Where's my Hoverboard? Disappointment and hope on Back to the Future Day

Where’s my Hoverboard?!

As a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy, I feel behooved to write about today, which has been dubbed Back to the Future Day. Today — October 21, 2015 — is the day Marty McFly arrives in the future in Back to the Future Part II. It’s a future with flying cars, self-lacing shoes, and a World Series victory for the Chicago Cubs.

There were also Hoverboards.

Part II came out when I was a kid and I was in awe of the future depicted in the movie. I think everyone was, and the portrayal of 2015 in the movie etched itself in our collective conscience. Garbage-fueled fusion reactors, blow-drying jackets, and pizza hydrators seemed futuristic and impossible at the time the movie was released, but 2015 was a long way away. Sure, it was a long shot that any of Part II’s cool gadgets and technological advancements would come to fruition — look at all the fantastic stuff that was imagined and predicted in the fifties and sixties that is laughable now — but it was cool to admire and imagine. And who knew? Anything could happen in the intervening twenty-some years.

So here we are, the same day Marty visits the future. No doubt a lot of cool gadgets and technological advances have come and gone in those intervening years, but those big ones, the ones we all marveled at in Part II? The flying cars, the Hoverboards, the self-lacing shoes? Sadly, those remain mostly a figment of our imaginations. Even a Cubs’ World Series victory this year seems like a swing and a miss. (The Cubs are currently down 6–1 in an NLCS elimination game against the Mets.)

Am I disappointed? Of course! Am I unreasonably disappointed because I was convinced the 2015 of Part II would become reality? Yes—no! I mean no! Do I feel cheated? No… It’s a movie for crying out loud! Who would believe…a movie…

I once read somewhere that the trick to portraying the future in fiction is to not make it too plausible. That way, people will not develop reasonable expectations and you won’t look like a dumbass for being way off. I think that’s right. It could be the other way around — make it plausible so you don’t portray a fantastic future that will never come to fruition. Either way, we did develop expectations and I am sure the makers of Part II have the fan mail to prove it.

I think it is sad that the things we dreamed about for so long are still a long way away or perhaps improbable. Perhaps. I am not going to give up hope that Hoverboards, fusion reactors, and flying cars will eventually become reality. (Nor will I give up hope the Cubs will one day reach and win the World Series again.) The one good thing about the fantastic future of Part II’s 2015 is that is has given us those ideas, inspired us to make those things. I won’t be making them because I don’t have the technical knowledge, but perhaps somebody will. As long as there are fans of the Back to the Future movies, people will still dream, still try to develop the gadgets that captivated them when they first saw Part II.

We may not have Hoverboards or flying cars in the real 2015, but we do have the Internet and YouTube!

On that note, not all the futuristic technology shown in Part II was far off the mark. This BBC article outlines the hits, misses, and almosts from the movie, including drones, smart TVs, and cashless payments via handheld devices.

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