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I am aware that the Prometheus was an important research ship whereas the Nostromo was just a mining ship, but that alone is not a satisfactory explanation for the sheer technological difference between these two ships.

The Nostromo used CRD screens and a really basic computer operating system.

The Prometheus, a much older ship, had freaking hologram computers.

One might argue that this is merely a matter of price, but consider this. Physical hardware is heavier and more bulky than holographic readouts, and both weight and space would be important on a mining ship (I know weight is meaningless in space, but the heavier a ship is, the more fuel it has to expend both entering and exiting a planet's gravity).

Furthermore, the Prometheus approximately 100 years older than the Nostromo. How could the owner of the Nostromo be unable to afford tech that is at least 100 years old? It would be like a miner in today's world being forced to use bronze tools and wooden logs for transport because he can't afford steel tools or the wheel.

Please bear in mind, I am not asking why the Nostromo looks so low tech. I am happy to believe that in the Alien universe that tech was appropriate. My question is "why is the Nostromo so low tech when there was far more advanced tech available over 100 years ago?"

marked as duplicate by Gallifreyan, Möoz, Blackwood, Ward, Dave Johnson Jun 27 '17 at 21:14

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  • Minor comment; mass is not meaningless in space. F = ma so whenever the ship is trying to accelerate it must use more force if has more mass; in deep space as much as near a planet. – user20310 Jun 27 '17 at 20:23
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    Because the Prometheus is a rich man's toy and the Nostromo is a tugboat. – Valorum Jun 27 '17 at 20:23
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    The other day I saw a 1956 VW Beetle and a 2016 Tesla S, both on the same street. These cars are separated by ~60 years of development. Why is this so surprising? – Rebel-Scum Jun 27 '17 at 20:25
  • @user20310 OP said "weight is meaningless in space" which is true. Mass and weight are not the same thing. Your point still stands, however, since mass definitely impacts a spacecraft in space. – Arthur Dent Jun 27 '17 at 20:47
  • Good question Loki. I would say it is surprising because a car only has to transport you on land. A spaceship has to support the lives of it's inhabitants in the vacuum of space. I can afford to drive a car until it refuses to run because when it dies I can call a taxi. When my spaceship dies, I die with it. – Magikarp Master Jun 27 '17 at 21:06
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I'd say a 30-year gap between the filming of the two movies is the biggest factor here. But, for the sake of finding something that would make sense in-universe...

Ruggedness

The Nostromo was a mining ship (or, a tug for a mining platform, to be more precise), and things had to be made to last. Holographic projectors, fancy though they may be, may not be as sturdy or proof against wear-and-tear as a standard plexiglass monitor. Lenses would have to be ket clean and free of dirt, sensitive equipment could get thrown around and bashed up, and so forth. And if this did happen, you would want an old-fashioned monitor to use as a backup, right? So, why waste money on the fancy holo-projector when you're going to put in a monitor anyway?

Prestige

The Prometheus, while older, embarked on a mission that was basically a passion-project of (probably) one of the richest people in the universe, and as such, he probably spent an above-average amount of money on building/equipping the ship and its systems.

The ship's "secret cargo" would also warrant Mr. Wayland sparing no expense on the ship's design and loadout.

The Nostromo, on the other hand, seemed to be just another company hauler, crewed by a few "expendable" company contractors, and so its construction had no such attention to detail.

Comfort

In general, you can see that the Nostromo was not really designed for comfort; even the dining area was pretty spartan. Its crew spent most of their time in stasis, so why fit the ship with a bunch of fancy gizmos?

While the Prometheus, too, had its crew spending a lot of time in stasis, it was also intended to be used as a mobile command centre for the research team, who, depending what they found at their destination, may end up spending an extended period of time awake on the ship, and so had to be a bit more accommodating for its crew (case in point being the pool table).

Newness

The Prometheus was an older ship, yes, but remember that space travel in general was "newer" and more novel to humanity. This newness probably led to its designers adding luxury/gimmicky equipment such as holoprojectors for the simple fact that it's new and cool, just like the ship is new and cool!

By the time the Nostromo was built, the lustre of space travel has apparently become somewhat routine, so there was no one left to impress with gimmicky equipment.

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    I do like the multi-tiered approach you took to your answer Mr. Neville. Your points are, in my opinion, the closest we will get to an answer to this question. – Magikarp Master Jun 27 '17 at 21:12
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This is one of those things that bothered me about prometheus as well. But alien was made in 1978-1979. The commodore 64 wasn't even made yet, so it is hard to imagine exactly what the future would look like over a 100 years from then.

As we now know we have come quite far from when machines like c64 and apple I was made, today we hold more power in a calculator than those computers had, therefor it would look really silly to use over 100 year old tech on a ship as advanced as prometheus. If they had, people would have difficulty identifying with it, it would look silly.

If you think about it, CRT screens today feels like they belong in a museum.

So they rather make it look more real in terms of where we might be technologically, than make it true to the original alien.

This is of course an opinion, i did not work on writing the script or anything like that, but it makes perfect sense.

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    I think it was a mistake for Prometheus to have the holographic interface. It did not add to the story in any way and instead creates this problem. I am a massive stickler of in-universe consistency. – Magikarp Master Jun 27 '17 at 21:11

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