How an 80s Sci-Fi Movie Actually Predicted the Future

Samantha McKayTechnology has evolved a great deal in the last 30 years, almost as much as anticipated by the highly ambitious 1989 film, Back to the Future II. We still don’t have hover boards, though. Yet.

Back to the Future Part II is the second part of the Back to the Future time-travel science fiction trilogy. Set in 1985, the movie features Marty McFly, a young man who must travel into the future to 2015 so he can save his future family. Much of the action takes place in 2015, 26 years after the movie was made, so director and writer Robert Zemeckis had to predict what the technological landscape of 2015 would look like and create that in the film.

The accuracy of the film’s picture of 2015’s technology ranges from realistic to super corny. Featuring gadgets such as robot dog walkers, video conferencing, and clothes that shrink or grow to fit the wearer, Back to the Future II’s creators had high hopes for 2015. Albeit a little cheesy and out there, the film wasn’t completely off with its predictions and provides an interesting look into the possibilities of the future. As 2015 is just around the corner, I’m going to check out the accuracy of some of the movie’s predictions about the technology that would exist by now!

1) Dehydrated Food

In Back to the Future II, the McFly family enjoys eating rehydrated pizza. Back to the Future II wasn’t far off with this one. The concept of creating food that lasts for long periods of time be it dried, dehydrated, or frozen, is not uncommon today. In fact, it’s pretty much the norm to have a frozen pizza or a bag of dried fruit in your house! Also, a 3-D food printer is also in the works from NASA which will aim to create meals for astronauts in space and possibly even impoverished areas on earth.

3-D printing is also finding innovative uses in many other fields. A 3-D printed splint saved an infant born with tracheobronchomalacia. A rocket manufacturer in America used a 3-D printer to build the engine injector of a rocket. One Saint-Ettiene School of Art and Design graduate even 3-D printed a camera!

2) Flying Cars

The preferred method of travel in Back to the Future II is by flying car. Although we have come a long way with improving air travel since 1985, personal air travel vehicles are not available to the public. Yet. Terrafugia, a small American aviation corporation is working to make flying cars a reality by 2015.

With cutting edge electric-gasoline hybrid technology, Terrafugia is trying to bring a flying car (called ‘The Transition’) to the mass market.  The company aims to make a vehicle that will carry four passengers, fit in a single car garage, and run on an electric drivetrain so it won’t rely on gasoline.

Until then, you’ll have to rely on your boring old terrestrial automobiles.

3) Handheld Tablet Computers

Back to the Future II features a scene in which a canvasser is trying to convince Marty McFly to sign a petition electronically on a handheld computer. This prediction was spot on, as traditional desktops and laptops are quickly being replaced by their smaller, flat counterparts – tablets.

IPads, Kindles, Playbooks, oh my! Tablet computers are taking over, and with good reason. They are lighter, easier, and often faster than their laptop and desktop counterparts – and they’re way more portable. It won’t be long before they replace the traditional personal computer. That is, after they get usb hubs, more memory, and a cd slot!

Tablets are also making a bang on the education scene. One LA school has ordered IPads for all of its students. Also, Arkansas State University will require all incoming students to have an IPad in the classroom starting this fall. ORION’s network also supports the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board’s (KPDSB) “21st Century Technology for Teaching and Learning Plan” which provides students and teachers with brand new technology – most notably, an IPad will be provided for every four students from Kindergarten to grade three to share.  Tablets offer the education world a 21st century pedagogy and technology – a valuable resource.

4) Wearable Tech

When Marty McFly spies on his family eating dinner in 2015, he sees his future kids wearing glasses reminiscent of the new Google Glass. The phone rings, and his daughter immediately knows who it is because the caller ID shows up on her glasses. His son is distracted throughout the meal as he watches TV on his glasses. They seem to tell the time while providing a source of entertainment and convenience, just like the recent trend of wearable tech.

Aside from Google Glass, other wearable tech is quickly becoming available. For one, there’s the Pebble, which is a minimalist watch that connects with your phone via Bluetooth to provide you with instant alerts for texts, calls, tweets, and more. It also supports a variety of its own apps and is completely customizable – it completely changes the game and makes it clear that wearable tech is the next big thing, as Back to the Future II amazingly predicted.

5) Video Conferencing

When the future Marty McFly answers a phone call, it isn’t just your average voice-to-voice call – it is a video conference. It seems that video conferencing has completely replaced the traditional phone call, as is slowly happening now with video calling services like Skype and FaceTime.

Although video calls are not as common as voice-to-voice calls right now, they soon will be as technology continues to get better, making video calls easier and cheaper. Today more and more businesses and institutions rely on seamless video conferencing to conduct meetings without locational restrictions. For example, ORION’s network connected a class of grade 12 kinesiology students at Dryden High School to Mount Carmel West Hospital through a videoconference link. This allowed students to watch surgeons perform an open-heart surgery and gave them the opportunity to ask questions, a truly invaluable experience.

Back to the Future II provided an interesting look into the future of technology. What do you think is next for the world of technological innovation?

Editor’s note: All photos provided are screenshots of the film taken by the author.