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All of the main fallout lore (1,2,3,and New Vegas) is 1950's-esque.

The nuclear war that destroyed the world did not occur until 2077.

What caused the culture to stay static for that ~120 year period?

I know about the lack of transistors but that doesn't explain everything,

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The Fallout universe is intended to be a purely fictional representation of what people in the 1950s thought the future was going to look like. As such, there's no "explanation" for why culture stayed that way other than that's how people in the 50's lived:

The Fallout world is much like Torg - physics and natural laws are not the same as in our universe, but are based instead on 50s sensibilities and pulp era comics - the Fallout universe is what people in the 50s believed the future would be (with a lot of nuclear warheads dropped on it).

(The Fallout Bible, Part 9.)

The Fallout setting was heavily influenced by a 1950's science fiction anthology called the Worlds of Tomorrow.

There were two major differences between the history of the "real world" and the Fallout universe, one of which you've already hit on:

  • In the Fallout universe, the transistor was never discovered, and
  • Atomic fusion, particularly portable atomic fusion, was perfected.

Pre-war Fallout is a vision of what would have happened without the miniaturization allowed by transistors, meaning most of the electronic advances of the 70s forward could not have happened. Would we have the same kind of music if there were no synthesizers, turntables, guitar effects pedals, CDs, iPods, etc? What would cars look like if everything running them was still big and mechnical? Fallout is Black Isle's attempt to guess what that might be.

Post-war Fallout is essentially what people during the "Red Scare" thought the world would be like if there was a nuclear war in the 1950s, it just didn't happen in-universe until 2077.

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Impressive answer. I get the whole retro-futurism thing, so I think what bothers me the most is the music. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were 50s stars, but the events of New Vegas are 2281, so I would think new music/other artists would exist. –  user3235 Feb 26 '13 at 22:34
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@user3235 I think there are hints or snippets of "later" cultural ideas but, in theory, none of that survived the war. If it helps, consider what would happen today if the only culture that survived a nuclear war was the stuff that hard-core survivalists liked :) –  Michael Edenfield Feb 26 '13 at 22:51
    
I guess I'm asking if the music we see in-game is the music that was being played those 120 years before the war. But there probably is no answer. –  user3235 Feb 26 '13 at 23:03
    
It's coldwarpunk! –  Junuxx Feb 27 '13 at 17:12

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