Science Fiction to Science Fact

Feature by Tech Team | 19 Mar 2015
  • Back to the Future hoverboard

From when we get up in the morning, to when we go to bed, our technologies are an integrated part of our daily existence; they are shaping our human experience. The interaction between man, machine and the vast expanse of the internet is indeed a fascinating one.

It’s increasingly difficult to imagine times gone by when our gaze was not fixated on our smart devices, tablets, laptops, or even our VR headsets. To put some of the staggering rate of technological advancement into context, we've found some interesting facts comparing the state of technology and how it has advanced over the last 25 years.

So fire up the Delorean! Let’s take it back – way back to 1989.

Where were you in 1989? Too young to remember? As yet unborn? Here are some nuggets of pub quiz info: in 1989 George Bush Snr was elected US president, the Berlin Wall collapsed (marking the end of the Cold War) and the protests in Tiananmen Square became etched in our collective memory.

As far as technology was concerned: VHS ruled over rival Betamax, cassette tapes were the popular format to listen to music on, if you owned a Walkman – being able to listen to music on the move added a whole new dimension of fun (add roller skates to that equation and you’d be one positively rad individual.) The mobile phone was an expensive luxury, only affordable for the likes of Gordon Gecko. Nintendo released their first Gameboy (cue the Tetris theme, okOK stop already). By 1989 computers featured in most UK schools, their capability limited and operations clunky though, not to mention the industrial welded trolleys they sat atop. An oft overlooked, but undeniably future-altering fact is that the World Wide Web was invented in 1989 (well done Sir Tim Berners-Lee), with its name spawning the www. we are all so familiar with now. . Notably, use of the internet was largely limited (available to military and universities) and required a dial-up connection through an external modem. It would be a number of years before increasing ownership of the home PC would provide the conditions for widespread adoption and popularisation of the internet.

Watching 80s and 90s films can provide fascinating (at times hilarious) insights into the kinds of technologies we were using back then, reminders of how easily technologies can appear outdated or absurd. In 1989, one landmark movie that used its creative license to show us a future world was Back to The Future 2. For those few that haven’t seen it, the premise involves protagonist Marty McFly having to travel to the future (a not so distant 21 October 2015) with girlfriend Jennifer (wife to be) in the Doc’s Delorean (the original and best time travel enabled vehicle) to prevent a series of events that could ruin future generations of McFlys. A relatable theme for most then.

Although perhaps the sequel lacked some of the original Back to The Future film’s magic, and with the plot being a bit of a looper to follow at times, it was the film’s futuristic vision that sparked imaginations worldwide. The most popular of future technologies shown to us being the hoverboard. We were pranked last year when celebrities such as Tony Hawks and Moby hit our various social media channels, bedazzling with their hover trickery, and of course it was too good to be true (if you missed it first time round check it here.) . However, It seems the demand out there for the concept to be realised was sufficient enough to set the wheels (or hover things) in motion. One LA company recently developed the world’s first working hoverboard prototype. The very fact that it’s in the product development stages is an exciting prospect. Here is Tony Hawks again, this time it’s ‘kinda’ the real thing. .

Among some of the other technologies are the power-lacing Nike shoes. Of course Nike aren’t ones to miss a trick, and if internet rumours be true – we’ll be able to get our paws on them later this year (the proof is in the patent apparently). Who knows, maybe a convenient release date would be 21 October 2015? We also see a video call that doesn’t look too dissimilar from a Skype/FaceTime, a pair of sci-fi glasses that don’t look too far removed from a VR headset, and what appears to be a Smart home – involving fingerprint technology and voice activation.

The futuristic world that Back to the Future 2 showed us was indeed a fun one, but much of the stuff of its science fiction has gone on to be realised, and now the stuff of science fact. This begs the question, to what extent do sci-fi films influence generations of would-be designers to sculpt the way our future will look? It’ll be interesting to see which current films will best go on to paint the futuristic and increasingly virtual world some quarter of a century from now.