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“Back to the Future Part II” was released 26 years ago. In the film, co-writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale painted a picture of what the futuristic world of 2015 would look like.
Wednesday, Oct. 21 marks the day to which, in the film, Marty McFly traveled 30 years into the future to help his own children, accompanied by Doc and his 1985 girlfriend, Jennifer. Besides confirming that Michael J. Fox can pass as a teenage girl, the movie outlined multiple predictions for us in 2015. Whether or not they came true is another story.
Let’s start with one of the most wished for, as anyone can utilize it: the hoverboard. Has it replaced skateboards? No. Does it exist? Sort of. This is probably the most innovative invention of the film franchise. We all love the idea of the hoverboard. Replicas of the ones seen in “Back to the Future Part II” don’t yet exist in full. But there are hands-free and propulsion-free models. The HoverBoost, which has been spotted around the University of Colorado campus and elsewhere in Boulder, is just one example, along with Hoverboard and Slide.
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
In the film, traffic jams are a thing of the past. You no longer have to sit in traffic to get from point A to point B. Instead you simply soar over it. Not so simple after all, Zemeckis and Gale. Cars, like pigs, cannot fly. Yet.
When returning to 1985 from the future to pick up Marty, the DeLorean is now powered by a home energy reactor called “Mr. Fusion,” which converts garbage into the 1.21 gigawatts necessary to fuel the time machine. Mr Fusion doesn’t exist today, unless you’re counting biodiesel, which requires production energy and resources. Doc’s new energy converter acts more like a composter on steroids, as you can toss waste into, and it automatically converts it into mechanical energy.
While we’re still on the topic of cars…
The types of cars you see all over the streets in the movie are the kind we only see in magazines today. These are the kinds you only dream of owning your entire life. Not only do they fly, “hover-conversion” technology exists to turn old, non-flying cars into mini personal planes with barcode licence plates. Zemeckis and Gale suggest these will be sold for a little under $40,000 a piece. Only if inflation is also a thing of the past.
Automatic dog walkers
While Doc is trying to spring Jennifer from her future house, Marty waits by the DeLorean and spots a dog being walked by a flying robot, no human owner in sight. Though we could technically use a remote-controlled drone to re-enact this scene, it’s not the most common activity you’ll see, although it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Cell phones don’t exist in Marty’s 2015 world. Instead, Hill Valley’s downtown is full of pay phone booths that use television screens instead of an actual phone. You can find a working phone booth in certain areas of the United States, or even at the Pleasant Street gas station on the Hill here in Boulder, but using them to talk over a television screen? Not a reality.
Back at Marty’s futuristic home, he’s also able to talk face-to-face over the TV screen. This is definitely possible with a new SmartTV or Skype hookup, as is the multi-channel flat screen that Marty Jr. runs to when he gets home.
The Scenery Channel, however, is a different story. Who has time for windows when you can project a scene of your choice 24/7 on the Scenery Channel? This type of escape is non-existent in reality.
Doc shows up in 1985 wearing silver visor sunglasses. You’ll see extras in the movie’s version of 2015 wearing colorful ones. Marlene and Marty Jr. wear them at the dinner table. While Doc’s glasses are special in that they protect his eyes against UV radiation, a protection we have today, the kids’ eyewear plays TV and is hooked up to the house’s telephone system. When it rings, they can tell their dad who’s calling. Think of it as the unofficial introduction to Google Glass.
Fax machines, fax machines everywhere
Need to send a fax on the go? Around Hill Valley’s town square, you’ll find the street corners detailed with what looks like normal mailboxes, but they can send faxes. Mailboxes in real-world 1985 and 2015 look identical, no faxes needed for good ol’ snail mail.
At the McFlys’ home, you’ll find fax machines everywhere, including in the bathroom. Marty’s boss officially lets him know he’s been canned by sending a “You’re fired” fax. And not just one. Two go to the living room, one to the kitchen, and one to the bathroom. Zemeckis and Gale seriously overestimated the role of fax machines and underestimated the role computers would play in the future.
Machines, machines everywhere
Robotic machinery also plays a big role in Marty’s vision of 2015. We see robotic gasoline pumps and holographic movie theatres streaming “Jaws 19.” Let’s just be grateful that didn’t come true.
Though 2-D holograms are coming into popularity — think Tupac at Coachella in 2012 — we’re still at the preliminary stage of 3-D movies that require special glasses. We’re also still pumping our own gas, or paying another human to do it for us.
There is a voice-operated ceiling fruit dispenser at the McFly’s house, which would be highly impractical and, frankly, kind of gross. What would the fruit be like after sitting in the dark, dusty ceiling for hours at a time? The family also has an in-home food hydrator. Today, we can buy dehydrated food, but that’s mostly left to the astronauts and emergency shelters. The gadget itself is still science fiction.
One major theme you see in both the 2015 portrayed in “Back to the Future Part II” and today is the desire to hold onto the past. The scene with Marty Jr. and Biff takes place at Café 80s, a restaurant dedicated to preserving pop culture of the past.
Even the fashion, though not directly from the 1980s, is representative of what was worn in the transition to, and through, the 1990s. Wearing pants inside out like Kriss Kross, large colourful windbreakers, visor sunglasses, neon colors and strange neckties are all in line with the theme of the 1990s, including Biff and gang’s metal-grunge-skater theme.