It’s Back To The Future Day this week. October 21, 2015 marks the exact day Doc Emmet Brown and Marty McFly exploded into our space-time in Back To The Future: Part II. They warped in above Hill Valley, California at 4:29pm if you want to get really specific.
The film serves as a futurist time capsule of what we (or at least Spielberg) thought the year 2015 would be like. Let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong.
What It Got Right
Keys are so 1985.
I think the scene where we see BTTF‘s take on the home of the future is actually insanely accurate. It starts off with a smart lock, which has to be the must-have techcessory of 2015. Jennifer activates hers via a fingerprint, but these days we use everything from biometrics to codes and even our Bluetooth-enabled smartphones to access our clever front door locks.
FaceTime And Video Calling
It wasn’t long ago that the idea of actually seeing someone while you talked to them was still a pipe dream sighted only in the BTTF universe, but with the introduction of the iPhone 4 and the advent of cheap, front-facing cameras for smartphones, it’s a dream that came true.
A Super-Accurate Weather Service
So what if our phones are off by a few hours? In our version of 2015, we can look at a supercomputer in our pockets and figure out exactly when it’s going to rain, and even ask our various digital assistants whether we’ll need an umbrella a few days from now.
Newspapers Are Still A Thing (Just About)
The humble newspaper still plays a role in the real life 2015.
Despite the fact that the internet is one of the best ways to get news, newspapers are still around for those who love to get ink on their fingers.
It’s interesting how, in a movie trilogy about time and the future, how few smart watches we see. Instead, BTTF gives us a look at wearables you can stick on your face.
Doc Brown uses his opaque silver specs to connect to different cameras around the DeLorean. Instead of using various mirrors to see around and behind the vehicle, the Doc uses the goggles to connect to the cameras.
I can’t ever see those particular glasses taking off, but wearable tech is definitely a thing in 2015.
Later in the film we see the kids sitting around the dinner table wearing virtual reality goggles, presumably to watch TV. The goggles at the dinner table also double as phones when Marty gets a call from Needles.
Gaming is a through-line of BTTF. Marty loves a gun game at his local arcade, which he later spots in the film’s version of 2015. He’s still a “crack shot” at the game, but the futurekids ridicule him for having to use his hands while he plays.
“That’s like a baby’s toy!” they exclaim.
In 2015, we do have games you can play without your hands thanks to neural headsets, but they’re still a little half-baked. What the film did get right is that we still have a love of retro gaming in 2015. You don’t have to look far to find instructables on how to build your own gaming cabinets, for example.
When Jennifer is found passed out in an alleyway by the police (way to go, Doc), her thumbprint is used to retrieve all of her information. That might still sound a little futuristic to you, but trust us: it’s on the way.
Biometric data is more important to police services at all levels than ever in 2015. Not everyone is on a national fingerprinted database just yet, police in NSW can retrieve information on any offender from the Galaxy Note 4 device they carry around with them. And just last week, the Australian Federal Government started to implement new facial recognition technology to help keep track of people.
Back To The Future’s Big Brother is closer than you think.
Picture-In-Picture (or Millions Of Channels With Nothing On)
Anyone with Sky knows that if you put enough channels on you’re bound to find something decent eventually.
What It Got Wrong
Let’s get the big one out of the way. Flying cars aren’t a thing.
Not even close.
Various entrepreneurs (read: lunatics) have tried to create planes that turn into cars and back again, but we haven’t even gotten close to getting cars that will take off and fly.
To be honest, it’d be a freaking nightmare if we did.
Actual Sleep Gadgets
Sure, we’ve got plenty of things to help us sleep in the real 2015, but nothing like what the Doc has.
When Jennifer is getting a little too excited about seeing the events of her own future in the DeLorean, the Doc zaps her with what he calls a sleep-inducing Alpha rhythm generator.
We’ve got special noise generators to encourage sleep, as well as alternative sleep aids like listening to ASMR or aromatherapy, but the only thing that’s almost guaranteed to put you to sleep is still drugs.
As someone who suffers regular insomnia, I’d love to put a sleep-inducing Alpha rhythm generator on my Christmas list!
The jacket from BTTF that Marty is given automatically retracts to fit him better. Unfortunately, that’s still the job of a tailor or just a smaller size from the store in the real 2015.
Remember when we thought all of our food would come in pill form? Those were the days.
Of course, the big one we have to mark BTTF down for is at its core: time travel still isn’t a thing, and almost definitely won’t be. Ever.
Alternative Energy For Cars
Doc’s DeLorean (the actual car, mind you) he zaps back and forth in is powered by a Home Fusion Energy Generator known as Mr Fusion. It creates fuel for the car out of what looks to be organic and some non-organic household waste.
While we’ve experimented with cars that run on everything from wine to literal human shit, we’re nowhere near having a fusion reactor you can bolt onto a sports car.
What we do have is cars powered by more realistic forms of alternative energy. Think the Tesla Model S or the hydrogen fuel cells being piloted by various auto-makers right now.
You don’t need to be an expert to realise that the cosmetic health industry is booming in 2015. When the Doc arrives back in the future of the film, he reveals that he’s had an “all-natural” overhaul.
He had wrinkles removed, had a “hair repair” or what we’d call a plug/hair hat these days, changed his blood, and replaced his skin and colon (which can kind of be done, but only for serious medical reasons).
What you still can’t do is add 30-40 years to your life as the Doc did with his overhaul. Ours is just going to keep you looking fabulous while your meat sack of a body continues to decay and slowly die. Sure, you might live a few years longer if you go full health-crazy, but nothing like in Back To The Future.
When Marty is issued with his futuristic clothing upon arrival in 2015, he’s given a pair of Nike boots that lace by themselves.
These were but a pipe dream until the start of 2015 when the shoe giant announced it would release the power lacing sneakers to the public on the anniversary of the time travelling duo’s arrival in “the future“.
Shoes with powered or automatic laces are one of those things that make you think: would we still have them in 2015 if Nike hadn’t seen the idea in BTTF?
Marty stumbles around Hill Valley at the start of the film, bewildered by the future. While there, he’s “eaten” by a 3D shark that pops out of a nearby movie theatre.
While we’ve never had anything this bonkers at our movie theatres in 2015 (we still can’t get glasses-less 3D working properly for God’s sake), 3D movies have fallen out of fashion. Half marks for predicting that 3D would be a thing, but marks off for missing the death date by miles.
For what it’s worth, the joke about endless sequels (the shark is advertising Jaws 19) garners the film extra marks. #lol @spielberg.
When Marty is served by the machines at Cafe 80’s, he’s given a Pepsi Perfect.
Pepsi Perfect doesn’t exist, but it’s one of those things that does now thanks to the movie: Pepsi announced plans for a limited run of Perfect to coincide with the film’s anniversary.
Hoverboards are an interesting proposition.
In the film, we see Marty steal a hoverboard from a small girl on the street. It works everywhere except on water.
In the real 2015, hoverboards are tightly controlled by #brands, and the “real” ones only work on magnetic surfaces.
Lexus has a “hoverboard” that actually hovers, but it needs magnets and a whole lot of coolant to work. Tony Hawk has tested a “hoverboard”, but it’s really just a tiny take on a traditional hovercraft. You’ll also see reports of so-called “hoverboards” in the media this year to capitalise on the BTTF hype, but those are just handle-free Segways.
So the film gets half marks for putting the idea of a floating board into our dreams, but it missed the date of consumer uptake by a decent margin.
Unfortunately, fax machines are still a thing in 2015. Unlike it has been imagined in the BTTF universe, however, we don’t all have faxes in every room.