So here we are people, right on the precipice of the Fallout universe…finally. Talking about Fallout 1 is right over the next hill, however, I thought we needed to talk a little bit about some of Fallout’s possible divergences from our own time lime.
I think the first possible, and probably the most controversial, point of divergence we need to talk about is the development of the transistor. In the real world, the transistor was developed by Bell Labs in 1947, which allowed smaller and cheaper electronics possible. In fact, the transistor is still very much foundational to today’s modern electronics.
In the last episode, we talked about how Fallout’s nuclear technology focus had hindered a lot of the development of the transistor, which prevented the miniaturization of a lot of tech. According to Nukapedia, the transistor in the Fallout world wasn’t even invented until the 2060s, which is where the controversy lies.
The entry for the Divergence on the Nukapedia wiki talks about the late development of the transistor, as fact, without any references, and yet, we do see at least some miniaturization in Fallout’s tech. There are two sides to this argument. In one camp, the fact that small electronics in the world, do indicate that the transistor had been invented, but that at least miniaturization was not that important. In the other camp, the transistor was not invented until much later, as stated by Nukapedia, but that other miniaturization techniques could have been employed, such as the miniaturization of the vacuum tube, which NASA proved was possible in 2014 with the 460 GHz nano-scale vacuum tube.
You could also make the argument that, even if the transistor wasn’t invented in 47 as real history contends, it was at least around in the 2020s. This is evidenced by an entry on one of Jack Cabbot’s terminals dated 2023 in Fallout 4. However, the entry itself mentions that he had been experimenting with “some of the new transistors”, which indicates that there had already been transistors out there prior to that date.
So there was some serious implied and not so implied political changes to the pre-War Fallout US. First and most obviously the 50 states were reorganized into 13 commonwealths in 1969. They were the New English Commonwealth (Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island), the Columbian Commonwealth (Maryland, DC, Delaware, and Virginia), the Southeast Commonwealth (North Carolina , South Carolina, Georgia), the Gulf Commonwealth (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana), the East-Central Commonwealth (Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio), the Great Midwest Commonwealth (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota), the Plains Commonwealth (Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma), the Texas Commonwealth (Texas and Arkansas), the Northern Commonwealth (Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota), the Four States Commonwealth (Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico), The South-West Commonwealth (Southern California, Nevada, and Hawaii), and the North-West Commonwealth (Northern California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska). However there seems to be a bit of autonomy for the states in the Commonwealth because in Fallout: New Vegas Doc Mitchell flies the flag of Nevada instead of the flag of SW Commonwealth. This could be however as a ease of use thing as it would make any state specific memorabilia (License plates, DL, etc) redundant and needed to be disposed of. The internal politics is not known of but it is mentioned by a GNN transcript in F2 that a US president was impeached for jaywalking in February of 2075. Nixon is also mentioned to have been a President in F2 although when exactly is not known. There is also a quote in a news transcript in F2 that is titled “US President Walks out of Oil Talks” that the US economy has seen its best growth since the Reagan Era which implies a Reagan presidency at some point between 1946 (the first year Reagan would have been eligible) and 2004 (when he died in our TL). The Republican Party is also mentioned by characters in F2 (President Daniel Bird), in F3 (Jack Smith from Andale), and in F:NV (Argyll). Jack Smith in F3 also hints at the existence of the existence of the Democratic Party post-Divergence as he states he would never vote for “one of those beatnik liberal commies”. However it’s fair to point out he could be referring to another liberal party that rose after a potential collapse of the Democratic Party. Segregation has seemed to be dealt with, visibly at least in the military, as Lt Thomas Morgan is a black man and would reasonably not be allowed in the military or to rise so high if segregation was in place. Women are also allowed combat roles in the military as a few of them can be seen in the DLC Operation: Anchorage.
The pre-War United States suffered also from inflation which can be understood due to civil strife in the US, scarce fossil fuels, and expenses of the War against China. Inflation, for those who do not know, is when a government just prints tons of money to pay its bills and thereby devalues the money in circulation. It happened in Germany post WWI and more recently in Zimbabwe where when I last checked it was one USD to some 10 trillion ZD. In game we get a few prices for things and we can see how out of control inflation has gotten. You can see pre-War gas stations in the first two games where gas is $8500 a gallon. Class A coolant for your nuclear powered cars costs $119 a gallon while Class C costs only $121. Just a cup of coffee and some donuts cost $32 which is ridiculous. By 2077 a Giddyup Buttercup toy cost $16,000. Newspapers, as evidenced by the Boston Bugle in F4, cost $56 an issue while comics cost anywhere between $15 and $33. A Chryslus Corvega is advertised as costing “only” $199,999. Project Safehouse, the Vault project, was originally going to cost $400 billion but due to inflation cost up to $645 billion by 2077.
Internationally the world is more unstable and authoritarian than our world. The USSR is still in existence as of the start of the Great War in 2077 even though they dissolved in 1991 in our TL. Friendly if not cordial relations between the USSR and US are suggested as the descendants of the USSR Ambassador is playable in F1. China is suggested to still have been under Mao-like authoritarianism rather than having the liberalization of its economy and political scene in the 80’s as happened in our timeline. My guess is the Gang of Four were never usurped and cracked down on opposition and didn’t get usurped by Hua Guofeng. In Europe the EU has federalized into the European Commonwealth but little is known outside of that. If you consider JSawyer’s Fallout RPG as canon we know the UK, France and Italy were members. We know little of Europe’s political system and whether or not it was a federal union or not.
Baseball team names are not actually referenced in Fallout due to licensing concerns but there are still many hints as to how the baseball world diverged from ours. A terminal article for the Boston Bugle states “It’s been 159 years since this city has reveled in the joy of a World Series victory” meaning Boston hasn’t won a World Series since 1918. In our time they won a World Series in 2004, 2007 and 2013. The article could be a reference to the Curse of Bambino which was broken in our timeline in 2004. The curse began when Babe Ruth, also known as The Bambino, was traded to the Yankees in the 1919 – 1920 off-season. Before then the Red Sox were the most successful sports franchise in the United States. They won the first World Series, and then four more.
After the sale however they went 86 years without winning the World Series while the than lackluster New York Yankees began racking up Series titles like it was nobody’s business.The article also talks about how Boston lost a few, the line “lost by a ball that rolls disastrously through an infielders legs” is a reference to what happened to Boston first baseman Bill Buckner during Game six of the 1986 World Series, the mistake let the NY Mets win the game (and eventually the whole Series) when Boston was just one strike away from winning the game and the Series. The Boston uniform has a red and white color scheme suggesting the Sox changed from their red and navy blue uniforms. All the batting helmets in the Commonwealth are also royal blue. Its mentioned that Boston’s opponent in the 2077 World Series was ‘Texas’. This suggests the Texas Rangers but since both the Red Sox and the Rangers are American League teams they would not play each other in the World Series. It’s possible the team could be the Houston Astros but the team is referred to as ‘Houston’ to differentiate itself from the Rangers. Also the Astros are also an American League team so the same problems apply. This could be fixed if you remember that in 2013 the Astros were a National League Team. It’s also possible a whole new team was made in the Fallout World designated ‘Texas’ or that the Rangers were moved to the National League.
The 2077 World Series schedule also suggests a divergence from our time. The fourth game of the Series is set for Oct 23rd. The length needed for playoffs and possible delays due to weather and other situations means the first game of the Series usually begins after Oct 20th and could move into November before a winner is declared. A World Series being won by Oct 23rd is technically possible but unlikely. Some explanations could be there are less than 30 teams in the Series, or the playoffs are organized differently, or that the games went by exceptionally fast in 2077. Finally, on the baseball card of Matt ‘The Missile’ Murtagh it lists batting statistics when he is a pitcher which means the Designated Hitter rule was either never implemented or revoked by 2077. Most likely however this could also just be a simple mistake as the stats on his card appear more like a position player than a pitcher.
In Fallout, we know that aliens have been present and abducting people since at least 1603. In Fallout 3’s mothership Zeta, we find out that Toshiro Kago was abducted by the mothership. You also have the advent of Sunset Sarsaparilla in 1918, and Vim! In 1931. And who can forget the crime spree of Vikki and Vance from the 1930s, although I’m not real sure that counts since we know they’re basically analogues for Bonny and Clyde.
A final note about the divergence, and this comes from Chris Avellone in the Fallout Bible #6, where it is stated:
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.
Bobby’s Survival Tip of the Week
Condoms…bring condoms…not only can they be used for sexy times, but they can also be used for water storage or as part of a makeshift slingshot to kill animals for food.
Links We Talked About
- Fallout and the transistor in 2067: everyone claims it, no source supports it? via Reddit
- Nanoscale vacuum-channel transistor from Wikipedia
Flag image via okiir on DeviantArt.com