And the iPhone as a portable television studio! – by Ben Warner

Did Back To The Future II Get 2015 right?The “Back To The Future” movies, despite the final installment being released in 1990, are iconic staples of the 1980s, particularly the original which hit all the right nostalgia buttons for baby boomers who grew up in the 1950s. They work well as fun, and sometimes goofy entertainment, with both Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd being incredibly likeable in their anchoring roles of Marty McFly and Doc Brown.

The second film, released in 1989, had Doc Brown and Marty McFly spend some time in the year 2015 and showed some potentially interesting gadgets and devices that all of us dreamed would eventually happen. But now that 2015 has arrived, did any of what was shown in the film actually eventuate?

Rather than go through a comprehensive list of 2015 featured gadgets from “Back To The Future II”, which I’m sure many others will write about, I’ve pulled out a few that made the most impression on me and whether or not we see them in day to day, mainstream life.

  • Flying Cars – yeah, this was always going to be a pie-in-the-sky notion (no pun unintended) but sadly, we don’t have flying cars. A flying car sounds cool, but it’s not really practical – not to mention we would lose our view of the sky. Not sure how they would handle bad weather too!
  • Hoverboards – again, this is pie-in-the-sky, and maybe skateboarders are more than happy to stick to their wheels, but we don’t have mainstream use of hoverboards. We’ll just have to be content with the fact that at least they have their own Wikipedia page despite being fictional.
  • Power Shoe Laces – Nike hasn’t done it yet as predicted in the film, and people are still doing their laces the old fashioned way. That hasn’t stopped some budding individuals from creating their own versions, but still, they’re not mainstream.
  • Big Screen Televisions at Home – we can say that this has actually happened, with large, inexpensive flat panel televisions having replaced traditional CRT televisions in the home. Although voice recognition capabilities are still in their infancy in terms of penetration in to the home, devices like the Xbox One with Kinect allow you to add voice control to your big screen television. We may see this more realised in the next few years, particularly with personal assistant technologies such as Siri, Google Now and Cortana becoming more prevalent across all of our devices.
  • Answering Calls With Your Glasses – there was one scene at the dinner table with Marty’s future daughter can see an incoming call in her glasses. Google Glass hasn’t taken off, but it is here which means it technically did eventuate. However, the concept of a myriad of devices being able to answer phone calls has come in to play in other ways, with the recent example of Apple introducing the ability to answer iPhone calls on any of its devices, including their Macs now a reality.
  • Hydrating Pizza – I’m glad this one has never seen the light of day (along with any other food that could potentially by ‘hydrated’). Yes, we’re still making food with actual ingredients and cooking them, but disappointingly, there are rather large frozen food sections in most supermarkets which allow us to nuke pre-packaged food within minutes.
  • Jaws 19 – although this was a joke by director Robert Zemeckis to his pal Steven Spielberg, we can be thankfully that the Jaws series ended after the fourth film which is just about the worst film ever made. However, if you think about the notion of pointless and never-ending sequels, Hollywood’s really got in to that business in a big way, hasn’t it?

The film showed many more gadgets and devices that I can cover in this blog, which you can look up elsewhere. However, one set of gadgets that was mysteriously missing from the film was multi-touch devices, like today’s modern smartphones and tablets. The world of 2015, even compared to the world of pre-iPhone 2007, is definitely futuristic thanks to these devices. We can do so many high-end tasks with them, that for many of us, computers are all but obsolete.

The first “Back To The Future” had a scene where Marty was showing the 1955 version of Doc Brown the video he took with the camera during the first test of the DeLorean Time Machine by Doc in 1985. Doc remarks of the video camera, “This is truly amazing! A portable television studio!” In thinking about what to write for this blog, and recalling Doc’s line, I immediately thought of my recent usage of my iPhone 6 as a production and distribution machine for my video. I produced a dozen videos recently, overseas, entirely on my iPhone and uploaded them straight to the internet without the need for a non-linear editing machine, such as a computer, and a dedicated production camera. Although I’ll write about this in more detail in another blog, the fact that I can use my phone as a high-definition video production and distribution studio is simply amazing (and liberating – a video producer can now travel light!). Doc Brown would’ve loved it!

2015 is here and it is filled with some astounding and unbelievable technology that is transforming our lives. The world of “Back To The Future Part II” it may not be, but then, the film was made at a time when everything we have now would be considered the work of magic. Perhaps the concept of technology changing our lives in profound ways is something that this film got absolutely right (if not in the individual details).