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Technology does not necessarily advance in Tech Levels. Instead, the present of an Alternate Timeline may be more advanced than our world in some areas, and yet have the same or less knowledge in other fields. After all if you have no good metal, it may be an impassable barrier, or a good reason to learn more about ceramics, and if Aliens Never Invented the Wheel (or humans, for that matter), this doesn't mean they sat on their behinds and couldn't think of anything good. Steampunk, Punk Punk, and other form of the punk literature and media (not to be confused with the music style known as punk) are well known for this trope although it appears in all forms of sci fi to some extent.

May include Zeppelins from Another World. If done in an incoherent way, it becomes Schizo-Tech. Sometimes indirectly caused by Zeerust, as a Sci Fi book set in the future becomes a film set in what looks more like an alternate present.

Examples of Alternate Techline include:

Anime and Manga

  • One Piece uses this frequently such as advanced medicine, but no steam powered ships or computers. Instead of phones or televisions living creatures called Telesnails are used to broadcast signals. There are also cola-powered cyborgs and seahells called dials which can store and expel just about anything. Point is technology is different from ours and in some areas they are not as developed.
  • Naruto has computers, but no cars or guns. Instead jutsu are used. Movie theatres and convenience stores exist though. One area where the Naruto world seems particularly underdeveloped is in transportation since most places are walked or sailed too.
  • Steamboy features this trope. It takes place in an alternate 19th century where, as the title suggests, steam is the main source of power instead of coal, nuclear, etc. One example of an alternate technology is the steam ball. The father of the protagonist makes steam powered weapons such as the monowheel and is considered this universe's version of Darth Vader.
  • In Trinity Blood, airships armed with rayguns are standard equipment for most countries' militaries, but infrared - homing missiles? Software that allows you to write computer programs yourself? That's lost technology from before the apocalypse!
  • Similarly, in Last Exile, antigravity generators are common, yet in other respects the setting is almost entirely Steampunk. as seen here.
  • It's a relatively minor change, but Princess Mononoke has the Tatara clan develop an alternate form of musket apparently based on Chinese cannon long before firearms were ever actually used in Japan.


  • In In Time, mankind has had genetic engineering with clinical immortality for over a century, but doesn't seem to have invented the cellphone or the internet yet. Almost all technology is like a few decades before the film was made. (In other words, almost all technology is like when the book the film was based on was written.)
  • The film Wild Wild West could be considered an alternate techline and has steam punk technologies such as the steam powered spider mech and non steam punk technologies like the metal collars and saw gun
  • The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello has an alternate techline starting with its steam powered dirigibles so it is part steam punk as well as being a universe with no mention of planes or space travel.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen take place in an alternate 1800 where humanity has already created tanks, zeppelins are common and people can become invisible.
  • The Prestige has different technology in its universe due to tesla actually creating devices like a teleportation machine.


  • In Never Let Me Go, medicine is the ahead of our world. The film version begin with stating that these breakthroughs was made in the fifties.
  • In Slave World, the England timeline has better computers and medicine, while the Britain timeline has deadlier weapons - including the nuclear bomb.
  • Bring The Jubilee has this. Most of their technology is inferior to ours (at the 1950s), all streets have railroads and electricity was never made universally available. Instead they use some kind of heated gas or plasma which they channel through tubes. And their type writer design is apparently not as needlessly complicated as ours.
  • The Hunger Games has fire capes and instant food, but no plasma rifles and bows, spears and swords are still used. Airships are used, but not planes.
  • David Brin's The Practice Effect dumps the hero on a world with the titular Practice Effect. By working with a tool and knowing what you'd like it to be, it gets better with use. A crude stone ax eventually becomes a gorgeous, incredibly sharp tool with a head made from a single gem. A crude sled eventually develops skids that self-lubricate with a near-frictionless oil. Kites turn into hangliders. Oh, but the people are still at the bow and arrow stage and never invented the wheel. The hero, a PHD physicist with an interest in scouting and practical engineering becomes hailed as a wizard for inventing matches, the sling, whiskey, the cart, balloons, and the airplane and liberally taking advantage of the practice effect.
  • Missionaries trilogy by Lyubov and Yevgeny Lukin, an Alternate Universe where disillusioned guys from our world gave some locals Bamboo Technology to have a chance against European colonization. European caravels turned out to be there when no one expected them anymore. Their inept act of aggression was a rather comic relief for locals up to the ears in their own war, with aircraft carriers on ethanol turbines and ceramic rockets. Lots of rockets. Later author's notes says the original draft was more mundane, but their engineer friend ripped the idea to shreds, so they demanded he put it back together; this even made the setting grimdarker: big open-cycle ethanol industry isn't pretty.

  You want to say that their ships burn? -- chemist was taken aback -- That just one incendiary rocket -- and a caravel... Not finishing the phrase, he shook his head and grew silent.

Video Games

Live Action TV

  • Fringe has an alternate universe with Zeppelins, autopiloted helicopters, and pens being obsolete, but smallpox is still untreatable.
  • Doctor Who travels to an alternate universe where Zeppelins are common, Britain's technology is more advanced than than at home, and science has developed medallions with the power make the wearer cross universes.

Tabletop Games

  • A steam punk game known as Space 1889 takes place in an alternate universe where technology is different from ours. This is because Victorian theories that have been discredited in this universe work in the other universe, leading to a very different techline.
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