometimes averted, sometimes played straight with ancient human technology in Warhammer 40000. Said Lost Technology has about a fifty-fifty chance of still being fully operational when discovered-but if it is operational, it's generally a safe bet that it's been corrupted by Chaos.
  • Justified in Exalted: Most First Age technology is self-maintaining, so even after hundreds of years of moldering in some forgotten ruin or other, they'll still work perfectly. Since Solars were the only ones who could obtain or create the materials and enchantments that make this possible, however, all Magitek made since the Usurpation requires periodic maintenance to remain operational.
  • Anything from GURPS: Ultra-Tech that is made from Living Metal will last forever because the material will automatically repair any damage that it incurs.
  • BattleTech: The 'Mechs that are jockeyed around circa 3025 are already possibly hundreds of years old, passed down from generation to generation of pilot families. And they still work. Often times better than the new stuff. Many fans believe some of the absurdly heavy tonnages (you heard me) and large size of various electronic equipment and weapons is specifically because they're built to last.
    • Also, presumably if you're planning to pass a Humongous Mecha off to you kids, you're going to keep it maintained. Same applies to Drop Ships, which you don't exactly want to be held together by rusty bolts if you're coming down into an atmosphere at Mach 3 inside a ship that is about as aerodynamic as the Sydney Opera House. Unmaintained and poorly maintained BattleTech technology tends to fail miserably when pushed into combat.
  • An old Traveller supplement detailed the Darrians, a minor human (space-elvish) offshoot in the Spinward Marches which had destroyed its own advanced (TL 16) civilization by accidentally triggering a solar flare and frying every microchip for parsecs. A few starships still remained operational from the ancient Darrian fleet; The expected number of modern Imperial Navy starships (TL 15) to be usable after several hundred years of disuse and no maintenance was exactly 0.
  • Rifts only uses this a little. Though the physical ruins of some cities and towns still stand a few centuries After After the End, the chances of finding anything usable in them is pretty much nil. However, ever so often, a cache of military equipment from the previous age, specifically stated to be Ragnarok-Proofed, is found.
    • This has been partially subverted recently, as it's been revealed that many of those caches are much more recent, and were deliberately left for people to find.


Video Games Edit

  • In Assassin's Creed, some of the technology created by Those Who Came Before is in perfect condition after being lost and buried for who knows how many millenia; Altair even wondered if the Pieces of Eden might just be leftover scraps that they wouldn't have given a second thought about despite how wondrous they seem. The secret chamber under the Vatican is in remarkably good shape, and it's suggested there are more places just like it.
    • Probably Justified, as Those Who Came Before are shown to have been incredibly advanced, to the point of being beyond human comprehension.
  • Justified/handwaved in The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind. The abandoned Dwemer settlements, despite being deserted for thousands of years, are filled with running machinery and weapons and armour in perfect condition, however the Dwemer bent/changed the laws of physics to make their materials impervious to wear, tear and corrosion.
    • Lampshaded in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion when random civilians remark that it's amazing that all the traps in the ruins still work after all this time.
  • You can't swing a sword in Final Fantasy games without hitting a fully functional relic of a lost civilization:
    • Final Fantasy I has the Sky Warriors, who built a fabulous Floating Castle, robots, and an Airship before being obliterated by the Fiends. The Castle was abandoned, the robots were left to fend for themselves in the ruins (one of them even fell from the sky and crashed near a waterfall) and the Airship was buried in a desert, and yet everything is in perfect working order by the time the Light Warriors need to use it.
    • The Lonka (or Ronka) Ruins of Final Fantasy V, buried beneath the surface for thousands of years, work well enough to activate computerized defense systems and artillery when raised into the skies.
    • The Gardens in Final Fantasy VIII were built by the Centra, an ancient civilization that was obliterated during the last Lunar Cry. Though derelict by the time they're turned into SeeD schools, the technology that transforms them into flying, mobile stations works perfectly fine. There's also the appropriately named, fueled & functioning Ragnarok, which spent seventeen years drifting in space. In the Ragnarok's case, it makes some sense (space being a fairly safe environment for preservation) as the ship appeared to be in low-power mode and not using any oxygen thanks to the alien things running loose on the ship that didn't require it. Even more impressive is the Lunatic Pandora, a massive, mountain-sized craft that was buried in the ocean for the better part of two decades but remained fully functional when it was recovered. Those Estharian engineers really know their craft.
    • The Al-Bhed tribe in Final Fantasy X is devoted entirely to salvaging Ancient Technology, but this often goes to ridiculous lengths. Case in point: Cid's airship, the Fahrenheit, was found embedded in rock, underwater, a thousand years after the fall of civilization. Not only is its interior in perfect condition (as Tidus and Rikku verify when they first salvage it), its weaponry is fully operational and Cid gets it airborne within a matter of days. Similarly, the Sin-level Vegnagun, sealed under Bevelle for a thousand years, is in perfect condition when Shuyin steals it.
    • When Lightning's party descends onto Gran Pulse in Final Fantasy XIII, they find that it runneth over with machinery built by the ancient Pulsian civilization that died out shortly after the War of Transgression 500 years ago. An especially jarring example is Shakti, Vanille's Robot Buddy who was abandoned by its owner during the War of Transgression and is still mostly intact (for but five missing parts) when the heroes find it. The durability of combat drones may be understandable, but that little useless thing?
  • Played straight in all the Breath of Fire games, but especially Breath of Fire III, where it's played to the hilt, where there's a whole town whose purpose is to comb through giant piles of ancient technology washed up from the ocean.
  • Averted in Half Life 2. The world is one giant ruin, and the only technology that still works reliably is being maintained by either the alien invaders or human survivors.
    • Note that the game takes place only twenty years after the alien invasion, so most of the buildings are still standing and such, although many are falling apart.
  • Xenogears embraces this trope with singular joy:
    • Although the Eldridge crashed into Earth tens of thousands of years ago, and broke up as it hit the surface, its individual systems (such as the security robots, laser turrets, and defense reflectors, and the computer systems needed to run them) work as if they had been built yesterday.
    • Additionally, there's the Gears themselves (giant mecha found buried beneath the surface), some of which come from the previous civilization, but the most powerful ones are much, much older than that and presumably come from the Eldridge itself.
    • The Yggdrasil vessels, including a sand-sub, a seaworthy version, and even a gigantic robot which had actually been built on because people thought it was a ruin.
    • The Eldridge-era Merkava and Excalibur-class ships.
    • Although it comes after the Eldridge incident, the Zeboim civilization is thousands of years old by the time the game takes place. It left behind an entire city, preserved for thousands of years, including a nanotechnology lab with a living Artificial Human made entirely out of nanites.
      • you forget that Xenogears revolves around the Zohar, so its not unlikely that it literally Deus Ex Machina-ed some mecha for the people who would eventually free it... hell, that is why it reincarnated the same dumbasses again and again throughout the centuries.
      • Hell: the civilisation that built the Eldridge managed to enslave god, so their gadgets should at least be able to endure a few millenia.
  • While Chrono Cross's Chronopolis is at least ten thousand years old, it can be argued that its AI caretaker took precautions to keep it in working order. The same cannot be said for Terra Tower, which was sealed under the sea for that same amount of time and whose defense mechanisms (of a more organic, rather than electronic, form of technology) were up to the task when freed.
  • Avoided by Chrono Trigger: By the year of 2300 AD, mankind is struggling to survive using technology from 1999 AD, but since most of it has broken down beyond repair, humanity is nearly extinct. Even Robo, found in an abandoned dome, needed extensive repairs from a genius inventor. The only technology that still works properly is the one maintained by the Mother Brain.
    • Similarly, after spending a couple of hundred years enshrined in a forest temple, Robo had to be repaired again by Lucca, proving that his technology isn't durable without constant maintenance.
      • To be fair, he did bring that forest back almost singlehandedly. A forest the size of a small country. I'm thinking that didn't help his durability any.
  • One part of Metal Slug 3D has Marco fall into decently preserved ruins of an ancient alien civilization... 8 billion years old.
  • Averted with glee in Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden, wherein they are teleported to a strange and distant world with a mishmash of technology, only to discover it is their future, some unknown amount of years. Almost nothing from the past has survived but technology specifically sealed in Mountain Cycles, chambers made to maintain whatever is in it indefinitely.
  • Justified in Halo. The eponymous rings are in perfect working condition, but there's robots to upkeep everything, and factories that build robots, etc. The Forerunners built these things to last.
  • In Mega Man ZX Advent, you can find several artifacts from the original Mega Man series, despite the fact that at least 400 years have passed since then. Legends seems to play this straight with its underground ruins full of Lost Technology, but later we find out that while the infrastructure that maintains them is severely compromised, it's still there, just hidden from the common people.
    • Of course, then it turns out that the common people are Lost Technology themselves; a form of robot called a 'Carbon Unit', and the last actual, biological human died a very, very long time ago. Of course, we're talking Lost Technology capable of sexual reproduction here.
  • Mass Effect is littered with Prothean relics and buildings, despite the fact that the Protheans died many thousands of years ago.
    • Humans discovered the first prothean remains on Mars, which with it's lack of plant or animal life, moisture, or tectonic activity, provided perfect conditions to preserve mechanical equipment under the sand for 50,000 years.
    • The Citadel was actually Ragnarok Prooved, being equiped with millions of drones that keep it in working oder during the times between occupation by other races.
      • It is explicitly mentioned that one Mass Relay was caught in a supernova and was no worse for wear except that no one could find it again for a couple thousand years. Presumably the Relays are made from a material designed to last.
      • However the Prothean Megacity on Feros, and the Archives on Ilos, definitely do fit under the trope. On the former thin vertical spires several kilometers high are still standing, even after said 50,000 years of weather erosion and simple decay. On the later there are still functioning power sources, elevators, lighting, force fields and elaborate Virtual Intelligence terminals (slightly degraded). Visually, they appear like 20th century constructions that have been abandoned for only 10 to 20 years.
        • Though Vigil does say he had to turn off everyone's stasis pods to keep the power on.
        • Which is again discussed in the From Ashes DLC mod for Mass Effect 3: apparently the only reason the Prothean pods failed on Ilos was lack of power. There's still one pod with a very-much-alive inhabitant in the Prothean bunker on Eden Prime.
    • In the second game, the Krogan homeworld of Tuchanka was apparently bombed into ruins during the Krogan Rebellions around 1000 AD. By AD 2185 it is apparently still in the grips of a nuclear winter complete with constant sandstorm, yet many of the ruins are still intact enough that you can find a recognisable radar dish, pyramidal skyscraper or even an unexploded bomb with the casing intact.
  • When you get to the sunken city of Thor in Tales of Phantasia, long since destroyed by a meteor impact, the shield around it is still working perfectly. So by extension, so are the automatic doors, the TV (and video game system) in the pub, an electronic lock and card reader, the security systems, and the main computer Oz. Justified in that the city's power comes from the Spirit of Light, Aska. After the city's been pulled up from underwater, you can free Aska and have her join you. The city systems still somehow work after that, though...
    • Technology made by the Quartz, ranging from a simple lever-operated door to an entire mobile fortress, works perfectly after 2000 years in Tales of Hearts.
  • The Fallout series takes place a number of years after a nuclear holocaust wiped out every major population center on the planet. Despite that, Fallout has completely abandoned sewer systems that haven't collapsed fifty years after the last human could have walked through them, Fallout 3 is set 200 years after the War, and there are still freestanding wooden house support beams, identifiable cars (that explode), glass soda bottles that still have good-tasting potable liquid in them, and a standing Washington monument. The most grievous example? Abraham Lincoln's Henry Rifle from 1860, fully functional.
    • You don't want to know what's in the food that leaves it edible 200 years after a nuclear holocaust.
    • One point about the game is that it's set in an alternate universe, where on the one hand technology leapt forward while on the other the cultural and societal mores stayed roughly in the 1950s, back before planned obsolescence was part of every car design. (Let's face it: restoring a '55 T-Bird will likely still be possible in 2055. Good luck doing the same for an '05 Mustang.) It doesn't cover two hundred years of decay, but things were designed to last back in the '50s.
    • Not to mention that this is an alternate universe run on 1950s SCIENCE! in which radiation makes animals bigger, stronger, and in some cases intelligent and vacuum tubes can be used to make everything from wrist-mounted computers and robots to Frickin' Laser Beams. Safe to say that the creators intended a slightly different version of the laws of physics.
    • Presumably this also explains why one can enter an area that was hit directly by a nuke (the Glow, for instance) and find computers and other electronics in perfect working order. EMP shielding was serious business in 2077.
    • Actually, that ties into the vacuum tubes. Vacuum tube computers may be slower, clunkier, and overall less efficient, but they lack the vulnerability to electromagnetic pulses that modern computers have.
    • In Fallout 3 one of the most egregious examples is the presence of a functioning power grid 200 years after the holocaust. Seriously, every single intact computer you find, even those in half-demolished, completely abandoned buildings, still somehow has a working power source. And at least one computer entry mentions the user having found buried power lines and tapped into the still-functioning portions of the power grid. Fallout: New Vegas largely averts this by having various postwar organizations running, maintaining and fighting over several prewar power plants. This still doesn't explain how various long-abandoned buildings have power, though.
      • Actually it's established somewhere in the canon that there are portable small nuclear reactors, which are those things you blow up in the subway stations. This also explains why every car that still has an engine can explode (they are run off nuclear power)
  • Used and abused in the Zelda series, which not only takes place over a period of thousands of years, but already has ancient Magitech in the chronological beginning, which is still running perfectly by the chronological end, despite being used (and not at all maintained) fairly frequently throughout. The Master Sword in particular is notable, as it is never shown being cleaned of blood and spends centuries at a time exposed to the elements, yet still hasn't shown any signs of rust.
  • Done in Marathon 2: Durandal and Infinity (3rd game). The ruins of the S'pht civilization might look run down, but anything the player needs to use (Computer terminals, shield rechargers, doors, lifts, etc) works just fine. Lampshaded at least twice.

 Tycho: It's likely a quick and dirty patch into the durable S'pht hardware. These types of strongholds were build to outlast centuries of warfare.

Pfhor computer terminal: The quality of the machinery is quite extraordinary, and most of the computer terminals are still functional even after two thousand years.

    • Justified, in that the S'pht have been so advanced for so long that prior to meeting the Pfhor couldn't conceive of non-cybernetic intelligence. They were originally created to serve as servants of the Jjaro, a race so advanced that they could warp entire planets instantly through space millions of years before the game's timeline.
  • Wild Arms - This trope inverted may actually justify the Word of God stating that all six games take place on the same very unlucky planet... just thousands upon thousands of years apart. After all, technology just doesn't last!
    • Of course, you've still got facilities/bits of tech built thousands of years before game start in working order in 3...
  • Overplayed to the extreme in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. At one point in the game Shadow gets stuck 200 years in a post-apocalyptic future complete with a city that is mostly intact only perpetually on fire. Rouge's solution? To put a Mineral MacGuffin in her robot friend E-123 Omega's glove compartment and put him on sleep mode for the next two hundred years so Shadow can find him in the future and use it to teleport back in time. Needless to say, he survives Armageddon unscathed and the plan works perfectly.
    • Probably justified, since they already know that the plan will work due to time shenanigans, as the game never really makes up its mind on how the time travel works. It's a minor plot hole in a game riddled with huge ones. Also, it's a Chaos Emerald, the series' go to McGuffin for any given miracle required. it could probably not only stop itself from being destroyed, but also protect a sleep mode enabled Omega.
  • Eternal Darkness features the Lost City of Ehn'gha, constructed by a long-dead race that inhabited the Earth before mankind showed up. It's remarkably intact, though it's use as a Guardian colony may have something to do with that. The resident Tome of Eldritch Lore also manages to survive for longer than your average book would, but then it is protected by Magick.
  • A strangely appropriate trope for Ragnarok Online, where the Juperos Ruins and its machinations are still in surprisingly good shape.
  • Rapture, a underwater city that survived at least a decade of neglect and a violent civil war and still has breathable air and a considerable(insane)population. Big Daddies have been shown to have kept most of the infrastructure intact during that time, They might not do janitorial work, but they do keep the entire place in functioning order.
    • It's more averted in Bioshock2, which shows Rapture or what's left of it in a considerably more decayed state to the point that it would be a matter of time before the sea reclaims it altogether.
  • In Metro 2033, guns and ammo specifically are Ragnarok-proof, to the point that pre-war guns are considered rare and expensive and military-grade ammo from before the end is actually the game's currency, as well as being much more effective than post-war "dirty" ammo.
    • Possibly justified with the relatively recent End. Thousands upon thousands of rifles dunked in grease and arsenaled by the Soviet Union are in perfect working order to this day, along with ammunition of similar vintage.
  • Portal 2 takes place several hundred years after the end of the first game, with the protagonist having been trapped in the Enrichment Center in cryogenic stasis. It initially looks like an aversion, as the place is rather thoroughly wrecked, but the portal gun still works as do many of the center's mechanisms. In particular, GLaDOS is still around, and once you restore power, she rapidly goes about repairing the facility. Less explicable is how the original Enrichment Center, four kilometers beneath the surface and abandoned before even the first game without the benefits of a caretaker AI, remains functional.
  • The Xel'naga from Starcraft seem to have invested in some seriously heavy-duty Ragnarok Proofing. Despite being anywhere from several thousand to several million years old, their (frighteningly advanced) relics always seem to be in working order when they are inevitably dug up and reactivated.
  • Caves of Qud has this trope going on in full force with its many Lost Technology artifacts and Killer Robots, all still around after the world was ruined probably over a thousand years ago. But given one of the settings the game homages, that shouldn't be a surprise.


Web Comics Edit

 Vore: What Year Is This? How long was I in there?

Vanderbeam: By our estimation, 1420 years.

Vore: Man! The Japanese build things to last!

  • Sweet and Sour Grapes hangs a lampshade on this trope, with Silas (a ghost) surprised to see how well the ruins of his old home have held up.


Western Animation Edit

  • Thundarr the Barbarian. It's very doubtful that the working machinery and the wrecked cars that everybody tosses around like footballs would be anything but dust in the year 3994. Same for all of the buildings which are ruined but still standing.
  • Partially justified and averted in "Artifacts", an episode of The Batman set 1000 years after Batman's death. All of the computers in the Batcave were entirely ruined. The suits were vacuum-sealed. The entire reason the cave stayed up was because it had braces made of titanium, which is famous for resistance to corrosion, that also had a message stored on them in binary since Batman knew the computer wouldn't keep working, and the largely intact Batmobile was presumably made of the same material.
  • Old New York is in surprisingly well-preserved ruins a thousand years later under New New York in Futurama when Fry, Leela and Bender go there to find Fry's lucky seven-leaf clover, or when Fry and Bender escape Leela's career chip needle.
    • The mutants have been working there in the meantime. So there's that.
    • Parodied in "Luck of the Fryrish", when Fry's house looks ruined in the future, but the exterior is in an equally dire state in the 1990s and 2000s.
    • Let's not forget that Bender's head spent a thousand years in a New Mexico desert without looking any worse for wear.
      • As of Bender's Big Score, he's lived thousands and thousands of years.
      • Partially justified, in that Bender is 40% titanium (see Batman entry above) and 40% dolomite (the tough black mineral that won't cop out when there's heat all about).
      • Bender -enjoys- spending time in isolated, cramped areas. Presumably he's built for that.
    • There's also the cryogenics lab where Fry and others throughout the series are frozen. It remains completely functional and undisturbed while the rest of New York appears to get destroyed several times.
      • Justified in that The niblonians (specifically Nibbler) froze him on purpose and would be watching over him/protecting him so he can save the universe in the future.
  • Cadillacs And Dinosaurs. (Hand Waved in that humanity has been living in underground cities, and the cadillacs are converted to run on dinosaur guano.)
  • The Justice League episode "Hereafter" has the JL's orbital Watchtower's communication system still functional after 75 years in a jungle without maintainance. Prior to that, it spent nearly thirty thousand years in Earth orbit before falling. Even Batman can't build 'em that good. Vandal Savage even lampshades how absurdly well its held up.
  • Lampshaded then subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender. An ancient, abandoned city is in pretty good shape, but then it turns out the inhabitants still live there, just in hiding. No proofing, just actual upkeep.
  • Averted in Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears. Although some of the technology left by the Great Gummies still works after an unknown period of neglect (possibly over 100+ years), some do need to be cleaned/repaired/refueled before they will work. Many episodes also show that Gummi Glen only continues to exist due to the Gummies continuing to care for it - disused quick tunnel tracks are seen to have collapsed, the books in an abandoned Gummi library are seen to have rotted away, etc.
  • Transformers Cybertron: The four ancient starships are still spaceworthy in spite of spending millennia: mostly buried (Hyperborea), completely buried (Ogygia), sitting with the lower decks in a lake (Lemuria), or lying at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean (Atlantis). Justified in that they have very good self repair systems that have been doing upkeep the whole time, and that they were built to be extremely tough in order to protect not only their crew and passengers, but also their Plot Coupon cargo (we're talking god power stuff here).
  • Galaxy Rangers had the Heart of Tarkon, an ancient (benevolent!) Master Computer left behind after a massive war blew the planet back to the Bronze Age. It was awaked after many thousands of years when the planet needed its defenses. However, it was an alien technology, partly organic, and ran on Life Energy. It also may have been maintained by shamans who believed it to be the embodiment of the planet and a sacred place.


Real Life Edit

  • Currently, teams of scientists, linguists, and anthropologists are struggling to properly identify Nuclear Waste burial sites. It sounds simple at first... until you consider the half-life of this crap will far out live any facility or structure that contains it, the memory of what it was, or our descendants' ability to read the warnings on the labels, leaving us Neglectful Precursors to our own descendants. As an added twist, future archaeologists might successfully decode the labels, just to brush off our warnings as the superstitious ramblings of an ancient, underdeveloped culture. Damn Interesting has an article on the process.
    • The Chernobyl facility in the Ukraine was NOT proofed, and this is creepily obvious in images from the surrounding towns. Pripyat, for example, has schools that are falling down and full of plants because the people are gone.
  • The Long Now Foundation intends to build a clock capable of keeping time for 10000 years.
  • Don't forget all the time capsules we've buried, some of which are intended to be opened thousands of years in the future, which are deliberately Ragnarok-proofed.
    • Subverted in that for many time capsules, nobody bothered to write down where they were and everybody who knew oops died of old age.
    • Turns out the ragnaroof-proofing on the car time capsule mentioned below wasn't sufficient enough (after only 50 or so years).
    • Children's TV show Blue Peter dug up its 1971 time capsule in 2000. Half of its contents had turned to slush. Oops.
  • Egyptian tombs were also deliberate attempts at Ragnarok proofing, as the ancient Egyptians believed the body had to remain intact forever for their afterlife to work properly. They didn't have all that much success, at least in the case of the Pharaohs, as the conspicuous and treasure-filled tombs tended to draw robbers. That being said, the mummies themselves, while they aren't exactly full-fleshed, still have some meat on their bones, which is almost achievement enough for any sort of organic material that old.
    • What's inside them may be (as a rule) long gone to looters... the pyramids themselves are a powerful example of this trope. The Great Pyramid is over four thousand years old and spent most of that time as the tallest structure on the planet. It lacks only its limestone facade from ancient times; much of which was deliberately removed a few centuries later, to use for building houses. Barring the destructive impulses of its creators the Great Pyramid will likely last on a geological timescale.
    • Ironically just dropping a body in the sand will preserve it very well as it will dry out and plenty of soft tissue (skin) will survive. Burying a body in a coffin in sand retains enough moisture to let the body rot leaving just bones (both types of actual remains can be seen in the British Museum). Thus the entire mummification process is an attempt to recreate (and improve) the effect of the very simplest form of burial.
  • Any object tossed into the vacuum of space can be expected to last a long time, as there's nothing to erode it except temperature changes, vacuum effects, radiation and micrometeorites. Supposedly, footprints on the Moon could last as long as ten million years if undisturbed (needless to say, more solid things could presumably last a lot longer), and those of the Apollo astronauts are believed to still be there today. Many of our satellites crash from high atmospheric drag once they expend their stationkeeping propellant, but anything in a stable orbit could easily outlast any artifacts on Earth's surface by a long, long time.
    • Depends what it's made of. Space conditions can be very harsh on some substances.
      • With that said, most of the junk currently orbiting the Earth in space can be reasonably expected to fall out of the sky in anywhere from 100-1000+ years. However, some stuff will stay up there unless disturbed by external forces.
  • The book The World Without Us, History Channel's copycat program, Life After People, and National Geographic's adaptation, Aftermath: Population Zero, very vividly and accurately illustrate what would happen to everything if humans suddenly disappeared, wrapped up in a big ol' theme of "humans suck, yeah?". The digest version pretty much is what the main article of this trope says.
    • Less "humans suck" and more "humans are utimately small, ephemeral things in the existence of this planet much less the universe." Hm...
  • A working car, a (not enough) tightly sealed time capsule, and only half a century of waiting? Result: A rusty mess.
    • The people who designed that capsule were idiots. Yes, it was "strong enough to withstand nuclear attack" (which was, in fact completely useless: nukes have been used how many times since then?), but they didn't bother waterproofing it! The car was soaked for the entire duration!
      • The vault was welded shut and the car was sheathed in plastic and sealing goo, but despite being nuke-proof, the vault wasn't construction-proof. They suspect it cracked due to construction in the area, and then flooded completely.
      • It didn't help that the site of the vault was one of the lowest points in a city that was prone to flooding to begin with.
  • Take a trip into the Zone of Alienation to see what 18 years (as of the Spring 2004 trip) will do.
  • The book 'The Zombie Survival Guide' takes a close examination at what life will be like if say, the last living humans on earth in a huge honking survival shelter decide to go out for a look after fifteen years of hiding.
  • We really don't build them the way the Romans used to. Almost all of the buildings in the ancient Roman city of Ostia Antica are over a thousand years old; most of them closer to two thousand years old. It's still safe to wander up to the top of millennia-old blocks of flats to look at the cityscape. Pompeii and Herculaneum are similar examples, although they did have the advantage of being buried for most of that time. And some Roman roads are still in use today.
    • Best example: Roman aqueducts. Many are essentially functional after a millennium of being in service. Carrying one of the main causes of erosion no less.
    • One of the three underground fresh water feeds into Ancient Rome is * still* in use today, largely unmodified.
    • Pompeii and Herculaneum have both rapidly deteriorated since their excavation, and have already had large amounts of damage caused by wind, rain, incompetent archaeologists, and pigeons. There's a reason the remaining un-excavated parts of Pompeii (roughly a quarter of the city) aren't going to be dug up anytime soon.
    • Most buildings made of brick and stone are technically Ragnarok Proof. The best example are medieval houses and cathedrals that are several centuries old (some churches may be more than 1000 years old) and they are still in use. Despite weather, wars and natural disasters. In Central Europe many XIX-century townhouses are in definitely better shape (despite lack of maintenance) than concrete housing projects built in 50's and 60's.
    • The biggest danger to Greek and Roman ruins is modern air pollution. Acid rain, ozone, and other pollutants are destroying them rapidly.
  • The Sword of Goujian was discovered in December, 1965, untarnished and still possessing a sharp edge, despite the tomb it was discovered in being soaked in water for over two thousand years. This exceptional state of preservation is believed to be due to the airtight scabbard in which the sword was found.
  • Don't forget about the Incan ruins, which have lasted so long because they were built to withstand earthquakes.
  • In the days before computers could tell you exactly how much cement was needed or bricks were required to do a job, the standard way of doing things was to throw as much stuff as possible in, unintentionally Ragnarok Proofing some things. Hoover Dam, for example, would likely stand for quite some time (compared to other buildings) unless it was deliberately attacked. Similarly, the Brooklyn Bridge was built in the 1870s to accommodate horse and buggy traffic, and today supports the weight of thousands of cars and trucks a day.
  • There's actually only one reason that everything we make isn't inherently Ragnarok Proof: economics. With our current technology level, we could use supercooled niobium for electrical storage, germanium as a semiconductor in place of silicon, tantalum for capacitors, iridium contacts and casings to resist corrosion, and that's just for simple electronic devices. If we did, they could all survive corrosion by water, air and living things for thousands if not millions of years, many times longer than what we actually use. The only problem is, no one wants to pay a million dollars for a wristwatch that'll outlive them by a million years, particularly when the march of technology, or fashion, ensures that it'll be obsolete long before their own death. Actually, even before our current level of technology, the majority of whatever current technology happens to be can usually be perfected into ultra-long-lasting versions. There are town clock towers still in service, with a bell that chimes every hour, that haven't needed maintenance in over a century; not bad for a craft that's probably only three centuries old. And then there's all of the old buildings mentioned above. If something is engineered to last, it will last; the only question is how long it's worth engineering it to last, since most people aren't too interested in how long something will last beyond their own lifetime. If you supposed that a society ever reached the point where there was no need to ever improve on a certain design and no market factors rationing raw materials, you'd probably find that those things would be built to last forever.
    • There's also the matter of whether we actually WANT things to last that long for non-'not caring beyond our lifetime' reasons. A major archaeological 'resource' for telling things about the lives of Classical and pre-Classical people are shards of pottery and the remains of tools, containers and household objects in other words. While our modern day plastic bottles and powertools will probably be of great interest to archaeologists from the year 4000, we specifically recycle what we can and attempt to make what we can't biodegradable as much as possible not because we don't want to leave anything to future generations, but because we want to leave them resources in addition to useless, easily-replaced junk. And said future generations would probably appreciate our attempts to leave them a habitable, clean world rather than an ancient artefact-rich polluted wasteland.
  • Provided they're well stored, Some gramophone records are likely to last thousands of years due to being made of vinyl.
  • Microfilm and microfiche are resilient information storage technologies, because all that's required to read them is light and a lens.
    • Even then they need careful handling and storage as they use gelatin, the stuff used to cultivate moulds and bacteria in Petri dishes.
  • Adolf Hitler expected the Third Reich to last for a thousand years, and specifically directed Nazi building projects to keep that in mind.
    • Albert Speer, architect and Only Sane Man in Hitler's regime, pioneered the concept of "ruin value". Taking a note from ancient Greek and Roman buildings, he argued that future Reich buildings and monuments should be built to last and from appropriate materials so that, when they eventually degraded, they would leave behind aesthetically pleasing ruins like the Colosseum and the Parthenon. His plans for post-war Berlin, including a massive parliament building for the Reichstag; a completely reorganized capital center encompassing the new Reichstag, the old preserved building, and other government offices; a large processional road connecting the capital center to a triumphal arch easily five times the size of the Arc de Triumphe; and a stone stadium meant to be Germany's permanent Olympic home and capable of hosting nearly a half million people, were all quite remarkable. Unfortunately for fans of Speer's style (and the fact that Adolf Hitler, Trope Codifier for every Evil Overlord stereotype in modern fiction, was his biggest fan should tell you all you need to know) but fortunately for everyone else, Germany lost the war. The few peacetime projects that Speer had gotten off the ground ended up being made of conventional concrete and steel rather than his preferred materials, and most of those were eventually torn down or destroyed during the war. Today, his only architectural legacy in Berlin is a single lamppost along his planned triumphal road.
  • In 2012, a time capsule that had been entombed for 100 years was removed from the cornerstone of a GE building in Cleveland, OH. In addition to documents and photographs, it contained five light bulbs, at least one of which worked fine.
  • The 2011 winter brought us a snow-based roof collapse...of a roofing company. That raises the confidence.
  • Mount Rushmore. It is an an area that is geologically stable, and not prone to natural disaster. The granite facing erodes at a rate of roughly 1 inch per 10,000 years. It should be distinguishable as a non-natural construct for over 1 million years, and will exist for an estimated 7.2 million years.
    • Assuming it doesn't get hit by an asteroid. And who knows what civilizations after our own might decide to do with it.

Notes

  1. AKA Vaporware