Great Scott! It’s Back to the Future Day

Time travellers: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future.
Time travellers: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future.
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It’s Back to the Future Day, but which predictions did the sci-fi film get right and what did it get wrong? Chris Bond travels back in time to find out more.

GIVEN that we’re still waiting for the jet packs we were promised all those years ago, a hover board was always likely to be a step too far.

If, like me, you are a film buff and grew up in the 1980s then you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. For those of you that didn’t, then let me explain.

Today - October 21, 2015 to be exact - is Back to the Future Day, the date Marty McFly and Doc Emmett Brown returned to in their time-travelling DeLorean in the second of the Back to the Future trilogy.

The sci-fi adventure films were Hollywood blockbusters during the 80s and back then it seemed like we were on the cusp of a brave new technological world.

This was the decade when gadgets like walkmans, home computers and CD players arrived in people’s homes. But not all these technological innovations were an instant hit - mobile phones looked, and weighed, more like bricks than the smartphones we recognise today.

Locked in a time-warp as 
we catch up with future

There were also some less than successful experiments such as the Sinclair C5, a revolutionary electronic tricycle that was supposed to transform the way we travelled.

In the end this proved ahead of its time (and ours). Nevertheless, there was a spirit of innovation in the air and when the writers and producers of Back to the Future set about predicting what life might be like in 2015, they aimed high.

“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads...” Doc Brown tells Marty.

Sadly, fiction hasn’t turned into fact and although flying cars have always seemed to be just around the corner no one has quite managed to get one off the ground and turn it into a viable business.

Similarly, a world of hover boards and self-tying trainers hasn’t yet come to pass, and if you want a better fitting pair of trousers you’ll still need to pop into your local neighbourhood tailor.

However, some of the film’s predictions have proved prescient. The idea of your throwing rubbish into a car’s energy converter to provide it with power remains fanciful, but in Bristol and Bath they recently started running buses powered by old food and sewage that’s been treated.

Back To The Future rightly predicted that keys would be a thing of the past - and indeed, some homes are now controlled by smart locks and codes - you can even use your smartphone to gain access to your property.

The film also shows video calling - and today, apps such as Skype and FaceTime have turned what was an 80s pipedream into reality. Now seeing somebody while you talk to them on your phone is commonplace. So, too, is voice recognition technology.

In 2015, Michael J Fox’s character (Marty) keeps in touch with what’s going on by picking up a newspaper - and while many people rely on the web and smartphones to find out what’s happening in the world, there’s still a place for the humble newspaper.

The movie showcases high-tech goggles - and although we aren’t all seeing life through laser lenses just yet, hi-tech products such as Google Glass are starting to mark a splash in the marketplace.

Today, the world of innovation is fascinated with wearable tech, something that was foreshadowed by Marty’s talking jacket.

We haven’t reached the stage where our clothes can blow-dry us when we get wet, but some fashion pioneers are experimenting with weaving electronics into their fabrics.

The future might not be quite what it used to be, but the world depicted in Back to the Future isn’t ridiculously far fetched either.

We have fingerprint technology and we have 3D movies. Now we just need to get those hover boards off the ground and we’ll be flying.