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I have always had a fascination with medieval plate armor and the knights who wore them into combat. Of course we in today's world romanticize them to some degree with tales of bravery in slaying dragons and rescuing damsels in distress, but for sometime in history they were the kings of the battlefield. They were equipped with best armor technology of their day. Crafted to each knight to maximum protection without sacrificing mobility. They were masters of their craft, and their craft was to fight and win battles.

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And look good while doing it.

The best comparison in today's terms would be the equivalent of our modern armored tanks. You need to take out a tank? Get a better tank or use specialized weapons and tactics to knock them out. The same could be said with the armored knight. Sadly as time marched on and offensive weapon technology became better and better, the armored knight become less effective on battlefield and finally was not worth the cost to support any longer.

In some sense we still armor our soldiers in one form or fashion since the time of the armored knights. Now though it is just to cover the vital areas (the chest and head), which leads them to still be susceptible to explosions/fragments and bullets hitting their limbs.

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"Excuse me, I need to deliver some freedom."

With improvements in trauma medicine, this has led to many wounded combat veterans of today becoming amputees whereas in previous conflicts they would have simply have died on the battlefield. With the all tools and equipment soldiers have to carry now, giving them more armor to cover the rest of their bodies is not practical - they are already near the physically limit that human body can carry.

If only there was a way to allow a soldier to carry all their equipment and armor them at the same time without the soldier having to exert an enormous amount of energy to lug everything. Maybe if we could take the concept of armored suits that medieval knights wore and somehow "power" this "armor" to move itself under the soldier's direct control. But why stop there? If we can "power" the suit to carry enough armor to protect the soldier from the many weapons trying to kill him, we can have the suit be able to wield heavier weapons than they would ever normally be able use in a practical manner. Maybe I should write a book about this. Maybe include a coming of age tale of young man joining the military and traveling about the galaxy fighting alien bugs. I could make millions off this.
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Damnit! Beat to the punch by 56 years!

Heinlein actually was not the first to come up with the idea power armor, but it can be easily argued that he was the first have a major influence on the concept. For over half a century, popular culture has been filled with examples of power armor, from space marines of StarCraft or Warhammer: 40K to a multi-billionaire, drunken playboy who flies around saving the world, and whose film adaption paved the way for a certain comic company to become a movie studio powerhouse.

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But here are three videogame examples of power armor that have been great influences and have shaped my feelings on concept.

Metroid Series
Chozo Power Suit
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It was the summer of 1994, and I was traveling with some of my extended family to go visit one of my uncles who at the time was stationed in Virginia. We visited a lot places on the roundabout route we took and many memories were made, but one sticks out. It was not a place visited or an activity we did, but a single game guide for a game that had just released some months ago.

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I remember playing Super Metroid on display units any chance I got. Of course being the enthralled 9 year old, I had to have anything I could lay my hands on related to current obsession, which happened to be the Nintendo Player's guide for game. Many a night I would pour over the guide, gleaning any scrap of information about the game and its lore. The idea of that Samus was fighting alien space pirates on hostile world in a suit that gave her fantastic abilities was so cool to the 9 year old me. It is funny in hindsight now, I would not own a copy of Super Metroid for a couple years, but until then the gaming guide would keep my imagination going.

Halo Series
Mjolnir Powered Assault Armor
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Several years later Halo: Combat Evolved would rekindle my imagination of power armor. Of course the game and its sequels hardly dive deep into the series' universe except for the space-opera story of humanity fighting an unstoppable alien horde bent on their destruction, and ancient galaxy destroying devices from a long dead alien race. So I credit Eric Nylund and the three books he would write for the Halo universe.

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More stories than the entire Halo series

In his books we get a chance to see the making of the series' main protagonist, Master Chief, and his fellow Spartans from being gifted children to highly trained, bio-augmented supersoldiers clad in power armor that cost the same amount as a small starship. So there are echos of the medieval knights, but instead of just one "knight" fighting, it was a small team of "knights" battling against their enemy.

Fallout Series
Powered Combat Armor
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Admittedly, I am late to the series having not played till Fallout 3 (and for some people, that would mean I still have not played a Fallout). What I have always liked about Fallout's power armor was how it was developed and used by US military in its wars with China. In the Fallout universe, power armor was developed to increase the mobility and firepower of mechanized cavalry units. At first power armor individuals would be attached infantry units to boost their firepower. Eventually whole divisions would be equipped with power armor and sent to continue the fight with China on their home turf. This cycle of development somewhat mirrors the development of the tank in World War I to World War II, just in highly compressed time frame.

Will we ever see power armor come into use? Possibly. There are plenty of projects currently ongoing that could eventually lead to what is the pop culture view of what power armor can be.

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Lockheed Martin's HULC

But the general problems of power, control, and maneuverability are still being tackled. Although it may become moot. With drone use now becoming huge part of how current wars are fought. Why put a soldiers in harm's way if a machine can do the job? Of course, cybernetics cannot be discounted. The raise in the level of technology that cybernetics have gone through is simply amazing.




In the end we may not need to wear a suit of power armor, we will simply become a part of it.
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