The Future Is Here!
October 21, 2015

The Future Is Here!

The year was 1989. And the future had arrived!

Unless you are living under a rock, on October 21, 2015, people across the US are celebrating Back to the Future II, or more specifically, the future accomplishments from that movie when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) traveled to 2015.

The movie was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who later devised a digital process that mapped facial performances from real-life actors onto CG characters for such feature films as The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. Industrial Light & Magic also played an important role in the film, using digital compositing and the VistaGlide robotic motion-control camera system, which enabled an actor to play two or more parts in a single scene, with a computer controlling the pan, tilt, focus, zoom, and split line during each pass – perfect for scenes that included the “current” and “future” versions of the characters side by side and interacting with themselves.

So, let’s start in 1989. What was life actually like? Let’s start with computers: Intel rolled out the 486 series of microprocessor, paving the way for the first release of Microsoft Office. Nintendo released the 8-bit Game Boy system. The first GPS satellites were put into orbit. Florida and Virginia permitted the use of DNA genetic fingerprinting evidence to be introduced in court. Leather blazers and paisley ties were popular men’s clothing items. In sports, the Oakland As swept the World Series, beating the San Francisco Giants. 

Before we look ahead (or, rather, in the “movie” version of the present), it should be noted that predicting the future is not easy (obviously), and Zemeckis is on record back then stating that coming up with the futuristic concepts in the movie was his least favorite part of making that film. So, they focused on humor rather than science when devising the scenes. That said, the filmmakers did have some out-of-this-world technology, but they also had some that hit the bull’s-eye. 

In Zemeckis’ imagined 2015, hoverboards were the cool mode of teen transportation. Well, they got that right – you can get yours now at Amazon, Target, and other retailers, though they lack the functionality as those in the movie. Flying cars? Nope, but then again, they made the movie pretty cool. 

Drones, yup. They will be one of the big gifts under the tree this year. Giant wide-picture, flat-screen TVs with multiple-channel display, video chat systems, hands-free video game systems, wearable technology, and head-mounted displays? Yes to all, particularly that last one, with the Oculus Rift and other gear heading for stores shortly (the other holiday favorite). The Wii and Kinect give us hands-free gaming, and TVs today are getting larger, giving us higher resolutions, and getting cheaper each year. We even have 3D televisions! Thumbprint payment? Apple has us covered; fingerprint scanning gains us access to many things, even Disney World. But a phone booth readily accessible along the sidewalks? Nope, mobile phones take care of that.

As for high-tech goggles, try out Google Glass. Fax machines everywhere? Nope, they became obsolete with the “digital fax,” scans, and e-mails. 3D holographic technology may not be used every day, but we do have it and see it every year at SIGGRAPH. Getting news from newspapers? Digital publications and the Internet have certainly influenced this practice.

The Chicago Cubs winning the 2015 World Series? Against Miami? Today, there is the Marlins, but when the movie debuted, the Miami Marlins (nor the Tampa Bay Rays) existed. Of course, this prediction is getting a lot of traction right now, and with good reason. Presently, the Cubs has the longest draught when it comes to a World Series championship. Amazingly, today (Wednesday, October 21) the Cubs will meet the Mets in postseason play (Game 4 of the National League Championship Series). Hey, if the 2004 Red Sox could do it….

As for clothing, casual athletic apparel is indeed trendy in 2015 (without self-lacing shoes, though), but wearing double ties, well, that just has not made it into the fashion books. Wearing your clothes inside out? Not really a current fashion trend, either. 

Pepsi and Pizza Hut pizza are still iconic brands, though a hydrated pizza still does not sound very appetizing; how about hydrated fruits instead? But then again, the voice activation feature can be found in multiple places, including your phone – Hello, Siri. 

Want to order a Pepsi? Marty does it without a waiter; Chili’s and other restaurants have introduced tableside ordering via tablets. No actual person needed, until it’s time to deliver the items. 

Jaws 19 might have been playing at the Holomax in the film, but the big movie of 2015 involved a dinosaur, as Jurassic World dominated the summer box office. Although, a futuristic invasion is not far off, as tickets for the long-awaited Star Wars film (the seventh), debuting in December, have already gone on sale!

What about cars? Again, they do not fly yet. And what about the DeLorean? Production stopped in the early 1980s, and while the vehicle sported some cutting-edge technology, it pales in comparison to even the low-end vehicles of 2015. Yet, after more then tree decades, the cool factor is still there! For the DeLorean and Back to the Future.