The wastelands of Bethesda’s popular RPG series Fallout are desolate and often dangerous places to be. October of 2077 marked the end of the Great War when the entire nation was brought under by the blasts of nuclear weapons. However, before the war, the world of Fallout was a different place, drawing similarities from the reality that we live in today. This is especially prominent in the game’s pre-war companies that are often seen throughout the wasteland. Lets take a look at some of these companies and their real-life inspirations.
Sunset Sarsaparilla Company
The Sunset Sarsaparilla was a pre-war soft drink company that was well known for their Sunset Sarsaparilla soft drink. The company was located in Las Vegas and the story of it’s creation was an interesting one. The drink was created by a saloon owner who wanted to make a new drink flavor, but did not know what to make, turning to his saloon’s patrons. No one gave any suggestions besides a stranger at the end of the bar that recommend a drink containing Sarsaparilla. The stranger had a family recipe and wanted the owner to follow the recipe very carefully. It was soon after this when the stranger fell victim to some bandits and died. The saloon owner was mad at his luck, but found a bottle upon the Saloon’s doorstep with a recipe attached to the bottom. It was for the Sarsaparilla drink, which after a taste, drove the owner to create Sunset Sarsaparilla.
The drink is one of the few soft drinks that players can find in the wasteland, however, it was a common flavor of 19th century United States. It was especially common in Hollywood westerns of the era, offered as a choice of drink in saloons that was usually mocked by the “manly” cowboys nearby. This is funny, because one of Sunset Sarsaparilla’s pre-war ads contains a hefty man lifting weights with the slogan “Build Mass with Sass!” Sarsaparilla also contained its fair share of supposed health benefits as well. It was said that if taken in larger doses, the drink could induce sweating which was regarded as a health benefit at the time. In the game, Festus, an animatronic puppet, contradicted the healthy aspects of the drink, saying “Excessive ingestion of Sarsaparilla can lead to deleterious effects including, but not limited to: kidney damage, nausea, digital numbness, anxiety, loss of visual acuity, dizziness, occasional nosebleeds, joint inflammation, tooth decay, sore throat, bronchitis, organ rupture and halitosis.”
Speaking of Festus, the animatronic robot that can be found in Fallout: New Vegas, more specifically in the Sunset Sarsaparilla bottling facility. He’s part of an interactive exhibit and largely used as a marketing tool for the company, introducing people to the drink. Festus gets his name from Festus Haggen, a popular deputy on CBS’s western TV show Gunsmoke. The character is best known for his limited vocabulary as well as his lovable demeanor, which makes it easy to see where Bethesda drew its inspiration from for Sunset Sarsaparilla’s lovable mascot.
Abraxodyne, a subisdiary of RoboCo Industries, was a popular pre-war company that specialized in cleaning products, like Abraxo. If you have scoured the Capitol and Mojave wastelands, you have most likely seen these boxes of Abraxo cleaner in homes and other facilities. Advertisements for the product can be seen adorning the walls of various supermarkets and other stores, featuring RoboCo’s Mister Handy cleaning a house with Abraxo cleaner. All it takes is a quick glance at similar advertisements from the fifties to notice the similarities. The one glaring difference is Mister Handy taking the place of women, who were widely considered responsible for keeping the house clean and shiny.
Perhaps a lesser known product put out by Abraxodyne Chemicals is their Tastee Clean Sanitizer. It was a small little device that could purify different foods and take some of the radiation out of certain items that you find in the wasteland. It’s hard to believe that this kind of appliance existed before the war, but Abraxodyne Chemicals was a sub company of RoboCo Industries, which means that they had a lot of technology and research at their disposal to develop this sort of product.
In Fallout 3, Takoma Industrial was considered to have produced Abraxo cleaner before the war, evidenced by the 81 boxes of Abraxo that you can find littered throughout the facility. Takoma Industrial is located in Takoma Park, a location in the Capitol Wasteland. Takoma Park is an obvious reference to the real life Takoma, DC which is a diverse neighborhood containing mostly middle class families. These days, the suburban town mainly serves as a historic district, but it once was known as a commercial hub, containing lots of shopping malls and industrial buildings. The similarities between Fallout‘s Takoma Park and real-life Takoma can obviously be seen.
Since we already explored Abraxodyne Chemicals, I figured the next step would be a look at it’s parent company RoboCo Industries, one of the most powerful cornerstones of pre-war industry. The company was founded by Robert House, the mastermind behind New Vegas. Robert House is a successful business tycoon who is closely modeled after Howard Hughes, a famous American business tycoon and investor. Some of Howard Hughes’ interests were in technology, more specifically aviation, aerospace, and defense systems, which is what RoboCo specializes in. As Howard Hughes got older, he could often be found inhabiting the top floor penthouses of Las Vegas hotels, were he spent the later portion of his life. The similarities between Mr. House and Howard Hughes could be considered coincidental, but the two are super similar. Even portraits of the two tycoons are strangely similar. They must have been photographed by the same photographers…
Lets get back to subject. RoboCo, like I mentioned before, the corporation had it’s hands in numerous design projects, from the purchase of REPCONN Aerospace to the design of the Pip-Boy, one of the most iconic items from the Fallout Universe. The company is also known for its Unified Operating System, which was used on almost every computer before the Great War.
The Unified Operating System draws some resemblance from the real life OpenVMS system. The operating system was common on the terminals of large-scale industrial companies from back in the day. Some of the commands that can be seen on the terminals in the game, like “SET FILE/PROT=” and “SET TERM/INQ” are commands that can be used in the VMS system. The terminals in the wasteland also bear a lot of the same characteristics of the computers from back in the day, like the green screen and the font of the text.
Pip-Boys are perhaps one of the company’s most successful products and can be seen on the arms of many vault dwellers. Pip-Boy stands for Personal Information Processor and was a device that could store large amounts of information, as well as information that could be read from holodisks. The devices were standard issue to all Vault-Tec vaults and they were improved with newer versions over time, much like any other device that we have today. The Pip-Boy is a glaring example of the smart watch technology that we have today, and as the game’s designer Todd Howard playfully remarked, it was one of the first smart watches that ever existed.
Finally, the company was also known for their line of Protectron robots that specialized in defense, but could be put to manual labor as well. In 1956 there was a Sci-Fi film called The Forbidden Planet, which featured hero Robby, the Robot. Robby’s likeness was a source of inspiration for the Protectrons, which contain similar characteristics and weapons.
There are a lot more companies that existed before the bombs dropped and I plan to explore these companies in future additions of this series.