October 21, 2015: “Back to the Future II” Day has finally arrived, now where’s our hoverboards?

By on October 21, 2015

“Do you remember the future?” That’s the question posed at the beginning of the original movie trailer for Back To The Future II, and according to sequel’s storyline and setting, today — Wednesday, October 21, 2015, at precisely 4:29pm — is the exact date and time that Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) arrive in Hill Valley, California, after time-traveling in their tricked-out DeLorean, outfitted with a flux capacitor, only to find….

Well, they found a future world that promised we’d all have hoverboards, flying cars, large screen TVs, video glasses, self-tying shoes laces, and much more, all of it predicted by the screenwriter Bob Gale and the film’s director Robert Zemeckis. Some of it they got right, or very close, and some of it, well, they were very wrong.

Here’s the new trailer celebrating Back to the Future Day today, when the three films in the Back To The Future trilogy are all being re-released to theaters across the country and around the world (check the local movie listings near you), and there will also be deluxe reissues of the movies’ soundtracks in a 6-LP vinyl set.

And that’s just the beginning. Pepsi is said to be issuing a limited release of Pepsi Perfect, the beverage consumed in the movie. Verizon and Lyft will be sending out DeLoreans over to pick up those requesting a ride in New York City, Verizon users using the Lyft app. The Nintendo company is releasing Wild Gunman, an arcade game Marty McFly plays when he arrives in 2015. There will also be a Back to the Future documentary, called Back in Time, which being released today via digital outlets  like Netflix and iTunes.

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You’ll probably be seeing a lot of stories like this today, if you haven’t already, but just in case this is the one blog post you happen to see, let’s pick over a few of the predictions that do exist on October 21, 2015, and a few that don’t. C’mon, it’ll be fun.

First, those hoverboards. In this scene from the movie, which was released in November 1989, we see how Marty escapes from Biff Junior by stealing a hoverboard away from a young girl and then hitching a ride off the back of the pickup truck to make his getaway.

As you can see, they look like skateboards that hover above the ground. Director Robert Zemeckis once jokingly said that the hoverboards they used in the movie were real, which then sent a number of numbskulls running off to the nearest toy store to purchase one — only to find out he was pulling their legs.

During interviews he did for Back To the Future Part III, Zemeckis then made up for his previous fib by explaining that the hoverboards scenes were achieved by supporting the actors on wires (which were digitally erased in post-production) and strapping the hoverboard prop to their feet. The actors had to pretend to be standing on the board, when in fact it was they who were holding the board up. Also, some scenes had the hoverboard mounted on a pole attached to a truck while the actor was in a harness.

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We’ve come a long way, though, and today there are many hoverboards you can actually buy if you’ve got very deep pockets or at least an impressive bank account. There’s the Japanese-made Lexus Hoverboard, for instance, which uses magnetic levitation powered by liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and magnets, and there’s the Omni Hoverboard, which is actually propeller-powered with downward-thrusting propellers, and it’s powered by a dozen lithium polymer batteries.

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Just a year ago, a Californian architect named Greg “Hendo” Henderson designed the Hendo Hoverboard, which carries a price tag of $11,500, for a company called Arx Pax. Today, Oct. 21, 2015, the first ten backers of the company’s Kickstarter campaign (pledging at least $10,000 each) are expected to get their hoverboards (the Kickstarter campaign was fully-funded with over twice the project’s original $250,000 goal in pledges).

In a video you can watch on at the Kickstarter page, you can see skateboard legend Tony Hawk hovering around on a Hendo, which relies on magnetic fields and specially-lined copper floors, similar to the techniques used by high-speed trains to keep them from touching their tracks.

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How about video glasses? In the movie, Marty McFly wears a pair of JVC video glasses while eating dinner with his family. As of just a few years ago, this technology exists in real life for Google Glass, Sony Glasstron, and previously models of iPhone, but they’re not widely available or easy to purchase, and in the future we may have the Hololens, from Microsoft, but it’s not ready yet either.

One thing’s for sure, the minute this technology is readily available, we’ll definitely see the kind of dinner table scenarios like the one depicted in the movie, where everyone is distracted with different pieces of technology. We’re already seeing that with smartphones, right?

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Video phone calls? Those are much more readily available, aren’t they? In the movie, Marty takes two video calls, from Douglas J. Needles, and Ito T. Fujitsu, at the end of which we can see an on-screen message reading “Thank you for using AT&T.”

Video telephones have really existed in one form or another since the 1960s (even earlier, actually, going all the way back to 1936 in Germany, if you want to start at the real beginning), and in 1970, AT&T developed the Picturephone (it didn’t really take off), but video teleconferencing and personal video conversations really come a long way since the development of DSL and cable networks and easy access to personal home computers with lots of bandwidth. Skype can be used with a TV set, with the addition of compatible webcams.

Today, teleconferencing is commonplace, with Apple’s Facetime app, and with the use of Skype on phones and computers, we can see and hear those we chat with anytime we need to.

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How about the idea (introduced in the movie) that the U.S. Weather Service controls the weather, which appears to not only be planned in advance, but there’s also the fact that we see that it’s raining and there’s a floating skyway sign at the Hill Valley exit ramp on Skyway C25 warning drivers of “RN… [Rain] 20% VIS [Visibility].”

We don’t really have floating weather signs — no, but we do have large signs on on the sides of the freeways, blinking out cautions to the drivers, sometimes weather-related. We do have by-the-second weather forecasting, though, and websites online that provide up-to-date reports about the weather, and a lot of effort is being put into improving the measurements of weather movements, but no one is actually controlling the weather in the year 2015. We think.

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Speaking of large signs, in the movie, we see large wall-sized multi-channel video screens, and Marty is amazed when he realizes he’s able to watch six channels at once (this is also something we could have mentioned in this post). It wasn’t something widely available to consumers in 1985, but now, almost every household has at least one flat screen TV, and some of them are bigger than we could have imagined we’d have in the mid-80s. We know some people who have wall-mounted TV s that rival some multiplex movie screens, size-wise.

We have Microsoft’s Xbox, and Sony is reportedly working on something similar for PlayStation, so its only a matter of time before we have huge big screen TVs in every home can be used as two-way communication devices and so much more.

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We have iris-identification technology (similar to that seen in the movie), and eye-scanning for identity verification has already been adopted by several government agencies, defense-related industries and major tech companies, and we’ve been told that it may replace fingerprint technology one day. Also seen in the movie: fingerprint payment systems. We already have this too.

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What else did the movie predict that doesn’t exist? Or isn’t widely used in 2015? There was definitely an over-emphasis on fax machines and the availability of public phone booths — seeing the movie now, you realize that there was too much emphasis on 80s-based technology that has already been widely replaced.

Well, how about those dog-walking drones? Flying cars powered by rubbish? Food hydrators? They all exist, sorta, but they’re not widely available or not widely used by most people, not yet, and we suppose it’s possible that there are large microwaves out there which are being used to heat up pizzas but we wouldn’t say it’s commonplace yet. We certainly wouldn’t want to eat dehydrated pizza slices if we had the chance to have a fresh slice instead.

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We don’t really have self–lacing shoes and self-sizing clothes, although, in 2008, Nike did make a shoe called the “Hyperdunks”, which were styled after shoes in Back to the Future II, and Air MAG sneakers already exist, but they don’t tie themselves. The self-tying version is in the works. Nike claims they will be available by the end of the year.

Even though we don’t really have footwear with shoelace-like straps that automatically tighten to secure the foot within the shoe, we think it’s safe to say that shoe design continues to improve and it’s likely that one day we may have something similar to what’s seen in the movie.

Robotic restaurant waiters and robotic gas pumps. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if we have those soon, we’re so close to replacing so many service-related jobs now with robots. Fucking robots, we hate them.

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One thing we see in Back To The Future II which is something that we’re seeing now in major urban cities (Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, others) is huge billboard advertisements that have full video playback, motion and even 3D effects. We’re not quite there yet, but check out the big billboards in Times Square or on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood or the Vegas Strip, and you can see that we’re getting closer all the time.

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We can’t cover all of the predictions made in the movie — there are many, many of these stories online If you feel like Googlin’ — but we’re going to close this post with one of our favorite predictions, which is something that up until recently hasn’t seemed like it could ever happen, and that’s the fact that in Back To The Future II the Chicago Cubs are shown winning the World Series, beating a team from Miami (the Gators) which of course do not really exist, (but we do have the Florida Marlins, which used to be the Miami Marlins).

Unfortunately, the Cubs find themselves down 0-3 in the National League Championship Series against the Mets after falling 5-2 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, Oct. 20th, so it’s not looking good for this particular prediction, unless they pull it out, like the 2004 Red Sox team did, and win it by coming back to win it in 7 (by the way, the World Series is extended to best of nine games in the movie — it’s actually still the best of seven games in 2015 — and if that were the case, and the Cubs had nine games, we have no doubt they’d have a much better chance of battling back. Still, we just kinda like the idea of the Cubs winning it all for once. Go, Cubs! Win today for Back To The Future Day!

UPDATE (10/22/15): On the day, according to legend, when Marty McFly traveled forward in time and witnessed a Cubs World Series victory, the Mets Biffed the Cubs right in the Zemeckis, losing 8-3. The Mets take the NL pennant and move on to the World Series.

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If you’re a baseball fan, you might enjoy this piece about Bob Gale, the man who wrote the screenplay for Back To The Future II.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.