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The Fallout world is not quite our own; somewhere around 1945, it diverged with our history. It's still recognizably our world, but with some changes. Along with being historically divergent, the Fallout world is also fundamentally different in terms of how science works. The base concept for the setting is 1950s World of Tomorrow after the bomb. This means that before the war, the Fallout world was more or less what the people of the 1950s thought things would be like in 2077.
The single most important event in the Fallout setting was the Great War which began and ended on October 23, 2077. It lasted a very brief amount of time, but was unbelievably destructive. More energy was released in the early moments of the war than all previous conflicts combined. The world lie dormant for a time, but humans would quickly adapt to their irradiated and mutating surroundings and begin rebuilding a new world.