Back To The Tech: Are We In McFly’s Future?
Last Saturday night I attended an outdoor screening of Back To The Future in Dolores Park, San Francisco. The event was great for many reasons ; It was outdoors, free, BYOP [Pinnic] and of course they were showing a classic, one of my personal favorites. Watching the first of Robert Zemecki’s trilogy reminded me that we are fast approaching the time in which Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) travels to. The 1989 sequel takes place in the distant future, a time which is foreign, futuristic and robotic. On 21st October 2015 we will finally be at the point in time to which Marty McFly travels in Back to the Future II.
The future he finds is one which has captured the imagination of millions, and enabled the audience to peek of what may lay ahead in the distant future. The world dreamt up by writer Bob Gale and then brought to the screen by director Robert Zemeckis resembles our own in strange and uncanny ways. Apart from a couple of hopeful shots in the dark credit has to be given to some of the predictions they did get right.
The film correctly anticipates an increased use of technology. No piece in particular from the film captured the public’s imagination more than Marty McFly’s hoverboard, which functioned like a skateboard. Last year, a company named Hendo developed a real-life hoverboard that uses magnetic levitation technology. It’s not ready for the sidewalk, but the technology is real, and it exists!
Almost everyone wears smartwatch style gadgets and wristbands. We have had wearable technology for a while… but this is the year of the Apple Watch. Marty’s future kids wear headsets at the dinner table, which can make and receive calls as well as watch TV. These bluetooth anticipating headsets, had cameras, magnification and access to some sort of unspecified database of information. Sound familiar? It was remarkably close to capabilities of smartphones and Google Glass. The movie goes further, anticipating a widespread rollout of such technology to the domestic realm, even that numerous home technologies interact with each other just as they do today.
An accurate observation is that we do indeed live a world of never ending sequels and spin-offs. In 2015, Hill Valley screened Jaws 19 in 3D directed by Max Spielberg. OK, maybe a slight exaggeration. Max, did not follow in his father’s footsteps, 3D is everywhere though, as are sequels.
Lorraine, Marty’s mother, fixes dinner for six by placing a coaster-sized pizza into a ‘Hydrator’ for a couple of seconds. In 12 seconds the 4 inch pizza grew to 15 inches, piping hot. This machine in 2015 ‘hydrated’ foods, in a similar way to a microwave. “Boy, oh boy, Mom, you sure know how to hydrate a pizza.” Sadly, this device has not yet come to pass. Fast food is still as popular though.
Plasma flat-screens are every where in the future, filling walls, popping up as billboards and on window blinds. As well as anticipating such a change in hardware, Gale and Zemeckis rightly assumed that TV watching will remain a popular hobby for teenagers, and that a multi-screen experience will be the norm, a grid of six different channels at once. Future McFly takes a video call on a AT&T-powered flat-screen- remarkably close was Skype. These come with rolling info about the caller; names of children, hobbies and food preferences; which scroll along the bottom of the screen, similar to the style of social media. A prediction of Facebook?
As much of what they did get right, the film overstates the pace: we don’t yet have remote-control litter bins or dog walkers [there is probably an app for that though] and waiters have not been replaced by TV screens, automated supermarket checkouts have led to some redundancies though…
Thankfully, they didn’t accurately predict the fashion. It’s a relief that the double-tie hasn’t taken off. Though, a size-adjustable, self- drying jacket would prove convenient. I don’t think we are desperate need of Nike self-tying trainers, regardless, we may have a version at the end of 2015 though.
The film will always remain a nostalgic classic. On October 21st, make sure you re-watch, [or newbies if you haven’t seen it already-Shame on you!] so you can be in the exact time where Marty McFly travelled to in the far advanced, alien year of 2015.