The Fallout world is not our own, but rather one set in a universe that shares many historical milestones prior to the events of World War II.[non-canon 2][non-canon 3][non-canon 4] So, while it takes place in the future, it is not our future, but one reflecting a traditional 1950s-style science fiction "world of tomorrow".[non-canon 5] In a nutshell, the world of Fallout is an eclectic, predominantly retrofuturistic backdrop used to explore, analyze, and sometimes satirize humanity's ethics, beliefs, and intimate relationship with violence.
World of Tomorrow
The Fallout world is home to hovering housecleaning robots, and the use of laser guns is the norm. Automobiles look like Motorama concept vehicles from the 1950s: massive tail-finned and chromed behemoths, yet powered by nuclear fusion engines. While there are many desktop computers similar to our own (albeit on par with those which became commercially available in the late 1970s, with primitive graphics and apparently tiny memory capacities), the major computers are still giant banks of machines using reel-to-reel tape storage (the pinnacle of these models, the ZAX series, is more powerful than our universe's supercomputers). Clothing styles, architecture, building interiors, and furnishings remained heavily influenced by the culture of the American 1950s, and popular styles of this period such as art deco and futurism remained prevalent. Posters and signage also largely hearken to this decade.
Instead of working to develop miniaturized electronics and "green" technologies, post-World War II humanity in the Fallout universe invested its technological efforts in massive supercomputers (e.g., ZAX supercomputers), further harnessing the atom, inventing compact nuclear fusion power generators and an enhanced and miniaturized form of nuclear fission, as well as more advanced robotics, cybernetics, and genetic engineering than we currently possess in our universe. This meant that things like power armor and laser weaponry could be built, as well as a large number of housekeeping robots used by many Americans before the Great War. Many such power sources continue to function hundreds of years after their construction.
An antagonistic, paranoid view of communism, common to both worlds during the 1950s, remains a part of everyday North American life in the Fallout universe. For example, Liberty Prime in Take it Back! proclaims, "Death is a preferable alternative to communism!", a play on the anti-communist slogan of the 50's "Better dead than Red!" Anti-communist propaganda also appears to be widespread in American popular culture, including video games (e.g., Red Menace) and comic books (e.g., Commie-Kazi vs. Manta Man).
Radio, rather than television, remains the most common mass media, and food products are based on those popularized in the TV-dinner era (boxed macaroni and cheese, canned meat, Salisbury Steak TV dinners, etc.). Radio stations mostly play mid-20th century American classics by artists such as The Ink Spots, Bing Crosby, or The Andrews Sisters, though this could be partially explained by the fact that most surviving songs are from the 40s and 50s, as very few Pre-War recordings after this period are known to exist. Mid to late 20th century music and artists also exist or are otherwise referenced, such as Elvis Presley, Elton John, as well as Take Me Home, Country Roads.
Contemporary 2070s singers like Vera Keyes and Dean Domino would get their start recording on holotapes rather than vinyl records, and their music, as well as posters for other pre-War acts like Danny Parker and Paul Clooney suggest that genres associated with the 1950s in our timeline either remained popular up until the War, or had experienced a resurgence in the preceding years.
Historical divergence of the timelines
The historical details of the divergence and the exact moment when it occurred are unknown. What is known is that it happened,[non-canon 2] and at some point after 1945 with the end of World War II.[non-canon 4][non-canon 6][non-canon 3]
The two timelines are not entirely different even after the divergence. For example, certain residents of Megaton in Fallout 3 occasionally utter the phrase, "Don't let the people around here fool you with their hippie crap" (in reference to the Children of Atom) and graffiti on the outside of the Hidden Valley bunker in Fallout: New Vegas contains anti-nuclear, pro "peace" slogans reminiscent of those used by the 1960s counterculture. In the Fallout: New Vegas add-on Lonesome Road, pre-War terminal entries and notes can be found detailing a military crackdown on anti-war protestors in what would become the Divide that describe the protestors behaving in similar ways to hippy anti-war protestors in the 1960s. While the term "hippie" existed as early as 1945, it did not enter the popular American lexicon until the 1960s in our reality.[non-canon 7] Clearly, something similar to the rise of a hippie counter-culture in our world also occurred in the Fallout universe, or the hippie movement could also have occurred as normal or developed later in the timeline. The opening title sequence of Fallout 4 also makes it explicit that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and coinciding end of World War II happened in the same manner and time further supporting the year 1945 as the last certain point before divergence.
While the point at which major divergence from our timeline occurred sometime after 1945, there are some events that took place prior to 1945 in the Fallout timeline which differ from our own. However, none of these had a major impact on human history. The most notable of these differences is the existence of the ancient city of Ubar somewhere in the Rub' al Khali, and the presence of an extraterrestrial spacecraft in orbit around Earth, along with associated alien abductions and experimentation on humans occurring since at least 1603.
There are several notable differences between the politics in the Fallout world and our own.
The United States changed drastically after the divergence of the timelines, evidenced by the American flag. In 1969, the 50 states were consolidated (and in California's case, split up) into 13 commonwealths, although it appears that the states themselves retained some degree of sovereignty or political autonomy, judging by the Nevada state flag outside of Doc Mitchell's house (as well as the various license plates that are adorned with state names rather than commonwealth names). However, this could be seen as a way to make organizing the license plates much easier, as merging three states into commonwealths would lead to three duplicate plates.
Not much is known about politicians after the divergence, although Richard Nixon, the president of the United States from 1969 to 1974 in our universe, is mentioned in Fallout 2, though Nixon was already a known politician in the 1940s in our world. According to the GNN News transcript, which is of questionable accuracy due to lore contradictions and Chris Avellone's dismissal of it in the Fallout Bible, an unnamed U.S. president was impeached in February 2075 for jaywalking. The transcript also mentions that shortly after the president walks out on international oil talks, "the US economy is seeing its greatest growth since the Reagan Era." This suggests that Ronald Reagan served as president at some point (in reality he served from 1981 to 1989.)
Likewise, not much is known about American politics in the Fallout universe. Daniel Bird and Jack Smith, mention or describe themselves as "Republicans" (in Fallout 2 and Fallout 3 respectively) suggesting that the Republican Party still existed in some shape or form in the Fallout universe. Jack Smith also hints that the Democratic Party possibly still existed post-divergence when he mentions that he would never vote for "one of those beatnik liberal commies," although that could refer to different parties that formed post-divergence. In Fallout: New Vegas, "Republican" was disassociated from the party, becoming instead a demonym for citizens of the New California Republic. For example, Boomers use the term to refer to people associated with the New California Republic.
Racial segregation seems to have ended still, at least visibly in the military, as was the case with Lieutenant Thomas Morgan, and in the political arena, with Sam Blackwell having been elected as a senator in the 2070s. Women's rights seemed to have progressed as well, with women openly serving in military combat roles such as Colonel Ellen Santiago, and as seen in the Anchorage Reclamation simulation.
The United States of America appears to have declared war on Vietnam as comments to this effect can be heard during the Interplay/Microforte title sequence in Fallout Tactics.[non-canon 8] It is unknown when it was declared or what the outcome of the war was. In our timeline, the United States never technically declared war on Vietnam, though large deployments of combat troops were sent there between 1965 and 1973.
In the Fallout universe, the U.S. government was quite corrupt (much like how the real-life USA's involvement in the Vietnam War was shrouded in misinformation revealed in the Pentagon Papers) and as part of real-life post-WWII cultural inspirations, Fallout took many aspects of the Cold War into their world which pertain specifically to idiosyncrasies of government agencies at the time, many of which are known today due to declassification. Just like real U.S. government agencies received funding for outlandish experiments in an effort to develop projects that would give them an advantage in a hypothetical escalation with the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War, in the Fallout world the Cold War only ended in 2051, but a similar effect repeated itself during the Resource Wars before the Great War, resulting in the Vault-Tec vault experiments. Famous real-life Cold War-era government exploits that parallel these include the NASA dolphin LSD project of 1963, the CIA's MKUltra, proposed terrorism on US soil to justify a war with Cuba, exposure of unwitting civilians to radioactive material, etc.
The Soviet Union is still a political entity by the time of the Great War. In our world, the U.S.S.R. was dissolved in 1991, with Russia and the various Soviet republics becoming independent nations once more. It appears as though when the Great War happened, the Soviet Union and United States were at least neutral with one another. However, the Soviet Union's influence on the world was greatly diminished over the decades, being eclipsed by China as the leader of international communism.
The People's Republic of China still resembles the China of our world during Chairman Mao's rule, and it seems that the country never experienced the liberalization and free-market reforms that it did in our world after rapprochement occurred between the United States and the Beijing government in the 1970s. Nevertheless, China would become a major military and scientific leader on the world stage, and was the closest competitor to the United States.
The European Commonwealth is referred to as a unified country. While in real life the European Union unifies many European countries, it largely handles economic concerns and trade relations between member nations. Which nations were incorporated to the Commonwealth is unknown, but supplementary material treats western European nations like Italy, France and the United Kingdom as part of the Commonwealth. According to Fallout Bible 0, in 2052, the Commonwealth invaded the Middle East as part of the Resource Wars, hoping to seize their oil reserves. The exact tempo of the war is unknown, but the war ended in 2060 when the Middle Eastern oil reserves ran dry, and the Commonwealth withdrew without anything left to fight over.[non-canon 9] The Commonwealth then immediately dissolved into what is referred to as the "European Civil War" that lasted until the Great War.
The United Nations continued to function until 2052, when it was dissolved following the majority of its members withdrawing themselves from the organization because of the European-Middle Eastern War and brewing tensions that would lead to the wider Resource Wars.[non-canon 10]
The state of decolonization is unknown, but it can be assumed that it occurred to some degree, as numerous colonies had achieved independence by the end of the 50s (India, the Belgian Congo, many African colonies, etc.). As evidence of this, Canada ceased to be a dominion of the British Empire, instead falling into America's sphere of influence, becoming a de-facto puppet of the U.S., and the European-Middle Eastern War is referred to as an invasion of the Middle East by the Europeans, suggesting such Middle Eastern nations were already independent.
The U.S. dollar experienced significant inflation in the years before the Great War. Many things, from cars to gas to toys and food were sold at prices far higher than those of our world. Notable examples of this are:
- Gasoline costing $8,500 per gallon, as evidenced by pre-War gas stations.
- Nuclear Class A coolant at Red Rocket cost $119 per gallon, with Class C costing $121.
- A meal of coffee and donuts at a donut shop costing $32.
- The robotic horse toy Giddyup Buttercup had an asking price of $16,000 in 2077.
- Newspapers such as the Boston Bugle and Capitol Post cost $56 an issue. Comic and lifestyle books such as Guns and Bullets, Unstoppables and Astoundingly Awesome Tales, cost anywhere from $15 to $33 depending on the specific issue.
- A game of bowling in Back Alley Bowling at the General Atomics Galleria costs $5000.
- The Chryslus Corvega was marketed in 2077 as costing "only" $199,999.
- The Vault Project (also known as Project Safehouse and the Societal Preservation Program) was initially slated to cost $400 billion for 122 vaults but ballooned up to $645 billion by 2077.
While gasoline prices are indeed very inflated by modern standards, other prices are, in fact, quite in line with fairly normal levels of inflation that could be expected in the decades between the present day and the Great War in 2077.
The entire reason for the Great War and the Resource Wars is the world's petroleum reserves running out by 2052 in the Fallout world. This is based on the infamous 1956 peak oil theory.
Famous real-life events related to petroleum demand that parallel the events leading up to the Great War in the Fallout universe include the Yom Kippur War, during which the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) made an embargo on oil by increasing prices by 400% and leading to the 1973 oil crisis, and the Prohibition era which outlawed alcohol at a time when it was set to replace petroleum as a fuel source for automobiles.
It is unclear if there were any events behind-the-scenes pertaining to the demand of petroleum in the Fallout universe (given its uses of technology and its respective fuel resources differing from ours), but it is peculiar, given that there are pre-War energy alternatives, such as Prometheus Coal, HELIOS One solar, Greenway Hydroponics, Gecko's nuclear power plant, Olney Powerworks, the Hoover Dam power plants, etc. It is also unclear exactly how dire Europe's energy shortage was in 2052 which led to the Euro-Middle Eastern War and China's energy shortage that led to the Sino-American War, as there is no mention of ulterior geopolitical motives or artificial demand anywhere in the Fallout world.
Oil still exists in Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. It is an item used in crafting meant as a "catch-all" item (meaning it could be an oil other than petroleum), but its appearance and presence in items such as the lantern, fuel tank, and Mr. Handy fuel among others implies it is a petroleum derivative.
American cities and locations
City design in the Fallout universe differs from that in ours, often to the point that the cities are only superficially similar in layout and presence of familiar landmarks.
The pre-War United States was comprised of 13 commonwealths in addition to the 50 states, acting as an intermediate level of governance between the state and federal governments. Intended to help create legislation broad enough to benefit states with common regional concerns, but narrow enough not to affect those with dissimilar interests or political cultures. The plaque on the Massachusetts State House in Fallout 4 provides 1969 as the formation date of the "Thirteen Commonwealths."
Looks similar to the American capital city of our world in terms of the placement of signature buildings and overall urban design, but has some noticeable changes:
- Much of the pre-War contemporary architecture is 1940s/50s art deco and the 1950s/60s modernist.
- The skyscrapers that define Arlington, Virginia in our reality do not exist.
- Buildings such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum are replaced with the Museum of Technology. The Museum of Natural History and Museum of American History has been replaced by the Museum of History. Several Smithsonian museums also do not appear in-game.
- Busts of persons apparently famous in the Fallout world while unknown in ours are located on many buildings.
- The Capitol Building has two single flight sets of stairs on its front facade (the side facing the Mall), rather than dual sets of stairs.
- The Mall is smaller and more compressed than the real Mall (though this may just be an instance of the entire Capital Wasteland being smaller and more compressed than the real D.C. area).
- The subway network is different; there are fewer lines and the stops are different (the D.C. subway network in Fallout 3 has three lines, Red, White, and Blue), while the real D.C. subway has six lines (Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, and Silver), though admittedly the Silver Line was still a plan-in-development at the release date of Fallout 3 and had not even received funding to begin its construction.
- The Washington Monument has a steel skeleton, which the real monument doesn't have.
- The Pentagon is located in a different location than our universe, being right on the banks of the Potomac next to the Arlington Memorial Bridge which in-game has been renamed to Francis Scott Key Bridge.
- An elevated monorail network ran through the city and surrounding areas. No monorail networks exist in D.C. in our timeline, though some parts of the "subway/metro" are in fact elevated above the ground, for example, the Red Line between Union Station and Forest Glen, or the Yellow line where it crosses the Potomac River.
- Many buildings and memorials built since the 1950s and 1960s in our timeline (such as the Vietnam War Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Nationals' Park, Korean War memorial, FDR memorial, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, the Kennedy Center, the Newseum, etc.) either were never built or were destroyed and totally forgotten.
- Theodore Roosevelt Island and the FDR Memorial appear to have been merged, or was dedicated to FDR rather than Theodore, as while the location has been turned into a memorial of the Anchorage Reclamation, the Metro station serving the area is called FDR Island.
- Union Station does not appear in-game, but does exist in the Fallout universe.
- The Supreme Court building does not appear in-game.
- Factories remain fairly common, as was the case during the American industrial economy of the 1940s-1960s, and, while heavily automated with robotics, are still quite primitive by our present-day standards.
Much like Washington, D.C., the divergence caused architectural design in Boston and the Commonwealth to change dramatically, with notable examples as:
- Towering highways crisscrossed the area, in some areas standing 85–100 feet off the ground, even running through central Boston.
- Futuristic skyscrapers dominated the cityscape of central Boston, and due to the city being relatively spared from nuclear annihilation, most still remain structurally sound after 210 years.
- Boston Airport has a completely different layout and look, with a terminal building similar in design to Los Angeles International in our world. Additionally, it was officially called the Boston International Airport, not Logan International like it is in the real world.
- Central Boston sits on a peninsula, with water to the north and south.
- Scollay Square still exists while in our world it was torn down in 1962.
- Quincy Market, which opened in 1825 opposite Faneuil Hall does not exist, and neither does the ring of stores surrounding it.
- Sanctuary Hills does not have a Minuteman statue on the right side of the road exiting the neighborhood, but rather a completely different statue of a Minuteman in the middle of the road. The bridge used for entering and exiting Sanctuary Hills is in fact, a reality, as it does exist. The last thing is, there is no neighborhood in Sanctuary Hills, but rather an open area of land.
- Cabot House (erected 1711) was never built in our world.
- The managing authority of Boston's public transport remained the Boston MTA, when in our timeline it was renamed to the MBTA in 1964.
- The New Vegas Strip differs in that a large number of Las Vegas casinos and prominent structures were never built, instead are nonexistent or replaced by other buildings.
- At some point, Nevada State Route 160 replaced Nevada State Route 161, passing through the main area of the town and converging with I-15 in Jean. The pre-War road signs show NV-161 as Goodsprings Road, but NV-160 signs run along the road up to and through the town in-game.
- The Pittsburgh steel industry grew to the point there are factories and steelyards in the upper town area in the Fallout universe. In our timeline, in Pittsburgh the steel industry has mostly gone out of business, and the remaining steel mills are outside of the city itself.[non-canon 11]
- The Pitt Bridge before the war was actually an updated version (specifically remodeled after the 10th Street bridge) of the Wabash bridge in the Fallout universe. As for our timeline, the Wabash bridge was demolished in 1948 after decades of neglect. Two piers remain in places today, the only remnants of the bridge still in place at the original site in our timeline.
- Haven, used by Ishmael Ashur as a home is the Cathedral of Learning in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh. In our reality, the Cathedral of Learning is located outside of downtown Pittsburgh on the University of Pittsburgh's main campus in the Oakland neighborhood, east of downtown.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is depicted as being significantly more developed, with several rows of skyscrapers throughout the city - these ruined skyscrapers gave it the post-War moniker of the Boneyard.
Point Lookout, Maryland
- The Lighthouse that appears in-game looks very different in real life.
- In the Fallout universe John Smith discovered Point Lookout in 1612; in our timeline, it was in 1608. Also due to a gunpowder explosion in 1609, he had to return to England for treatment and did not return to the Americas until 1615.
Mount Desert Island, Maine
- The Coast around Far Harbor appears to be a lot higher than in our world.
- Mr. Fuzzy, the character on the Camden Park sign, is different than the one used in real life (which is a clown). The park is also missing a few rides/attractions as well as certain areas of the park such as the picnic shelter.
- Huntington and Wheeling do not appear in-game (the former only being mentioned in a terminal entry), while in real life, they are two of the largest cities in West Virginia.
- Flatwoods is much smaller, featuring only a small version of the older town. Most (if not all) of the newer areas do not appear.
- Sutton dam is not featured in-game.
- West Virginia University is now known as Vault-Tec University and has a simulated vault inside.
- The Greenbrier Resort has been renamed to the Whitespring Resort, and the bunker underneath looks closer to a vault than it does in real life.
- Hillbilly Hotdogs has been renamed to Hillfolk Hotdogs, it has fewer decorations, and is on the opposite side of the road.
- The New River Gorge Bridge appears right over Flatwoods in-game, whereas in real life, they are further away from each other.
- The Mothman statue in Point Pleasant does not have arms, whereas in real life, it does.
- The Greenbank telescope is on a hill, whereas in real life, it is in a large field; it has also been renamed in-game to the National Isolated Radio Array. The science center does not appear in-game.
- The Summersville lighthouse is further away from the lake than it is in real life, and has been renamed to Landview Lighthouse.
- The Tamarack does not appear in-game.
- The Pumpkin house is far to the northeast in-game, whereas in real life it is to the southwest near Kenova and Huntington.
Computers that fit in a single room
One of the major divergences from our own history is that, in the Fallout world, the rapid miniaturization of digital computers and electronics was not prioritized. As a result, the digital computers in Fallout are all of the old reel-to-reel tape types that take up large amounts of room. The mixed vacuum tube/transistor personal computers used on desktops are very large and bulky, while displays are small monochromatic cathode-ray tubes rather than the liquid crystal flat panel displays now common in our own universe. However, they are evidently built to be extremely sturdy, weather-resistant and reliable, as functioning examples can be found 210 years after the bombs fell, often in harsh conditions functioning perfectly fine.
Data is stored on holotapes or holodisks which electromagnetically store information as three-dimensional digital images. These computers are very advanced in their processing power, indicating that progress continued in computer science (albeit at a slower rate than in our universe), but the technology to make them smaller never emerged on a large scale: technologies like the Pip-Boy and androids require miniaturized electronics to function. Nor did user-friendly icon-based graphical user interface (GUI) operating systems, which first appeared commercially in our world in the 1980s. UIs remained fairly basic command-line affairs, and less frequently advanced voice interfaces (as per computers in 1950s science fiction) was developed for computer systems which made a GUI redundant on such systems. Miniaturized personal terminals did exist, but weren't used in large numbers, with typewriters still widely used.
Television sets and radios also failed to evolve past the early 1960s level, and television in the Fallout universe remained in the same monochromatic hues as its computer screens, as well as having tiny displays and large frames. However, color television seems to not be prominent in the Fallout universe, with most newsreels and programs being displayed in black and white. However, certain Radiation King television sets have color tuning knobs, as well as Fallout 76 giving instances of color television.
Another example of technology failing to evolve in design can also be found in cameras. Cameras in the Fallout universe are big and bulky with large flashbulbs like those used in the late 1950s and 60s. Despite this, instant photographic development is present in certain designs of camera, such as the Codac R9000 and ProSnap Deluxe camera, but others retain the need to be developed. Interestingly enough, however, the CCTV-like Eye-On-You surveillance camera and similar designs seen in Fallout games are just as compact as those in the real world.
Various references to uploading and downloading, as well as to e-mail and networked communications, also demonstrate that though the Fallout universe lacks our mastery of microprocessor technology, other aspects of computer science proceeded unhindered, such as robotics, the development of a precursor form of internet, known as intranet, and orbital communications satellites.
Harnessing the Power of the Atom
In the Fallout world, nuclear power was not only used for atomic bombs, but it was also harnessed in nuclear reactors, which became a prominent source of energy. Large scale fission reactors that powered whole towns as in our world existed but were a lot more common. These power plants were smaller and they often existed underneath towns and cities, such as the one in New York that almost went into meltdown and the powerworks beneath Old Olney. But similar to our world where more priority was put towards making electronics smaller, more priority was put towards making nuclear reactors smaller in the Fallout universe.
They were reduced in size to the extent that they could be used in roles more typically occupied by internal combustion engines in our world, such as car engines and small electrical generators, or even in fission batteries. Controlled nuclear fusion, a source of energy which is yet to be harnessed by scientists of our world, was developed. Fusion reactors were used to power vehicles and, like fission reactors, were reduced to very small sizes for use in power cells which were the standard for powering medium energy weapons in the military. Many of these pre-War power sources are still functioning around the time of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.
One example of functioning mini reactors are the ones in radios and televisions across the wasteland. It is seen in the demo video of Fallout 3, that there is a mini reactor still pumping out energy in a destroyed bus radio. This also explains the lack of power cords on the radios and televisions in the wastes.
This nuclear obsession of the Fallout world saw nuclear energy and, to a lesser extent, radioactive materials, being utilized wherever possible; even seeing radioactive isotopes added to a type of cola at one point despite the inevitable health risks of ionizing radiation. Their world's obsession with nuclear energy ultimately ended in the destruction of pre-War society.
Along with this proliferation of nuclear technologies came the risk of radiation poisoning during accidental radiation exposure. In response to this threat, radiation treatment and inoculation technologies were developed in the Fallout universe. Such technologies have yet to be realized in our timeline beyond very early experiments.[non-canon 12]
Despite pre-War America's preference for nuclear power, development of renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, and solar power did occur, and was roughly on par with real-world equivalents, except for solar. Nevada was home to the Hoover Dam, Southern Nevada Wind Farm, Poseidon Energy's HELIOS One solar power plant, and Nellis Air Force Base was powered by an array of solar panels. HELIOS One was responsible for the development of solar based weaponry, Archimedes I and II, with Archimedes I being designed to defend the plant itself while Archimedes II was a satellite with a solar powered laser. Mount Desert Island in Maine was home to an experimental wind farm, which proved itself to be more efficient than the nuclear power used by GDA Fusion, the parent company who had funded the wind farm. Solar powered small arms also existed, with Vault 13's armory containing a Solar Scorcher before it disappeared.
All of the Fallout games use a combination of fictional weapons and weapons similar to real-world examples. The games vary in their choices of which weapons are included as well as if the weapons have been modeled on real-world counterparts.
- Nuclear weapons
The development of nuclear weapons in the Fallout world differed from our universe in that megaton class weapons were retired in favor of larger quantities of smaller yield kiloton class weapons. Both gravity bombs and Intercontinental ballistic missiles were in use at the time of the War, but it is unclear which was used in larger numbers. In Fallout 3 examples of nuclear missiles include the Minuteman ICBM in Fort Constantine and a Delta IX rocket that crashed in Vernon Square. Other areas, such as Fort Bannister and the Wheaton armory, have missile silo doors that are similar to the one found at Fort Constantine but feature no apparent way to launch missiles. This suggests that the missiles in these facilities were launched during the Great War.
In The Divide, there are a large number of un-launched ICBM's, suggesting they were prepped for launch, but never got the call during the short period of mass destruction. It is suggested that nuclear-capable countries, such as the U.S. and China, had begun converting their nuclear stockpiles to ballistic missile form by the time of the Great War in 2077. Aircraft-delivered nuclear weapons took the form of the old-style bombs used in the 1940s and 1950s, similar to the Fat Man dropped on Nagasaki in World War II. Although electronic miniaturization was accomplished in the Fallout universe, nuclear bombs of the late twenty-first century still retained the Fat Man-esque shape.
However, in New Vegas, Mr. House mentions having defended the city from 77 nuclear missiles, suggesting that the Chinese at least had access to substantial numbers of warheads in missile form. Also, information on the computer terminals found in the Washington, D.C. Museum of Technology would suggest that the American military recommissioned the Delta IX rockets as nuclear warhead vectors. Additionally, the "Minuteman" series of nuclear missiles (first launched in 1962 in our universe) appear to have also been developed and expanded on in the Fallout world, as "Minuteman XI" missiles appear in both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, while the Minuteman III is the latest in our world.
- Projectile firearms
Projectile weapon designs vary with many being unique to Fallout, but also includes designs based on real world weapons. Despite the diverging timelines, weapons development in the Fallout universe includes elements of real world developments. Picatinny rails are seen on assault and marksman carbines, but very few attachments for these rails are seen. Weapons such as pump-action grenade launchers and break-action grenade rifles, which were developed around the 1960s for the Vietnam War in our timeline. Handguns also retained similar designs to those of the early 20th century.
Heavy weapons, such as missile launchers and the Fat Man, had unique designs such as side-mounted foregrips and pneumatic ammunition loading systems. Weapons that seem impractical in our timeline, such as nuclear catapults and man-portable miniguns, were extensively developed in the Fallout timeline and issued to frontline troops. Ammunition calibers that are not common in our timeline, such as the 10mm, are widely used in the Fallout era, while common ammunition in our timeline, such as .50 BMG, .45 ACP, etc. is utilized for more specialized roles, such as high caliber rifles and submachine guns.
Guided missiles exist in the Fallout timeline, but are much less commonly used. As mentioned above, intercontinental ballistic missiles existed during the Great War, however gravity bombs were still used, and it is uncertain which was more prevalent. Smaller hand-held missile launchers also existed, as well as targeting systems for them, ranging from guidance systems that reduced the weapon spread to targeting computers capable of locking onto anything from a person to an aircraft.
United States Navy missile cruisers such as the U.S.S. Ebon Atoll were in service by 2066. Fighter jets are equipped with nose-mounted guns, and Stingray Deluxes are pictured in Tesla Science Magazine with wing-mounted guns and missiles, yet these weapons are not seen on the in game model.
- Energy weapons
Lasers and plasma guns exist in the Fallout world and are capable of burning targets to a pile of ash or into a liquefied puddle. In fact, they are so ubiquitous, they have entered military service. The AER series of laser rifles and AEP series of laser pistols were notable examples. Automatic laser weapons, such as the Gatling laser were also developed and saw military service. Most of these energy weapons used microfusion cells, a result of the increased focus on harnessing nuclear power in the Fallout universe.
Plasma weapons, which utilized electromagnets and toroids to expel plasma are also very common. There is also evidence of alien energy-based weapons such as alien blasters or the famed "death ray" of 1950s pulp fiction and B-movies.
- Orbital weapons
The Fallout universe has four prime examples of orbital weapons. An orbital missile platform codenamed Highwater-Trousers in Fallout 3 which can be used via a terminal at a satellite station; Bradley-Hercules, a high explosive missile-based orbital platform that destroys Liberty Prime in Fallout 3's expansion pack Broken Steel, the laser-based Archimedes II in Fallout: New Vegas, and the Kovac-Muldoon support satellite, able to monitor the Appalachian Territories, while able to bring supply drops and orbital strikes to Enclave operatives. They both target a position on the surface and can take out any threat.
In the real-world the only orbital weapon system deployed was the Soviet 8K69 Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, which placed a nuclear missile re-entry vehicle into low-earth orbit. FOBS was phased out in 1982 in compliance with the now-defunct SALT II treaty, which forbade deploying WMDs into Earth's orbit, and no orbital weapons have been officially created since.
The Fallout universe excelled at robotics technology, to the point that robots permeated pre-War society and served a variety of roles, both military and civilian. Robots walked family pets, retrieved groceries from the store, took care of children, impersonated famous celebrities to the joy of the public and even fought in the military. The types of robots and their physical characteristics varied, ranging from bipedal Protectrons, to tracked and hovering robots like the robobrain and Mister Handy/Gutsy, to the enormous Liberty Prime robot designed to retake Alaska from the Chinese during the Sino-American War. Robots were often powered by fission batteries and energy cells, meaning many survived the nuclear holocaust of 2077.
Aircraft are not frequently found in the Fallout universe but there is evidence their designs have not changed remarkably since the immediate post-World War II era of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Jet propulsion has been fully developed in the Fallout universe, being seen in civilian and military applications (Both Chinese and American military aircraft can be found). The fighter aircraft in particular, however, does not appear to have changed in design since the 1950s, and there is no evidence that air-to-air or air-to-ground missiles exist, meaning air-to-air combat likely still consisted of dogfights conducted with machine guns or cannon at a few hundred meters, similarly to the real-world Korean War, rather than the long-range (tens or even hundreds of kilometers) missile engagements of real-world 21st century air combat.
Other than vertibirds, rotary craft such as helicopters do not seem to have been prevalent in pre-War society, despite helipads being found on hospitals and high-rises. This suggests they were either supplanted by VTOL aircraft like the vertibird, limited in numbers, only used in specialized roles, or that no examples survived the Great War.
Despite the development of jet power, some civilian airliners still use propellers, as evidenced by the aircraft at Camp McCarran in New Vegas. Wrecked airplanes found at Boston International Airport have enormous frames, being almost the size of a cargo plane and have five nuclear jet engines arranged in a cluster formation on each wing, for a total of 10 engines, with passenger seating integrated into the wing.
Human spaceflight has also been achieved in the Fallout timeline, being developed roughly analogous to its development in our universe during the early 1960s. In 1961 the first animal was sent into space - an American house cat called Mr. Pebbles, not a stray Russian dog called Laika. Also in 1961, On May 5 the United States allegedly carried out the first manned space mission, and on July 16, 1969, American astronauts set foot on the moon. By the early 21st century, the early space capsules had given way to manned rockets resembling spacecraft from mid-20th century science fiction. Ballistic missiles, satellite weapons, and reusable spaceplanes were all operating by 2077.
Another technological difference between the Fallout universe and our own is the approach taken to plastic polymer use. In the Fallout universe, plastic is far less prevalent than in our own, with glass and metal alloys being the materials of choice. This is likely due to the scarcity of oil in the Fallout universe, which is essential to manufacture plastic. Syringes are glass and reusable, stimpaks come in a glass vial inside a metal casing, etc.
Although water seems to come in plastic Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) bottles, the shape and size of the bottles themselves suggest they are mainly part of laboratory equipment. Intravenous preparations like RadAway and blood packs also come in plastic bags. However, the American military has widely employed plastic polymers - military combat armor is made of advanced defensive polymers, as is the T-51b power armor and later power armor models in the line. In Fallout 4, plastic containers and products are more common, with examples being bottles for automotive products such as coolant and antifreeze, as well as some household products such as bread boxes and dog food bowls. In spite of this, plastics are still far less common in Fallout 4 than in real life, as seen with the prevalence of glass stimpak syringes and Nuka-Cola bottles.
Specific teams are rarely accurately referenced by name but there are some key divergences in the Fallout timeline to be observed. A terminal in the Boston Bugle building has an article that states that Boston has not won a world series in 159 years as of 2077. This would mean 1918 was the last time Boston won a world series. In reality, they have since won in 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018. (This could be a reference to the Curse of the Bambino, which in reality was broken in 2004.) The article also makes reference to ways Boston has previously lost their chance to win. The line "[lost by a] ball that rolls disastrously through an infielder's legs," is a clear reference to the nature of the error made by Boston first baseman Bill Buckner that allowed the New York Mets to win Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (and eventually the whole series) over Boston when the Red Sox were one strike away from winning the game and the championship.
In the Commonwealth, the baseball uniform and cap have a red-and-white color scheme, suggesting the Red Sox departed from their traditional red and navy blue uniforms. Furthermore, batting helmets found throughout the Commonwealth are royal blue.
Diamond City, a walled city built within the confines of the Red Sox home stadium Fenway Park, features a collection of retired team numbers in the left-field stands. These numbers include 1, 4, and 6, which are retired numbers in reality. Most of the remainder of the team's retired numbers as of Fallout 4's release in 2015 (8, 9, 14, 21, 27, 33, 45, and 49) are not present. Two numbers that are not retired in reality are retired in the divergent timeline: 11 and 13.
Boston's opponent in the 2077 World Series is mentioned in the game as being from Texas. This suggests the Texas Rangers, but it makes no sense with current timeline teams because both the Rangers and the Red Sox are American League teams and would not be facing each other in the World Series. It's possible that the opponent was meant to be the Houston Astros, but this team is commonly referred to as 'Houston' to differentiate it from the Rangers.
Not only that, but the Astros are also currently an American League team, giving the same problem. This could be remedied when one considers that until 2013 the Astros were a National League team. It is also possible the divergence includes a new team being designated 'Texas' or that the Rangers moved to the National League.
The schedule of the World Series also suggests a possible divergence from modern baseball. The fourth game of the 2077 World Series is scheduled for October 23. The length needed for the playoffs (as well as possible delays due to weather, etc.) means the first game of the World Series usually begins after October 20 and can easily continue into November before being definitively won. A World Series being resolved by October 23 is technically possible but unlikely. A possible explanation is that there may be less than 30 teams and therefore a shorter playoff series, or that the playoffs are organized differently. It is also possible the playoffs proceeded exceptionally quickly that year.
Finally, given that the baseball card of Matt "The Missile" Murtagh includes batting statistics when he is a pitcher, it suggests that the designated hitter rule was never implemented in the Fallout version of the American League, or at least it was eventually rescinded before 2077. It is more likely this is a mistake, as one of the Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test questions lists designated hitter as an answer, and the stats listed on his baseball card appear more akin to a position player than a pitcher's, although the text is too small to be sure.
American football diverged in the Fallout world in a variety of ways:
- Motorcycle football was a sport, which early leather armor was designed for.[non-canon 13]
- Football gear appears to have varied in design, with football gear used by high schools in Appalachia resembling real world designs from the 1930s,[non-canon 14] while football equipment resembling more modern designs is utilized by Caesar's Legion.
The only information on the Super Bowl in Fallout comes from the Sierra Depot GNN transcript, which is of questionable accuracy due to lore contradictions and Chris Avellone's dismissal of it in the Fallout Bible.[non-canon 15] According to the transcript, Super Bowl CXII (112) was played by the Little Rock Saints and Anaheim Jets, which suggests that the National Football League and American Football League also merged in the Fallout timeline, as in our timeline, the Super Bowl was created as part of this merger. While in the real world the Super Bowl began in 1967, a 1967 origin does not match with Super Bowl 112 being played in 2075 (starting in 1967, Super Bowl 112 would be in 2079).
The transcript also shows smaller teams that moved to other cities stayed in place, as the Little Rock Saints became the New Orleans Saints in our timeline, and the Anaheim team in the real world was the Rams, who later became the Saint Louis Rams.
The Olympics, an international sporting event with summer and winter games, continued to be held in the Fallout world. The only direct mention of a specific Olympics is the 2060 Olympics, in which future Vault 76 resident A. Vince attained a bronze medal in the decathlon event. Although the closure of other intentional entities (such as the United Nations) and the global conflict stemming from the Resource Wars would have made Olympics in later years much more improbable, the Pioneer Scout Athlete exam features two questions that are worded in such a way that would indicate the Olympics were still being held at the time of writing. Additionally, the Pleasant Valley Ski Resort terminal entries reference ski slopes at the resort that are "not exactly Olympics-caliber," in a message dated from 2076.
- The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment emblem changed from red and white to yellow and white.
- The Trans-Alaskan pipeline, which in our timeline runs North to South through Alaska, was built with sections of the pipeline going through Canada.
- The Whitespring Resort is constructed in 1858 instead of the Greenbrier Resort.
- The Sunset Sarsaparilla Company is founded in 1918.
- Two criminals called Vikki and Vance go on a crime spree in 1932.
- Vim! Pop Incorporated was founded in 1931.
- The USS Missouri from 1943 as depicted in the mural in the Museum of Freedom differs from the real world vessel in that she has four main battery turrets rather than three.
- The Washington Post, founded in 1877, is called the Capitol Post.
- The Rad rather than the Sievert became the standard unit for measuring radiation.
- The Chosen One: "What do you sell here?"
Renesco: "I sell recreational drugs mostly. That's why they gave me that idiotic appellation, 'the Rocketman.' Hmmmph. I also sell some caravan supplies. You NEED anything or can I get back to something important?"
The Chosen One: "Rocketman, huh? Know the line in that Elton John song, "Rocketman, burning off the mmmncfnfm there at home?' What's he really saying there?"
- Megaton settler: "Don't let the people around here fool you with their hippie crap. They've got water they won't share with anyone. Nice, huh?"
(Generic Megaton settlers' dialogue)
- The Sole Survivor: "That's really interesting."
Jack Cabot: " "
(Jack Cabot's dialogue)
- The Lone Wanderer: "You voted for governor? How does that work?"
Jack Smith: " "
The Lone Wanderer: "So who did you vote for?"
Jack Smith: "Now, now, my vote is my business and no one else's. But I'll tell you one thing: we didn't vote for any beatnik liberal commies, that's for sure."
(Jack Smith's dialogue)
- Generic Boomer: "Once a republican, always a republican."
(Generic Boomer dialogue)
- Fallout intro: "In the 21st century, war was still waged over the resources that could be acquired. Only this time, the spoils of war were also its weapons: Petroleum and Uranium. For these resources, China would invade Alaska, the US would annex Canada, and the European Commonwealth would dissolve into quarreling, bickering nation-states, bent on controlling the last remaining resources on Earth."
- Capitol Post terminal entries; Capital Post Top Stories -- July 27, 2052, United Nations Disbanded!
- Paige's journal, entry 1
- State Route 161 roadsign
- Subject: New Smithfield Street Bridge
- Vault Dweller's Survival Guide
- Fallout 3 message box transcriptions; U.S.S. Ebon Atoll's flag
- Newscaster: "And now a look at sports. Something that is, unquestionably, inescapably, American. I am referring of course, to our great national pastime, baseball. This afternoon, right here in the city, Boston's swatting sultans will swing for the fences. Led by star pitcher Matt "The Missile" Murtagh, Boston hopes to defeat Texas, and deliver their first World Series victory since 1918."
- G.O.A.T. question 4: "Congratulations! You made one of the Vault 101 baseball teams! Which position do you prefer?"
- Designated Hitter
- None, you wish the vault had a soccer team
- Caesar's Legion armor
- Sierra Depot GNN transcript: "Transcript of Broadcast February 14, 2075: In sports today, the Little Rock Saints and the Anaheim Jets battled it out at Super Bowl CXII. It was a real nail-biter, but J. Montana IV managed to save the day by running the ball all the way from the 5 yard line to score the winning touch down during the final seconds of the game. The final score 95 - 90. The Anaheim Jets win Super Bowl CXII."
- Vault 76 terminal entries; Personnel terminal, UNSAVED WORK
- Pioneer Scout camp terminal entries; Pioneer badge exam terminal, Athlete: "Most athletes bulk up by lifting weights, but weightlifting itself is a competition as well! Only a few lifts are used in Olympic weightlifting, however. Which of these lifts is no longer used?"
- Pioneer Scout camp terminal entries; Pioneer badge exam terminal, Athlete: "Brendan is a fast runner. Really fast! He might even run in the Olympics someday. Which sprinting event should he NOT train for if he wants to run an Olympic event?"
- Pleasant Valley Ski Resort terminal entries; Resort manager's terminal, Intra-Resort Mail 03.28.76
- Sunset Sarsaparilla logo
- The Courier: "Tell me the whole story of Vikki and Vance."
Primm Slim: "Yahoo! I ain't had a chance to tell their tale in a mess of years. First things first: any bosh you've heard about Vikki and Vance being copycats ain't nothing but ill-tempered slander. Fact is, they begun their crime spree two days before Bonnie and Clyde robbed their first bank - so who was copying who? Now true, Vikki and Vance didn't exactly cut a wide swath of murder and bank robbery across the central U.S., like Bonnie and Clyde did. It was more like a narrow swath of shoplifting, check-cashing fraud, and gas pump driveoffs - but crime is crime! They drove reckless, too. Having lived by the gun - well, Vance owned one, anyway - it was only fitting that the duo of desperados would die by the gun. Perhaps it was fate itself that accidentally drove them into a crossfire between police and a gang of bank robbers in Plano, Texas. Or maybe they just didn't notice until it was too late. It's been said that Vikki would have tried to cash a bad check in that bank, had she lived. We'll never know for sure. All we know is that the crossfire tore the car and both occupants to pieces, and the police issued an official apology. You can put your eyes on the genuine Death Car just over yonder, and there's Vance's machine gun in the case next to it!"
(Primm Slim's dialogue)
- Chat with Tim Cain; March 9th, 2002
- The Art of Fallout 4, p. 22: "BOSTON
Much of modern-day Boston's skyline consists of buildings that were constructed well after Fallout's timeline diverged from our own. The taller structures that make the city recognizable are too contemporary in their designs. That gave us a blank slate to work with in terms of designing our version of a city of tomorrow. The older historical aspects of the city were retained for authenticity, but we wanted to layer them with some futuristic architecture, as this is a type of environment that hasn't been explored yet in the Fallout universe. As you can see in these early concepts, we explored some pretty far-out ideas for just how built up and evolved our version of Boston would be. We ended up with a more balanced approach—something that felt different but was still a grounded and relatable metropolis."
- Fallout Bible 6: "3. What was U.S./world history like before the timeline included in previous Fallout updates?"
"No one has asked this yet, but I thought I would cut this question off at the pass. Fallout takes place on a future earth, in an alternate timeline. I will not be including any information on how and when it diverged - it will remain one of the mysteries of the setting. Just let it be known that it diverged after WW2, and leave it at that."
- Bethesda Softworks v Behaviour Interactive: "The FALLOUT franchise of video games draws gamers into alternate history, diverging from existing reality shortly following WWII. The various FALLOUT video games largely take place in the years following the destruction of the earth as people begin to emerge from their underground vaults into the nuclear wasteland."
- Leonard Boyarsky Developer Profile: "As Art Director, I was responsible for the look and mood of the game (as far as visuals were concerned). I came up with the idea of the "future of the fifties" setting, and had to convince everyone that that was the way to go. I also came up with the idea/design for the "Vault Boy" and the "cards" (as I called them) showing him doing all the different things in humorous ways. By the way, he's not the Pip Boy, the Pip Boy is the little guy on your Pip Boy interface. The Vault Boy was supposed to evoke the feel of Monopoly cards, and the Pip Boy was based on the Bob's Big Boy mascot."
- Ferret Baudoin - 12/16/2020 Fallout for Hope - CHAD: A Fallout 76 Story Podcast Twitch stream: "What is the fall of pre-War US? What were the fault lines? What were the real problems? And I think that's something we explored with Appalachia - not necessarily the bigger thing, but we tried to look at it regionally. And we tried to say, OK, what-why was this not working? And, you know, trying to sort of expand upon, you know: This is reality, then there's the Divergence, and then we end up in Fallout, you know, pre-War times."
- Etymology of Hippie on Wikipedia
- Fallout Tactics title sequence
- Fallout Bible 0: "The Euro-Middle Eastern War ends as the oil fields in the Middle East run dry... there is no longer a goal in the conflict, and both sides are reduced almost to ruin."
- Fallout Bible 0; timeline repair: second strike: "2052 May–July The United Nations, already suffering, begins to collapse. In a series of heated debates, many nations withdraw from the organization as the UN tries to keep the peace. At the end of July, the United Nations is disbanded."
- Economy of Pittsburgh on Wikipedia: "Once the center of the American steel industry, and still known as "The Steel City", today the city of Pittsburgh has no steel mills within its limits, though Pittsburgh-based companies such as US Steel, Ampco Pittsburgh and Allegheny Technologies own several working mills in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area."
- Experimental treatments for radiation poisoning on Wikipedia
- Vault Dweller's Survival Guide pp. 5-17: "The original Leather Armor was designed for Motorcycle Football and other dangerous contact sports. It is likely that the simple construction techniques required to produce armor of this design will make it a popular choice following a nuclear disaster. It provides moderate protection, and the light construction makes it easier to dodge attacks while worn. Unfortunately, it provides little to no protection against explosions or plasma attacks."
- Vintage football outfit
- See Sierra Depot GNN transcript for further details.