The Inaccurate Predictions Of Back To The Future

Sometime this evening, after we haven’t rehydrated a pizza for dinner, all of the events portrayed in Back To The Future will have happened in the past. This is it. This is the day all your dreams die.

So, what’s so special about the technology in Back To The Future that we don’t have now? Hoverboards, obviously, but a lot of people have been doing their part to make sure we have something like a hoverboard on this important day. Last week, the record for the longest hoverboard flight was broken by a Canadian company making large multirotor platforms. While it’s called a hoverboard, it’s really not in the spirit of the device that would recreate the skateboard chase scene in front of Hill Valley’s courthouse. For that, you’ll need something that doesn’t use propellers, at least.

There’s a better way to construct a hoverboard than by strapping a few blenders to your feet. Last summer, Lexus built one with superconducting materials and magnets. Yes, it’s effectively the same demonstration you’ve always seen with superconducting materials, only this time it’s dressed up with pro skaters. There are tens of thousands of dollars worth of magnets in the Lexus hoverboard, making this entirely impractical for anyone who wants to build their own.

next-yearThere is another option if you want a hoverboard. This day, last year, Hendo Hoverboards launched a Kickstarter with the best media blitz we’ve ever seen. They built a hoverboard that is basically a quadcopter, but instead of propellers, they use magnets. These magnets produce eddy currents in the metallic, non-ferrous ‘hover surface’. The grand prize for this Kickstarter? Today, October 21, 2015, you’ll be invited to a VIP event where you will not only get to ride a hoverboard, you’ll get one to take home. Price: $10,000.

News Drones
News drones. People still read newspapers.

This company isn’t in the market of building hoverboards; they have a much, much more grandiose idea: the founder wants to use hoverboards as a stepping stone to an active earthquake mitigation strategy for buildings. Yes, buildings can hover inches above their foundation, just in case an earthquake strikes. You say the power might go out during an earthquake, causing the building to fall inches to the ground? I never said it was a good idea.

Lucky for us, the Hendo hoverboard did prove to be a proof of concept that a ‘spinning magnet’ hoverboard is capable of supporting the weight of a rider. We know a few people have been working on this technology before the Hendo hoverboard was announced, and replicating the Hendo hoverboard build shouldn’t cost more than about $1000 USD. We’re eventually going to have to do this, and we’re going to replicate the Pitbull hoverboard, bojo, because we want powah.

So, what else of Back to the Future Part II hasn’t become a reality? News drones. People don’t read newspapers anymore. Self-driving cars are more realistic than hovercar conversions. Pepsi Perfect exists, but only at a Comic Con. Nike Air Mags exist, but not with power laces. The world of Hill Valley still has fax machines, and I really want to rehydrate a pizza.

cubbiesIt’s alright, most of the technology of Back to the Future was just a joke; ‘Queen Diana’ would have never happened, and what exactly was the point of Gray’s Sports Almanac if you can look everything up on the Internet?

There was one possibly accurate prediction in Back to the Future: The Chicago Cubs may win the 2015 World Series. Let me repeat that, for effect. The most accurate prediction of the future given to us in Back to the Future was that the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. That’s how inaccurate Back To The Future was.

83 thoughts on “The Inaccurate Predictions Of Back To The Future

      1. >They did not predict that,
        True, they did not “predict” anything.

        >every screen in BTTF was a projector screen.

        While “Behind the scenes”, they may have been projectors, take note that Marty Jr adjusts the skewed TV, indicating that the fictional screen is a flat screen.

        Unless you’re purporting that they intended it to be interpreted as “In this 2015, projectors automatically detect the orientation of the screen and automatically adjust rotation”.

    1. I was thinking about 2001 the other day and it’s just insane: It opens with a man reading the news on an iPad over wifi on a space station. Written the year before the moon landings were faked ;)

    1. Don’t worry. Next post up is how to add a scroll wheel to your mouse so you can skip all those posts on websites that you don’t want to read. After that it’s an amazing life hack that teaches you to not read things you don’t want to read. I know, amazing stuff, right? Guess what? It gets better. On Friday I’m going to be doing a feature on an amazing social hack. It’s about how to resent the existence of something that doesn’t affect you in any way. Amazing stuff, and it was all inspired by the great hackaday community.

        1. Me? You’re calling me out on acting like a troll on the internet? You’re singling me out for countering the hundreds of ‘not a hack’ comments we get every day? You’re tired of me calling out the ‘I didn’t want to read this’ comments?

          Yet somehow, you’re not tired of the ‘not a hack’ comments? You’re not tired of the ‘dumbduino’ comments? You’re not tired of the “I don’t like the direction hackaday is going” comments?

          At this point, your opinion of me is simply invalid.

          In any event, ‘not a hack’ comments, comments about how we’re selling out, and comments completely out of scope with the post are evidence of how toxic this community is. Honestly, look around. Commentors here are terrible, and I only need to link to Jeri Ellsworth’s twitter for this historical evidence of that. I can’t delete comments, because then the comments would be about how I turned into a fascist. I can’t effectively moderate comments, because that would be called censorship. I am effectively powerless in all my faculties to turn this community into something that isn’t repetitive and isn’t a cesspool of cynicism. You might say I’m a bit miffed at the whole situation, really.

          1. Don’t let the trolls and whiners get to you. Let them build their own sites and user bases; oh wait, they don’t have time because they are wasting their lives trying to trash someone else’s work. Calvin on em.

          2. >Me?
            Yes, I replied to you. Though that’s an understandable question with comment architecture here.
            >You’re calling me out on acting like a troll on the internet? You’re singling me out for countering the hundreds of ‘not a hack’ comments we get every day? You’re tired of me calling out the ‘I didn’t want to read this’ comments?
            Er, no. Not at all. Speak for yourself. I’m tired of seeing nearly every reaction between you and the readers become negative.

            >Yet somehow, you’re not tired of the ‘not a hack’ comments? You’re not tired of the ‘dumbduino’ comments? You’re not tired of the “I don’t like the direction hackaday is going” comments?
            If you’re sick of the place, why don’t you leave? It definitely sounds like you don’t care what the community thinks any more, but a lot of people come to hackaday expecting hacks of some description, and the “non-hack” stuff ranges from useful, to barely passable – perhaps that kind of content could be direct to a different section of the site?

            >At this point, your opinion of me is simply invalid.
            Alright buddy.

          3. I like articles like this occasionally. They tie pop culture in with the real world. I like seeing how movie predictions match the real world, and would like to have some of the technology portrayed in these movies. I mean is their anyone who secretly does not want a flying car or light saber? that said, you do seem cranky Mr Benchoff. it is possible (highly likely) that you just snapped today in which case I don’t blame you. Posts like this may not be a hack, but they serve as inspiration for hacks.

            @ the community;
            Most people realize that this does not fit the definition of a hack, but still like sharing comments and stories relating to the topic. It is posts like this which spark comments that make Hack a Day a community in staid of a “hack factory”. If you don’t like reading these posts, don’t.

          4. “You might say I’m a bit miffed at the whole situation, really.”

            I can completely understand, I’ve seen a many internet community infected with negativity and dangerous crowd mentality. However,

            IMHO, and I do emphasize humble, I believe responding to these comments can cause more harm than good. Just looking at this thread there are 12 replies underneath yours, but only one other person responded to the original comment.

            Anyways, I do hope you can find a way to contain the toxicity of the comments, whether through appeals to the community or an improved comment system. I agree moderation is tough, there are many fine lines that are easily crossed by accident.

            Good luck to you sir, I can’t buy you a soda, so I’ll just click a few adds.

          5. I enjoyed this post and hope that you know people are quicker to respond with a negative comment than with a positive one.

            A lot of hacks are grounded in the drive to try and make what is seen in science fiction a reality. In this last year there were probably more than a handful of creations alone based on this movie.

            The retrospection in this post can give us an idea of what might be possible in the future and fuel the imagination to try and create devices which are literally futuristic. I think that this effect lays definitely in the aim of this website.

            It’s easy to criticize content, but hard to create. In the words of the fictional Anton Ego: the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

          6. While the statement “Not a hack” isn’t factually incorrect; I don’t care and enjoyed the read.

            Having said that, I’ve been disappointed by the replies I’ve seen from you the past few days. You’ve been fueling the exact fire you’re miffed with. Try ignoring and therefore not adding legitimacy to such comments and this community you desire would be a much more enjoyable place.

          7. I’d hate this for this site to be purely made out of ‘hacks’, although the name suggests it. I look at this site as a one-stop-tech-blog-thingy for the things I find interesting. So keep up the good work, and don’t let the trolls get to you.

            P.S. I think your comment prior this was entertaining.

          8. I %100 support your snarky replies to these comments Brian. I get a chuckle every time. These people complaining about your “negativity” can fuck right off.

            Also, perhaps you should consider renaming the site to “”. Then the less intelligent people here wouldn’t get so awfully confused when an article like this gets posted. ;)

          9. Brian, take a holiday. This isn’t a battle you can win. It’s not even a “battle” at all really. Any goals you might have are surely vaguely defined and a variation of “I wish people didn’t suck so much”.

            Raging on a public forum, that you work for, isn’t gonna help. Just take a break. Widen your perspective. Ignore the comments if they only wind you up. There’s nothing for you to gain from this. It’s just Internet, dude.

          10. @Brian – How about you let the community self-moderate. Provide a thumbs up/down and hide any comments that fall below a specific ratio. It’s not censorship because people can still read them if they really want to. For what its worth, I come to HAD to read interesting articles. I don’t always care if it fits the absolute definition of a ‘hack’ as long as the content is technical enough. I came here today fully expecting a BTF article and was not disappointed. Keep up the good work, and don’t engage negatively in the comments – it’s beneath you.

          11. I hear your frustrations, Brian, believe me I do. But I’m getting concerned about you. You sound like you’re under pressure and it’s coming out here when trolls like [pacraf] press your buttons. This didn’t happen nearly as much (if at all, to my recollection) in the past. This can be a sign of more serious issues percolating, and for your own sake (not HAD, not folks around you, but you the person) the sooner you can reset, the better. Believe me. Been there, ignored the warnings, went through heck. Please pay attention to what your system is telling you… don’t ignore it.

        2. I LOLed, it’s a good article and roasting a snarky 3 word comment is well in order, that said feeding the trolls is never a good idea in the long run. HaD needs stronger controls on posting, and better moderation. either by mods, or perhaps a system like reddit comment voting or slashdot where users earn the right to moderate comments by making insightful considered contributions.

          1. Agreed its getting out of control, People constantly saying “this isn’t a hack” if they don’t like the site then they don’t have to come here. Moaning about the writeups constantly is really getting annoying, No one is forcing anyone to read them. I expected HAD to write something about BTTF as it was a geek/nerd film and still loved by millions today. If the trolls want to get technical the site is called “Hack A Day” that implies one hack per day.

          2. Slashdot is a rotting corpse now. SoylentNews is the future : ) The moderation system has been tweaked and long-standing SD bugs have been fixed. The site also works without javascript, if you’re into that kind of thing.

            Moderation is not censorship and goes a long way to improve comment quality. However, deleting comments is not moderation. Trying to find a way to give everyone a voice but lower the visibility of the garbage is a difficult task.

          3. As I believe somebody said, without appreciating the irony of it, you can always scroll past.

            It’s just Internet, don’t let it bother you. Sure we all have other things to do when we’re not here, and HAD posts don’t affect the quality of that. It’s a small thing, it doesn’t affect anything in real life, and reading and posting is completely voluntary.

            It’s intrinsically meaningless, it can only bother you as much as you let it. Let it pass. Don’t worry.

            Adding voting just ends up with the tyranny of the masses, cliques, point-whoring, and sucking the vitality out of a place. It’ll end up anodyne, then dead. Volunteer “Moderation” will end up with the same problem Wikipedia has, where only people with personality disorders and absolutely nothing better to do, will want to do such a thankless and boring task, to feed their malformed ego. People who volunteer to moderate the Internet are absolutely the sort of people who shouldn’t be allowed to.

            Can you IMAGINE a HAD edit-war!?

            I know we’re the type of people who like to tweak things to make them better, but there’s a reason HAD hasn’t changed at all in many years (and the last time they tried, people HATED it!). It’s fine as it is. Very smart people appreciate intellectual freedom. Even if they’re a bit antisocial sometimes. The bad side comes with the good.

            There is no problem. It’s just comments on the web. Nobody’s harmed, nobody has to like it. Look up from the computer now and then, look out of the window. Refocus. It’s important for your eyesight.

    1. BTTF2 is a snapshot of what a generation of kids thought life would be like when they were grown up. In a way it’s like looking at footage of the 1900 worlds fair, at all the wacky mechanical robots sweeping the floor. You might sneer and laugh in hindsight. but bear in mind it it was the product of the the most creative and technical minds at the time, it was the best guess of what might be. Startrek is much the same, the original series showed Kirk and crew talking into hand held flip phone communicators that let them communicate across vast distances and scanning people with handheld mobile computer devices laden with minature sensors. technology we’ve been taking for granted for over a decade now. TNG and other scifi shows showing hyper realistic VR, Cave/holodeck tech gave us something to strive for. Funny enough 1984, 24, and CSI seem to be the blueprints for military and law enforcement playbook for technology investment for the foreseeable future. The fiction of the day serves as the blueprint for the technology of the future. It sets the bar for what what we might not be able to reach for today, but a small breakthrough or two in science might make engineers immediately jump to the conclusion: “shit, the flying cars from BTTF2 might actually be on the cards! lets get to work”

      1. “BTTF2 is a snapshot of what a generation of kids thought life would be like when they were grown up. ”

        You know, I understand this thinking… but this isn’t actually true. BTTF2 wasn’t what we thought life was going to be like. It was more like “let’s make a fake funny future.” They took ‘futuristic’ ideas and took them to silly extremes They outlawed lawyers, for crying out loud. You had flying cars… but traffic still sucked. People were wearing hats backwards in the 80s? Let’s make people wear *clothes inside out* 30 years in the future! Lots of remakes? Let’s go to Jaws 19! TV exploding? In the future people will watch a dozen channels at *once*! They had the Cubs winning the World Series, after all. Why? Not because they thought it would happen. Because they wanted to show something that people at the time would think was ridiculous.

        The ideas weren’t supposed to be smart. They were supposed to be *dumb*.

        1. you’re right, but as an impressionable kid watching it, I took it as a legally binding contract from the world of grownups about how the world of my adulthood was going to be! I think the image of the eccentric, crack-pot inventor resonates a fair bit with hardware hackers. Doc Brown is films best portrayal of that fun mad scientist character.

  1. As I always have understood (and it was confirmed on a TV show in my country yesterday) is that a few people came together and thought out ‘weird things that people would laugh about’. You can hardly call that ‘predictions’.

  2. Yet another fucking site confusing Fiction with Prediction.

    You got close to this by saying “It’s alright, most of the technology of Back to the Future was just a joke;”
    Well guess what? “Most” and “the rest” of the technology and world of Back to the Future was just entertainment.

    A weather forecast is a prediction: a non-fictional statement about the future. While they’re often incorrect, they’re presented as an expectation of that the actual future will be like.

    Back to the Future was not presented as a an expectation of that the actual future will be like, therefore is by definition not a prediction.

    Gale and Zemeckis are on record as saying that the tech was supposed to be over-the-top and impossible. Cubs winning the world series was not a “prediction”, it was something seen as impossible.

    If anything, sites capitalising on the date should be listing “The impossible things in Back to the Future that actually happened”.

      1. Not a hoverboard. It’s a standable helicopter. Hoverboards are silent, and work by repelling gravity, somehow.

        Along with flying cars, hoverboards are just a way of expressing dissatisfaction at the crappy way the future’s turned out to be. Especially if you were a kid when BTTF2 came out. We thought we’d just have to wait, get older, and all this great stuff would be around us! That we ended up with Starbucks and Ipads is something of a disappointment. Still, electric cars aren’t bad.

        Articles like this are just about approaching middle-age and feeling let-down, that’s all. We all deserve a moan now and then, makes us feel better.

    1. Chris Morris series The Day Today, was a total exaggerated piss-take of British/US TV news in the 1990s, but also successfully predicted 24 hour TV News to the point where the real thing is a bigger joke than the joke itself. The onion is another prime example of this. Life imitating art. Fiction has a huge potential to influence the real world, and science fiction has a huge influence on the development of technology. Not so much a “prediction” as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  3. If you don’t take some of the stuff to literal, some things were pretty spot on. Jaws 19 for instance is a nice metaphore for the current lack of good and original writing in television an movies where SFX trump proper content.

  4. I was going to say “fax machines in closets” but then again today there are probably more fax machines in closets (unplugged) than anywhere else.
    (tongue in cheek)
    Oh, and I don’t think we have Tit channel on cable, unless you consider Cinemax

  5. BTTF 2 was 100% accurate for that time line. They mucked around so much in the past and did not verify that 2015 was fixed BTTF 2 ended in 1955 then from there went to 1885 and back to 1985 where Marty got in his truck and did not race thus not breaking his hand becoming a famous musician responsible for our modern music. Plus doc Brown built another time machine out of a locomotive who knows what else he messed with in time.

  6. When I get up in the morning, HaD is the first site I check, even before the weather forecast, sometimes even when I desperately need to pee first. I keep a HaD page open all day and occasionally refresh it to see if there’s something new, and I’m a little sad when there isn’t. There aren’t enough “real” hacks available to satisfy my craving for HaD, so I’m very happy to have entertaining posts like this one to fill the gaps.

    Thanks, Brian, and keep up the good work!

  7. I rarely post on HaD but have been an avid reader for years, as the poster above said its the first site I read in the morning! I pop chrome open and my home pages are HaD, EEVBlog Forum, Parallax Forums, and Gmail.

    As far as what has happened since supply frame bought HaD, I think it’s gotten a lot better… I don’t know about everyone else but I get tired of hearing about people building causplay junk and 3D printers. There are plenty of articles I easily choose to ignore. But now there HaD does some great stuff like the HaD price, and has very competent and known engineers like Jack Gannsle helping out when they can. The site has grown tremendously.

    As far as BTF I would expect to see a post about it today, no one at EEV Blog is bitching Dave mentions it in his videos… I don’t think we got to EEV Blog for movie content…. but no one there has a problem. As mentioned above his movie is a huge part of nerd culture. What is it all you trolls want, to see another arduino relay controlled light? Go to the arduino forums….

  8. Completely unrelated to technology, I don’t know why you say that Queen Diana would never have happened. Assuming that she did not get divorced from Charles, she would have become Queen when Charles became King. Sexist though it may be, in the Commonwealth the wife of the King always is the Queen, but the Queen is the actual heir, then her husband is just a prince (like Prince Albert, Victoria’s husband). The only exception, I believe, is William and Mary of Orange in 1688.

  9. Someone missed the point of the Gray’s Sports Almanac. It wasn’t for the current year, 2015, but 1950-2000. The year 2000 was *before* the web. That’s why the sports almanac was in an *antiques store*.

      1. Actually with PMR, walkie talkies are one of the few things that are better in the future, that BTTF didn’t predict. Same way people had spaceships in 1930s scifi, but radios were still gigantic.

  10. An interesting aside to this is the comic, 2000AD. Started in 1977, like most comics they didn’t imagine it lasting til 1980AD, never mind 2000. So in late 1999 the eternal joke question, “What are we going to call 2000AD in the year 2000” became pretty pressing.

    I argued that 2000AD still hadn’t arrived. No flying cars, no moonbases. Clearly this wasn’t the 2000AD we were expecting. So since it wasn’t 2000AD yet, keep the title!

    And they did! I like to think because of my persuasive Usenet argument, but maybe they thought the same thing, or maybe they couldn’t come up with a better one (“3000AD”, “2000AD… and beyond” were the popular ones, blergh!) So you can still buy 2000AD today, a scifi comic about 15 years ago. And it’s still not really 2000AD yet.

  11. I don’t agree with “most of the technology of Back to the Future was just a joke”.
    A few tech have been developed after the film was produced like:
    Electronic transaction for money
    3D cinema
    Fingerprints reader
    Facial recognition

    1. They’ve had all of them since the 1950s and 60s, except face recognition and fingerprint readers. They had polarised light 3D cinema for a good while before BTTF, which allows full-colour vision with lightweight glasses. It needs a more expensive projection screen that preserves the polarity of light, but means the glasses can be cheap and disposable. The other way is LCD shutter glasses, too expensive to throw away, but will work with a normal screen.

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