Where's My Time Machine?--It Was Thirty Years Ago Last Thursday...

Mama Fisi
Mama Fisi's picture

Life is full of ironies.  I signed up here at Republibot three years ago specifically so I could write an article about how much of "Back to the Future 2" has come true in the intervening 30 years. 

 And on the day when that article would have been relevant--October 22, 2015-- I was on the road without adequate Internet access to write that article.  In the meantime, dozens of other people have posted similar articles, and USA Today has produced a brilliant spoof front page, gleefully embracing the part their organization had played in the movie thirty years ago.

So instead of giving you a synopsis of the film, and my own run-down of what elements of their future did and did not come to pass, I'll just point you to the appropriate web page:


Writing futuristic stories is difficult because, as Doc Brown himself observed, the future is malleable.  When the future becomes the present, we stand around wondering where our flying cars are and feeling cheated.

Then there's the aspect of the self-fulfilling prophesy.  We have flip-phones today because some clever techs who grew up watching Star Trek wanted to create real communicators.  Aren't you glad they weren't fans of "Get Smart?"

So--how much of BTTF2 did come true?  Well, it depends.  Kids of 2015 may not be wearing their clothes inside-out, but people are wearing pajamas in public.  Elegant housing developments have indeed fallen on hard times.  Drug use is not only rampant, it's becoming legally sanctioned in many states.  We have flat screen TVs and real-time video chat, channels that broadcast beautiful views 24 hours a day, and telephones that seem to be attached to our heads.  And the Chinese kind of own us.  

On the flip side, CGI is way more realistic than the holo-shark from "Jaws 19."  We don't have robotic filling stations--although the ability to use swipe cards comes pretty close.  We also don't have robotic dog walkers or "news drones;" however, the ubiquity of cell phone cameras ensures that anything that happens gets instantaneous, massive coverage via social media.

Robots, of a sort, do figure into our lives today--as anyone who uses a GPS device in their car will attest.  And people have gotten into wrecks obeying the stentorian little voice telling them where and when to turn.  Mine gets huffy if I decide to ignore his advice.  I've decided to name him Surly.

Despite years of trying, "smart houses" run by biometrically-cued computers are still a thing of the future, but our ever-increasing involvement with computer technology is edging us closer.  And while dehydrated pizzas are pretty much just a cinematic visual gag, the vast array of microwaveable food, from steam-in-bag vegetables and snacks to full meals, pretty much fills that niche.

We no longer use fax machines, but of course the film needed to generate a tactile artifact for Jennifer to carry with her to show that the "bad" future had been changed, similar to the way Marty's family snapshot worked in the first film, and the tombstone worked in the third.  

Of course, the most noticeable "error" in the film was the availability of flying cars.  However, after having driven from West Virginia to San Antonio and back on the interstate system, I can say that flying cars would add one more dimension of suicide to an already overburdened transport system.  I would not want to give reckless drivers a Z-axis to play in. 

Perhaps the weirdest thing about the three decades that invervened between Marty McFly's 1985 and our 2015, is how little things seem to have changed.  Smartphones have become a way of life for many people, but fashion and cluture--usually the two most mercurial aspects of human society--have stayed pretty much the same.  When Marty went back to 1955, the clothes, the cars, and the culture were jarringly different.  However, we can drive cars and wear clothes from 1985, and no one would really notice.  And can we really consider Huey Lewis songs to be "oldies?"

And in a throw-away joke from the films, political dynasties are still running the show.  As one editorial cartoon put it, "Doc--something must be wrong with the time machine--there's a Clinton and a Bush running for President in 2015!"


Via con Dios, Marty!